Securing and setting up an allotment can be a challenge, but there are innovative options for the creative and driven…
Despite the legal obligations of authorities to provide allotments, and even new affordable options for securing allotment insurance, the dream of flexing green thumbs and embracing sustainability doesn’t always play out as smoothly or quickly as imagined.
Aspiring gardeners in central London can certainly find allotment waiting lists long, even after property is designated. Between travel costs, commuting times, and finding a loo in semi-rural allotment locations more and more individuals and families are increasingly turning to more creative allotment and growing strategies.
Vertical Veg master Mark Ridsdill Smith who has spoken at Kew Gardens, the London Permaculture Festival, and Manchester International Festival, Ideal Home Show, and on television, tells the Guardian of his move to grow at home and how “the happiness he found completely changed his life.” After discovering the local allotment waiting list would have meant he would have long died of old age before getting to plant his first seedling in the ground Smith began his veg empire from his small London balcony. He has since grown hundreds of pounds worth of produce.
Urbanites are also seeing builders increasingly including more eco-friendly and sustainable elements within their designs which incorporate or achieve some of the same goals. For example; Carlton House in London has integrated solar, rainwater harvesting, living walls and rooftop gardens, while ensuring each apartment unit has its own private balcony.
Inner city innovators can find rooftops a natural choice. In fact, rooftop gardens can be adopted everywhere. What’s really interesting is just how many rooftops are available as allotments. It’s not just limited to going it alone at home by any means. Facebook’s legendary new campus in California is to sport a rooftop garden, and in New York one farm took over the roof of a bowling alley, and is now selling its produce to high end supermarkets, celebrity chef Mario Batali’s Eataly and in NYC’s highly acclaimed Gramercy Tavern. For many their workplaces could provide allotment space to help fulfill corporate responsibility goals, increase appeal to eco-friendly staff, and build in more community and team loyalty.
One London project has launched a 2.5 acre farm 100 feet under the surface. Zero Carbon’s hydroponic system claims to use 70% less water than open farming. The first round of produce was expected to yield broccoli, garlic, mustard, Thai basil and other herbs.
Keeping it Behind Closed Doors
Fortunately, you don’t have to have a nice boss, rooftop, World War II bunker under your home, or even a balcony to have your own ‘allotment’. In Chicago, NYC and Detroit urban farmers have been taking over abandoned property. In Chicago this has resulted in a 90,000 square foot warehouse being turned into an indoor organic farm. In New York new pioneers are combining growing, education and revitalization with aquaponics. A new aquaponics kit from Portable Farms claims a modest 3m x 6m unit will produce 1,100 vegetables and 400 pounds of fish for owners each year.
Evidently, location and available green space aren’t a big of a challenge to those serious about getting their own allotments and growing their own organic and sustainable gardens after all. Individuals and small groups of residents looking to find out more about their entitlements to traditional allotments can discover more from Channel 4’s programme ‘How to Start an Allotment’ and those interested in securing their investment with allotment insurance may check out more details from Shield Total Insurance which works closely with the National Allotment Society.