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Restoring kitchen gardens

A gardener pushes a wheelbarrow of heritage tomatoes along a path next to a wall of the kitchen garden at Knightshayes, Devon
Gardener pushing a wheelbarrow of heritage tomatoes at Knightshayes, Devon | © National Trust Images/Liz Abdey

Discover the work involved in bringing a kitchen garden back to productive life, from walls to plants, soil health to buildings, with examples of success stories, and it’s all thanks to your donations. 

What’s involved in restoring a kitchen garden?

Restoring a walled kitchen garden can take many years. The walls might be crumbling and need repointing or rebuilding. Paths have often been ploughed up or even concreted. Underground, there are complex drainage systems that collect rainwater from roofs or redirect streams into a central dipping pool.

The ancillary buildings connected with a walled garden are fascinating and all have a specific purpose. Glasshouses, mushroom houses, root stores, boiler rooms and bothies all need careful research and restoration.

The glasshouse and cold frames in the walled garden at Blickling Estate, Norfolk
The glasshouse and cold frames in the walled garden at Blickling Estate, Norfolk | © National Trust Images/Ray Dale

Preparing the soil

Once all this is in hand, the crucial job of preparing the soil can begin. Sometimes it has been contaminated with waste or overrun with perennial weeds. With any luck a couple of years of growing green manures will bring it back to good health. Pigs have even been deployed as living ploughs at the walled garden at Attingham Park in Shropshire. 

Returning the fruit trees to the walls really marks the turning point in these complex and rewarding restoration projects. Once the apricots, peaches, pears and cherries are back, you know that life is really returning to a cherished part of our horticultural heritage.

How your donations help

Many decades ago, a lot of kitchen gardens had fallen into disuse and disrepair. In recent years, we’ve been able to restore these gardens thanks to you, our members, supporters and visitors. Your support and generosity has helped develop gardens that are not only thriving with fresh produce but are also enjoyable days out and educational tools for volunteers and local communities.

With your continued donations to look after the gardens in our care, we can ensure that gardens like these can go on providing seasonal and sustainable food as well as benefit those who visit now and in the future.

Wooden pergolas run the length of a path with brick-built raised beds on both sides in the kitchen garden at Mottisfont, Hampshire
Wooden pergolas in the kitchen garden at Mottisfont, Hampshire | © National Trust Images/John Millar
Success stories: Knightshayes , Devon
Having fallen into decline after the First World War, the garden had become overgrown and too expensive to maintain. In 1999, a project was undertaken to restore the kitchen garden to its former glory and by 2003 it was fully productive again. Through continued donations for its ongoing restoration, we’re looking to rebuild one of the original Victorian glasshouses.Discover Knightshayes's kitchen garden
Success stories: Blickling, Norfolk
This derelict walled garden has been transformed, thanks largely to money raised through sales at the property’s second-hand bookshop. The garden has been little more than a grass field for 25 years, but with an incredible £134,000 raised through book sales, it's now a haven teeming with fruit and vegetable crops.Discover Blickling's kitchen garden
Success stories: Mottisfont, Hampshire
The restoration of this evolving kitchen garden was made possible from the donations to the Walled Garden Appeal. Today, developments and improvements to this garden haven’t stopped thanks to small donations from daily harvests of vegetables, herbs and cut flowers that visitors can pick up. These funds have also helped to run our garden apprentice scheme.Discover Mottisfont's kitchen garden

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

Wide shot of two volunteers walking up a hillside from left to right with blue sky behind

Donate to make a difference

Your support is essential to help us look after nature, beauty and history. Make a donation today, and together we can protect precious places for everyone, forever.

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