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How to become a city gardener

09th October 2019

Get a slice of the good life, even if you live in a built-up urban area

As growing your own continues to gain popularity, space in which to grow is at a premium, with large waiting lists for allotments, and community spaces becoming a more common sight. But what if you live in the city, without access to much outdoor space? Can you still grow your own fresh fruit and veg? The answer is yes!

Growers across the country are becoming more creative with their spaces – vertical gardening, rooftop plots and windowsills bursting with life can be much more productive than you might originally think, offering anybody the chance to cultivate some tasty and beautiful crops. The first consideration, as with any growing space is, what do you like to eat?

Followed by, what is expensive and/or hard to come by in the shops that can thrive in a container? Crops such as chillies do fantastically sited on a sunny windowsill, but can be costly in shops, without the access to some of the more exotic varieties you can grow yourself. Some of these are extremely high-yielding for the size of the plants. Herbs are another excellent choice, adding real pep to a variety of dishes, and many of them can be kept happy in pots with just a little bit of care and attention. With the smallest bit of outdoor space, crops such as blueberries and dwarf pea varieties are also perfect for city growing, as they don’t need a large area to thrive. Keeping on top of pruning and watering can keep these plants compact and healthy and give you some great harvests, too.

Sometimes, city growing can also focus on being creative and utilising space that you may not initially think of as somewhere suitable for growing edible crops. Obviously it is very important to ensure that you check the legalities of using certain places (like rooftops) to make sure that you won’t be breaking any rules. Certain buildings have flat rooftops or small balconies, and these can be ideal areas to create a haven in the middle of a busy city. Making the most of vertical space is another great way to add crops to your repertoire. Climbing squashes (for example) can be encouraged to ramble up trellises on outside walls, just needing a space where they get a good amount of sun and can be regularly irrigated.

If there are any unclaimed pieces of land in your local area it can be worth going to the council and asking if you would be able to grow fruit and veg on it. If there are a few people in your local area who are keen to do this, you may be in a stronger position, as you would be creating a community asset. This can be a lengthy process, though, and needs a fair amount of research and commitment for an ideal outcome.

For those who may be time-strapped as well as limited on space, crops like pea shoots and microgreens offer a perfect solution, as they hardly take up any room (they can be grown in shallow trays/in jars) and can be harvested within days to add intense flavour and goodness to salads and sandwiches, and as a tasty garnish to all sorts of meals.

The most important thing, as with any growing space, is to cultivate crops that you are going to love eating – focus on enjoying the process. This will motivate you to continue harvesting your delicious home- grown produce. So, why not create your own little slice of paradise in the city?

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