Sandridge nursery with generations of knowledge
Getting your fruit and vegetables from a supermarket may be convenient, but if you care about taste, flavour and the air miles of your produce, then locally-grown is the way to go.
Carpenter’s Nursery in the village of Sandridge near St Albans certainly has a good track record of growing its own fruit and veg, with four generations of growing expertise.
‘We are one of the oldest nurseries and farm shops in Hertfordshire,’ says director James Carpenter, ‘and proud to be a family nursery that cares about growing produce.’
James’ great-grandad Fred Carpenter started the nursery in 1923 just after the First World War using six allotments. With limited resources and amenities, Fred initially concentrated on growing seasonal fruit, vegetables and cut flowers which were sold at St Albans Market and in the surrounding villages. In 1947, his son Fred junior joined the business and set about building a retail nursery, installing mains electricity and an irrigation system which laid the foundations for the nursery today. Then in 1978, James’ father Stephen joined, followed by Stephen’s brother
Colin in 1984. They worked alongside Fred until his retirement in 1995.
Stephen concentrated on fruit and vegetables while Colin focussed on growing ornamental plants. Today, the nursery continues this dual ethos and provides good selections of homegrown edible and ornamental plants. James took over the running of the nursery three years ago, having originally been an electrician.
‘We are still quite traditional in our growing methods on the nursery,’ he says, ‘as we like to plant everything by hand and don’t rely on big mechanical machines to grow and harvest everything.’
This approach in an increasingly hi-tech world is part of the charm of this small family nursery which many customers enjoy and appreciate.
Many plants are grown from seed at the nursery, including all the vegetables and a fair amount of seasonal bedding plants. Edible produce is often for sale in the farm shop within a couple of hours of being harvested.
With 10 acres of the site open farmland dedicated to vegetables and flowers, this means around 15,000 cauliflower plants, for example, are grown from seed and planted out each year. The remainder of the nursery consists of greenhouses, growing tunnels, the farm shop, indoor and outdoor display areas and a car park.
As experts in growing produce, the nursery also has lots of young plants for sale and is an excellent place to buy good quality plants for your own vegetable beds or allotment. There’s a wide variety of hybrid vegetable plants from beans and peppers to tomatoes and courgettes, as well as winter crops and herbs. The nursery also stocks seed potatoes, onion sets and fruit trees.
‘We are still quite traditional in our growing methods’
Seasonal ornamental plants to look out for at Carpenter’s this month include violas, pansies, primroses and field-grown wallflowers, all grown on the nursery. From December, Christmas trees will be available with many sourced from Hertfordshire. Keeping things local is an important and sustainable ethos for the nursery. As well as their own produce and plants, there’s a good choice of county products in the shop as James is keen to source from local or small independent producers and updates the ‘Made in Hertfordshire’ map in the shop regularly. Look out for the great range of jams, juices, chutneys, oils, bread, milk, cheese and much more.
There’s also the lovely Potting Shed Garden Kitchen and Cafe on site, where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea using many of the ingredients grown here. N
VISIT CARPENTER’S NURSERY
106 St Albans Road Sandridge nr St Albans AL4 9LJ
01727 853340 carpentersnursery.co.uk Mon-Sat 8.30am-5.30pm and Sun 9am-4pm
Founder Fred Carpenter senior with sons Andrew and Stephen c.1955 on a Massey Ferguson tractor – the nursery’s first tractor
Sunflowers – one of the many ornamental plants grown on the site
Freshly-harvested vegetables are for sale in the farm shop within hours
The nursery’s delivery van in 1972
TOP:Checking tomatoes for the farm shop
LEFT: Harvesting butternut squash
ABOVE:The nursery is renowned for its bedding plants grown on site