If you’re an urban dweller living in a busy town or city surrounded by tall buildings, you may crave a patch of green to call your own. Throughout London and other cities, local councils and neighbourhood groups are encouraging people to start gardening and growing; whilst many may not have the access to their own garden, balcony or roof-top there are plenty of green spots for city-dwellers to maintain. The benefits are plentiful – a few moments of down-time, good opportunities to meet other city gardeners and the rewarding feeling of seeing your patch blossom. There’s also plenty of help through different initiatives and fund-raisers for local gardening groups.
The Capital Growth organisation in London is a forward-thinking partnership initiative between London Food Link, the Mayor of London, and the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund. They aim to help Londoners transform the capital by creating 2,012 new food growing spaces by the end of 2012. They are offering practical help, grants, training and support to groups wanting to set up their own community food-growing projects. This initiative is a great way for local groups to use derelict land and roof-tops that have the potential to be green havens and food growing spaces; promoting plenty of benefits for the local community. During the weekend of 11th -12th June, the 22 Capital Growth Gardens across London will be open to the public as part of the Open Gardens Squares Weekend. Organised by the London Parks and Gardens Trust, this is a brilliant opportunity to discover gardens usually closed to the public.
If you’re feeling a little green-fingered but thinking that your gardening skills aren’t up to scratch, Capital Growth are also running classes and workshops at the allotment garden in Regent’s Park. The different sessions last two and a half hours, combine practical and classroom based training and are delivered by expert trainers. We’re looking forward to the food gardens and wildlife classes showing you how to encourage wildlife into your garden which will benefit your food growing space.
Whilst looking into different local gardening groups, we came across the inspirational community leader Lutfun Hussain who runs the “Coriander Club” at Spitalfields City Farm in Tower Hamlets. The Club is a lynchpin of the local Bengali community providing a meeting spot for Bengali women to meet and grow their own produce. To grow your own vegetables is an important part of Bengali culture and the farm provides an important space to cultivate traditional produce in the community. As well as growing organic vegetables, the women can also participate in healthy cooking classes; as Hussain says “The Club provides local Bangladeshi women with a space in which to exercise, socialise and grow traditional Bengali vegetables, and what they learn and grow; they bring home to their dinner tables.” Many women had been feeling homesick and scared, but felt safe in the gardening club speaking Bangla and meeting other women through gardening and sharing recipes.
So, even without your own back garden there are plenty of interesting and creative green opportunities for city urbanites to start growing their own!