Open Garden Squares: Alara Permaculture Forest Garden

Alara (yes them of the scrumptious organic breakfast cereals!) have transformed one of the more unlikely spaces around Kings Cross into a Forest Garden, growing surely some of the most exotic food in London.

A long and narrow site, crammed in between the railway and a car-park

On an otherwise grim industrial park, crammed in between the large asphalt desert of a cash-and-carry car-park, and the busy railway line, feet from where huge aggregate cars are shunted, an oasis of rich growth is perched atop an embankment.

This is ‘Dream Farm’, the creation of Alex Smith of Alara, who’s factory also bounds the site. Months of digging out Japanese Knot weed and shifting rubble (including huge stones thought to be of Roman origin) was necessary for the dream to move towards reality.

Mulberry Tree left, Goji Berries right

This was followed by diverse planting of an interesting set of perennial trees and shrubs: Goji Berries, (Lycium barbarum), Mulberries, Japanese Wine Berries (Rubus phoenicolasius) and Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana) join the more usual asparagus, globe artichoke, roquette and potatoes; practically every inch of space, vertically and horizontally, is providing something, including the steep bank above the car-park where apple trees grow. A bee hive provides home to some very busy bees at the far end of the plot.

Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana)

The site is largely sheltered from the North and East by the huge bulk of the adjacent steel railway shed and the Alara factory, but clear views of the South and West make it a sun-trap with its own unique micro-climate.

A considerable amount of rain water is collected for the plot from the railway building’s roof, and stored in a large capacity pool. Under construction is also a large bespoke wormery situated in a small garden shed to protect it from the weather: this is intended to process the kitchen scraps from the Alara staff canteen, saving the long trip to a bio-digester.

A few metres away, the community orchard bounds the cash-and-carry

On the other side of the car-park, a community orchard is establishing nicely, and adjacent to that, community raised beds front the Alara factory.

It’s a great, positive project in a most unlikely space; look out for some of this lovely produce turning up in a breakfast cereal near you!

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