Transition Culture

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7 Nov 2008

Has the great urban agriculture revolution already begun?

One of my favourite Transition Tales in the Transition Handbook was the one about Celebrity Love Allotment, in which aspiring starlet Letitia Lloyd emerged victorious from an allotment in Crouch End, having become a more proficient gardener than the other competitors. The article spoke of a planned followup series called ‘Pimp my Patio’. At the time it seemed absurd, but rapidly it is looking entirely plausable. Things are moving so quickly with regards to the demand for space to grow food and the whole idea of urban food growing that it sometimes defies belief.

I saw a short piece this morning on the BBC News programme with the presenters of Blue Peter discussing their new appeal, Mission Nutrition. When I was a little ‘un, the Blue Peter garden was a pretty unspectacular thing, full of sleeping tortoises in boxes and lots of pretty pointless plants. All that is a thing of the past. The Blue Peter garden of old is now history, it is coming out, and in is going a vegetable garden.

The idea is to get kids in the UK, Bangladesh, Colombia and South Africa growing food in their gardens, while at the same time the UK kids run Bring and Buy sales to raise money to provide daily meals for children in the non-UK schools through Save the Children, as well as setting up Breakfast Clubs in a number of schools here. It brings together ContinYou, the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and Save the Children.

The same day, in the Guardian, Rosie Boycott, food activist and enthusiastic supporter of Transition initiatives, who recently became Boris Johnson’s ‘Food Czar’ announced her Capital Growth project, which aims to create 2012 food gardens across the city by 2012, the year of the London Olympics. She is quoted as saying “Capital Growth will identify spaces across the capital – often in surprising places such as roof gardens – and help London’s communities grow their own food.”

The Mayor’s office is initially putting £87,000 aside for the project, and is taking applications for a broad range of projects. I emailed Rosie to congratulate her, and in her reply she said that Capital Growth launched at 9.30am on Tuesday and by 10.30 ninety groups had signed up…. they had been hoping for fifty by next April!!

2012 new food gardens across London. The Blue Peter garden turned over to vegetables. What next?  Hyde Park goes edible landscaping?  The docks of Liverpool become filled with a flotilla of floating food-growing rafts?  The UK Government introduces a Lawn Tax in order to stimulate food growing? Wny not?  Our Letitia is rapidly not looking quite so extraordinary after all…

Categories: Food, General

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Mike Grenville
7 Nov 9:32am

Some more links:

A UK website to promote green roofs [roofs that are intentionally vegetated] and provide advice for their installation:

‘THE DIY GUIDE TO GREEN & LIVING ROOFS’ that can be downloaded for £11.65

European Federation of Green Roof Associations

Journalist Aida Edemariam looks into growing plants and vegetables on her own roof:

What to plant on a roof: Helen Bostock, adviser to the Royal Horticultural Society

Grasses Choose low-lying plants with shallow roots, which are naturally adapted to extremes of temperature and wind such as grasses, garden pinks and sedums.

Annuals and bulbs California poppies and toadflax also grow well and, in deeper soil, crocuses or tulips.

Vegetables Plant low-growing vegetables like beetroot, carrots and leafy salad crops, which don’t need deep conditions (cabbages and potatoes are too deep). Try varieties that grow well in hanging baskets, such as some types of tomato.

Herbs Pick herbs that are naturally adapted to cliff onditions, such as thyme, chives and marjoram.

John Marshall
7 Nov 11:33am

It’s rural as well. I had a favourable response yesterday when I suggested to our local Parish Clerk that we plant fruit & nut trees along the lanes of this very rural area.
A year ago I was called a “Squirrel Hugger” for wanting something similar.
Funny thing that….I didn’t really see it as an insult!

[…] Rob Hopkins blogged about Letitia Lloyd and ‘Celebrity Love Allotments‘. It seems the great urban agriculture revolution has now well and truly begun: not only is the […]

Peter Bralesford
7 Nov 5:12pm

Indeed. It’s incredible what can be achievied through the sheer energy of people inspired to make a difference to their lives, and the community as a whole. Great work everyone! ¦D

8 Nov 11:10am

It’s all good stuff. I guess everyone has heard of the concept of “Square Foot Gardening” – with its message of growing food in raised beds of 4 sq. ft in well-nourished soil and at rather closer spacing than normal – and that 1 person can feed themselves all their veg from 2 of these “raised beds”. I’ve just bought a book that takes this even further and seems pretty promising at first glance – the premise being that many people have an absolutely TINY amount of outdoor space – if that – but still want to grow food. He starts out by thinking “almost no space is too small or too dark to raise food”. its: “Fresh food from small spaces – the square inch gardener’s guide to year-round growing, fermenting and sprouting” by R.J. Ruppenthal. Yep – the word was “inch” – mushroom growing in the cupboard under the stairs anyone? LOL

17 Nov 11:08am

All well and good, but the amount of money put aside for the Capital Growth project is risible. £87,000 to create 2012 gardens… How do you build a roof garden for £43 (never mind the administration costs…)? Sounds very much to me like a typical case of “what can we do to sound green and trendy”.