For many of us green-minded folk, the attraction of growing our own crops is strong. We get to save money, grow organically thus eliminating herbicide and pesticide use, reduce food miles and eat fresh, natural food which can only be good for us.
And yet, for all the attraction of growing out own food for many people this can be a difficult challenge. With the ridiculously small gardens many newbuild houses have, the need of many parents to maintain a “play area” for the children, plenty of people living in flats and apartments there are a whole host of people who would like to grow their own food but simply don’t have a suitable piece of land to do it on.
So what’s the solution?
First off, many people have a tiny but of space they can call their own. Whether that’s a window box, a small veranda, or a patio, many food plants can be successfully grown in containers so even the smallest amount of space can produce some food.
Crops such as smaller bush tomato varieties, courgettes, most herbs and salad crops like lettuces and radishes can all be grown in limited spaces using a rich (peat free) potting compost and a container of some form.
Many local councils offer allotments – areas of land which one can rent for a nominal sum each year, and on which virtually any crops can be grown. Not just common crops like potatoes and bean, but many people grow strawberries, have apple trees and more and even a small allotment, if well tended, can provide almost all your fruit and vegetable requirements for the year – especially if you learn how to store food properly.
Of course the downside of allotments is that many other people often have the same idea and so waiting lists can be long stretching to months and in many cases, to years, so you may have to be patient though most people agree that it is well worth the wait once you’re finally in the door.
This reasonably new concept pairs up people with “spare land” and people who want to grow things on it. Like a cooperative, people with land offer it up for people like you to cultivate and the “profits” in the form of fresh fruit and veg are shared between the two partners.
Typically waiting times are *far* lower, as are costs, though of course cultivating a bit of someone else’s garden may not be everyone’s idea of a fun and freedom.
Finding such areas needn’t be so difficult. You could ask at your local horticultural society, put an advert in the local paper or keep an eye on the online classifieds sites like Gumtree and Craigslist.
But best of all, there is the equivalent of an online dating site which aims to match up landowners and growers in an easy and free way. Simply sign up for your free account at Landshare and you’ll be amazed by just how many plots of land are going.
Lastly more and more towns and cities are setting up community gardens or community farms to allow residents to take part in something larger – the creation of a smallholding – and to share in the resultant spoils.
Of course community projects are most suitable for the more gregarious individuals who welcome the social aspects of growing food as much as the culinary ones and really give you an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself, learn plenty of new skills and meet a lot of fascinating, passionate people in your area.
The Federation Of City Farms And Gardens has a searchable database which you can access here to start your own search for such a project to get involved with.