Grow with the Pros: Glebelands Market Garden

Located near Cardigan in West Wales, Glebelands Market Garden is run by two experienced growers who produce vegetables for an on-site farm shop and local restaurants and shops. 

Glebelands Market Garden was set up by Adam York and his partner Lesley Bryson in 2010 on a north-facing site equidistant between Cardigan and St Dogmaels. Prior to being market gardeners, Adam was an experienced retailer having founded Unicorn Grocery in Manchester, while Lesley worked at EcoSeeds in Northern Ireland.  

© Glebelands Market Garden

The duo launched the first incarnation of Glebelands in South Manchester in 2001 and at launch it was the first urban market garden seen in the UK for a long time. In Adam’s own words, when launching the garden him and Lesley combined “substantial retail experience with good horticultural skills”.

When the decision came to relocate Glebelands, he describes Cardigan as a “compromise” after a struggle finding a south-west coastal site. The site sits on marginal land – it does have a history of crop production and feeding the local area – however it is north-facing heavier land that would not traditionally be seen as ideal. 

But the duo have undoubtedly succeeded, despite the potential downsides of the new site. Now the set-up compromises 10 acres over two sites, with three polytunnels totaling around 6,500 square-feet, plus a smaller tunnel for propagation. As mentioned earlier, there is now an on-site retail shop with outdoor kiosk tills and two car parks. 

Adam says the focus is put on crops that are “economically viable” at their scale of growing, and they opt for those which are “short life-high value”. One example of this focus is opting for just early crops of beetroot, to be sold with tops. By growing high-value crops, they can make up for what they lose by being a smaller-scale operation. 

© Glebelands Market Garden

Glebelands produces fresh crops for 12 months a year and the majority of their plants are raised in modules, with a few drilled crops such as spinach, coriander and carrots.  

Salad leaves are grown indoor for seven months of the year, with the conditions provided by the tunnels allowing huge volumes of fresh leaves to be provided to local people year-round. Another indoor crop that Adam professes a love for is watercress, claiming it “constantly impresses people” as a winter crop grown undercover.  

The tunnels also allow the Spring to be full of early leaves, along with the watercress comes a salad mix of high-value nutritious leaves, as well as spinach, chard and herbs like coriander and chervil. One herb that causes a headache in Spring however is Parsley, which Adam confesses to having “no answers” for how to succeed.  

Bumper bags of chard ©Glebelands Market Garden Facebook

Adam recommends growers start to experiment with more crops that will yield at lower light levels, citing chervil and sorrel as two fantastic examples of such. Others that can also succeed with those reduced light levels include mizuna, mustards and oriental brassicas. 

The Glebelands Market Garden website is very helpful and contains a range of growing guides for some of the most popular vegetables, which you can check out here.  

There is also a range of links to websites and books that can help aspiring growers. Adam himself cites the vastly-experienced organic grower Iain Tolhurst, from Tolhurst Organics in south Oxfordshire, as an inspirational figure for other growers to find out more about. 

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