Alex's forward-thinking and innovative techniques have revolutionised our approach to gardening, transforming the way we grow produce in our garden. In this exclusive interview, Alex generously shares his unique insights and expertise, offering us a rare opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of his gardening process and the carefully selected products he chooses to cultivate.

What initially sparked your interest in gardening?

My gardening journey began in my youth when I assisted my stepdad in our home garden, where I learned the ropes of harvesting and weeding. Later, while in Australia, I found myself drawn to the allure of outdoor work, particularly on farms, solidifying my love for cultivating nature.

Could you elaborate on your journey at Ashford Castle and how you first became involved with the Kitchen Garden project?

June 2024 marks my third year being part of the team at Ashford Castle. During the Covid crisis, I was working on organic farms when a former colleague of mine, Philippe Farineau, asked me if I would be interested in helping establish a Kitchen Garden at Ashford Castle. I joined the team in 2021 and quickly began making plans. The garden project is part of a multi-year program to ultimately become as self-sufficient as possible in fruits, vegetables, edible flowers, and microgreens.

What is your approach to sourcing and selecting seeds or plants for the Kitchen Garden?

Seed selection and sourcing are at the core of our work. We are constantly on the lookout for intriguing crops, prioritising sourcing from certified organic suppliers and favouring non-hybrid (non F1) varieties to preserve seeds from the crops we grow. We aim to grow around 13 tomato varieties annually, tailoring our choices to suit the palates of our chefs. We have a yearly meeting in autumn with the chefs to discuss what to grow and the quantities required, but we talk about crops on a regular basis.

How do you envision the future evolution of the Kitchen Garden, and are there any upcoming projects or initiatives you're particularly excited about implementing?

The future holds boundless opportunities for our Kitchen Garden, with unwavering support from those we work with and our chefs' hunger for innovation. With recent additions like our orchard and plans to expand our polytunnels, the prospect of transforming our garden into an educational oasis is brimming with promise.

Can you share any insights or advice for individuals interested in starting their own garden, especially those looking to incorporate sustainable practices?

The best advice I can give to anyone wanting to start a garden is to start small. Begin by listing the crops you and your family enjoy eating. Take some time to research online about creating beds, it's quite manageable. Keep in mind that a little bit of effort and elbow grease will be required at some point. Consider investing in a polytunnel to extend the growing season and cultivate crops such as tomatoes.

Lastly, how do you see the garden enhancing the overall dining experience at Ashford Castle?

The Kitchen Garden at Ashford Castle enhances the dining experience by providing fresh produce straight from the ground. Visitors can even enjoy guided tours of the garden to witness firsthand where their food originates. This immersive experience offers a full farm-to-fork journey, enhancing our guests' dining experience as it provides them with a deeper connection to the food they are served.