SFH on Tour – Virginia Nurseries
September 19, 2023

virginia nurseries

We go again on our SFH on Tour series, this time taking the trip to Virginia Nurseries, Ru, at Virginia was kind enough to take time out of his morning to take us on the tour, talk through the process and the struggles currently.

I will caveat the blog with the fact that the current major season was coming to an end which meant a lot of the vibrance from two months ago (Emma was lucky enough to visit previously), but there was still a lot being grown and the new season being planned.

Ru explained that Newbourne used to be a huge area for growing fruit and veg, especially after the wars where areas around the UK were designated growing areas, Newbourne being one of the major players. Unfortunately financial constraints, lack of funding and changes in career preferences has left the area with just Virginia Nurseries.

Virginia Nurseries’ land features huge greenhouses, albeit older than they would like, the greenhouses play an enormous role in the growing and offer protection against the weather but also the right environment (for the most part) for the fruit and veg that Virginia grow.

Ru took us around just a couple of the greenhouses, as I mentioned earlier, due to it being end of the major season there was not a huge amount growing. We did get to see just a sample size of the expansive tomato growing area they have. Fun-fact – Did you know that not all produce can grow next to each other, for example, tomatoes and potatoes don’t get on, like angry neighbours they make each other ‘sick’, this also happens with some herbs and tomatoes, you learn something new everyday! He did actually give us some fresh green beans, and we even tried them, I can’t remember what he called them but they were a variety of green bean that was sweet and could be eaten fresh (at certain stages of their growth) they were delicious.

Also currently growing were aubergine, parsley and cabbage, although, the recent hot weather had scorched some of the veg leaves (mainly the courgette) which was horrible to see and hear. This was the main greenhouse, housing current rows of tomatoes, and Ru explained that a big part of the upcoming workload would be to rotavate the ground, add any nutrients it would need and then relay the weed matting. He also hit us with another fact, that the tomato plants they purchase are specially ‘grafted’ so they grow in two, like the split of the road, this means they attach to two different growing areas and don’t intefere with each other.

We moved on to some other greenhouses, first to see a new popular herb, the curly parsley, which we will be looking to stock soon and then we moved on to the third and final greenhouse (of our trip, they have plenty more they grow produce in). The final greenhouse was where we got to see both squash and pumpkins, interestingly Virginia grow them and let them do their own thing, in terms of they were evenly spread around the floor but weren’t handled. The reason they do this is to keep the produce scratch-free, if they are scratched in any way it can lead to them being undesired by sellers and wasted (which I genuinely couldn’t believe, but unfortunately that’s where we are at with perceived standards). The squash and pumpkins get there colour as they grow, so there was a mix of shades and colours throughout the greenhouse, ready for spooky season (Pumpkins mainly).

We have now agreed with Ru to go back every couple of months to witness the seasonality, see the current produce growing and to see the whole process year-round, look out for fresh produce throughout the Food Hall from Virginia Nurseries.

Big shoutout to Ru and Virginia for taking us around and passing on the knowledge, history and fun-facts.