Suttons garden to trial varieties

The Suttons Fruit and Vegetable Garden, which will explore innovative techniques and trial new varieties of fruit and vegetables, has opened at Hadlow College in Kent.

The aim is for the garden to be a learning resource for students and a site for Suttons to test varieties before adding to its retail range.

Suttons technical manager Tom Sharples said the garden was about making gardening easier and examining the health benefits of the grow-your-own market: "It's about making better use of a small area and looking at varieties that need less tending. We're interested in climate change and we're going to start looking at melons grown outside."

Apple trees trained to produce 70 apples each season feature in the garden, which also includes asparagus, potatoes, garlic, carrots, blueberries, lettuces and lemons. Suttons has trialled its new tumbling tomato variety, called 'Hundreds & Thousands', in hanging baskets in the garden. It is also looking at introducing disease-free brassicas.

A 70:30 ratio of vegetable to flower volume sales this year has been driven by people's desire to grow their own food, said Sharples.

He added: "The quality of the food we eat is a big issue because there are still big concerns about pesticide residues."

Hadlow College finance director Mark Lumsden-Taylor said: "Education and industry must collaborate. We're about learning, and partnership with industry is fundamental."

The garden has been created by the college's gardeners Alex Rennie and Tom Godden.

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