Today in the United Kingdom there are over 100,000 people waiting for allotments of land from their councils in order to grow vegetables. It is estimated that some people will have to wait 90 years! In other words there are many, many potential gardeners who will never know the joy and multiple benefits of gardening, that is, unless more growing space is made available.
Those of us with gardens, particularly gardens which are under-utilised, are invited to make the choice to share our space with them.
‘Community’ and ‘Gardening’ are two beautiful words brought together in the concept ‘community gardening’. Community gardening is as much about growing community as it is about growing vegetables. It happens when people, probably strangers, work together to develop a plot of ground into a garden. Sometimes this ground is wasteland or neglected public space which organisations or groups receive permission to develop, sometimes it’s a space in a private garden which the owner has generously ‘lent’ to the group or individual so that they can engage with the soil and produce vegetables.
The Edible Landscapes Movement is a good example of how this works: “ELM is a grassroots gardening organisation bringing together volunteers, residents, local groups and charities to make the world a slightly tastier place!” One of our communities has become involved with ELM and shares their garden with a group of young people who want to learn to grow vegetables. Other communities are considering ways of participating in garden sharing schemes.
Landshare, on their website advertise on behalf of potential gardeners for gardens to share and also on behalf of owners of gardens.
Then there’s Gardenshare & Grofun.
The benefits of Community Gardening are too numerous to mention. Community Gardening provides the gardener with a healthy means of using time which results in exercise, the consumption of fresh, nutritious food, recreation and education as well as a connection to the land and to the local community. It also helps with the preservation of green space, and the conservation of resources.
At a time when we are faced with a global food shortage due to climate change it aims to provide a way of producing food locally so as to ensure food security and avoid the expensive and damaging effects of food transportation.
The spinoffs from an environment which engenders such values as co-operation, trust, sharing and connection include safer, cleaner, more attractive and more socially aware neighbourhoods.
One of the ways in which we can contribute to the health of our planet and it inhabitants is to reclaim as much as possible of the land which is under paving stones or under-used and use it to provide a healthy environment for all. Parts of gardens which are left unattended would be welcomed by those seeking a space to grow food especially at this time of recession and unemployment when many have more time than they want and less money than they need.
An extract from an article by Tanis Taylor in The Guardian, 4th Sept, 2008:
“It was a small notice, in between the ads for child-minding and English lessons. “Free gardening. I will cultivate an abundant vegetable plot for you in your garden and we will share the produce 50/50.” Then a number.
When I got home I looked at my garden – unused, unloved, under wood chip. I looked at Google Earth. Almost half of the 3.1m households in London have a garden. Put together, they would occupy an area roughly the size of the Isle of Wight, and could insulate us against food price hikes and keep us all in fresh vegetables. Most are lawns or crazy paving.
The idea of garden-sharing began in cities, among people who wanted to grow fruit and vegetables to eat but didn’t have the time, space or confidence. The most obvious solution was to pool resources; for knowledgeable people with time on their hands, but little space, to help the time-poor; and for those – often elderly – with large, unmanageable gardens to get labour in exchange for yield.
It started informally with flat dwellers annexing the odd flower bed and gradually it grew. Communal gardens cropped up, gardening groups emerged. Fritz Haeg created an edible estate in the front gardens of a Southwark tower block. Projects such as the Tavistock Garden Share Alliance and pilot schemes such as LandFit and Swapaplot paired up unused gardens with the green-fingered. Suddenly there was a blush of Yahoo message groups, adverts in the local library, communal street sheds and action days. People began to share support and tips at first, then labour, compost, watering duties and harvests. Sales of vegetable seeds overtook those of flowers for the first time since the second world war.”