This was going to be a piece about getting an allotment in London. I’m not that into gardening, but I’d be prepared to put in the effort because the idea of planting my own vegetables, cooking them and – most importantly – not paying for them, appeals. However, about two minutes’ research into London allotments turned up the information that would leave me with a seven-word article: You’ll never get an allotment in London.
Defeatist? Perhaps. But to put it in its simplest terms, in Wandsworth alone there are only 420-odd allotment plots, and a waiting list of nearly 2000. So go ahead, join that queue. We’ll see you in five years.
But what else can you do, in a city where few people have gardens and those that do have a couple of square metres of decking? Well, several enterprising and imaginative souls have come up with a few solutions.
Food Up Front is all about making use of what you’ve got, even if what you’ve got is not a lot. They point out, quite rightly, that even if you can’t fit a whole veggie plot in your back garden – and anyway, the landlords wouldn’t be happy if you tried – you can still grow a decent amount of herbs, salad leaves and even tomatoes and potatoes in tubs on big window ledges. Geez, you can grow potatoes in a bag.
One of Food Up Front’s many inspirations is the One Pot Pledge which aims to get 30,000 people growing at home, even if it’s just, as the name implies, in one pot. Their site has tons of practical information on how to grow various vegetables, and it’s a good source to get you started. Sign the pledge and you’ll also get discounts on gardening supplies.
This is an initiative cooked up by London Food Link, Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund and Boris Johnson, to create 2012 new food growing spaces in London by the end of 2012 (see what they did there?). In particular, it focuses on community groups of growers who want to start something up, and there are sometimes grants available.
More immediately, it is a source that can put you in touch with local groups of growers who need volunteers (who will get a share in the produce) to help them with their growing spaces.
Landshare is even more dynamic than that. It is a national site designed to connect people with land – any land, even if it’s just a big, unused garden – to people that want to grow stuff. This means no space gets wasted, growers have somewhere to go, owners have their land cared for and both share the produce.
This is something along the lines of Landshare, except that it’s Wandsworth-based and is aimed at helping the elderly who are struggling to or can no longer tend their gardens. Age UK hooks up people who want to grow food with elderly people who would like help in their gardens and are willing to have vegetables planted there – and again, the produce is shared. Charity never tasted so good.
And in the meantime, you can support naturally and locally grown fresh produce by buying from the London Farmers’ Markets – check the site to find your nearest one.
Image by callumsaunders courtesy of Flickr