Gardening in groups
It's a bit of a sad week for the Dig In blog - it's Sara's last ever post. I'll miss hearing about the trials and tribulations of her veg, but I reckon she did brilliantly, and it's great that she enjoyed the experience.
Bye bye Sara - it's been good! Do keep on growing your own - maybe I'll pop back round next spring to check.
Of course, the point of Dig In is to give people a taste of growing, in the hope they'll get right into it. But not everyone room to grow as much as they want. Sara's lucky, having a big garden, and I'm lucky having my allotment.
But if you can't get hold of either, there may be another option.
Community allotments and gardens are a way for people to join in together to grow things, often bringing abandoned land back into use. It's a good way to meet people and swap tips, too. So, a few weeks ago, I went on a visit to my local community allotment, run by the Tunbridge Wells Transition Town group.
Transition groups are local environmental groups, with a big interest in reducing the amount of fossil fuels we use (that's what the "transition" bit is about, a transition from using oil to renewable energy like solar and wind power.). Growing your food locally rather than having it brought in is a big win with them, and many Transistion groups have set up community allotments.
Sue, one of the organisers of the Tunbridge Wells group (yes, I live in Tunbridge Wells, but I am very rarely disgusted), showed me around their site. She explained how it had been a bramble and rubbish-jungle when they took it on, after laying abandoned for nine years. A core group of around six people cut down thorns, ran rusted lawnmowers to the tip, and built terraces, with about the same number turning up to lend a hand now and again.
On my visit, less than a year later, the top part of the site has been planted up, and was bursting with impressively healthy beetroot, runner beans, sunflowers, spuds, courgettes and more. Sue explained how the group wanted to hold gardening workshops and community picnics on the site too.
One thing I'd always wondered about was how the fruit and veg was divvied up - doesn't bickering break out over the carrots ever? Sue assured me that this didn't happen, and there was plenty to go around, especially with a fairly small group. Mind you, I'd love to hear from anyone else with experience of community growing on how this works with their group - do leave a comment.
Here's a few suggestions of how you could find out about community allotments near you (if there aren't any, why not start your own?)
You can find out if you've got a local Transition Town group by looking at transitiontown.org website. It's also worth trying your local council website, to see if they have any initiatives.
If you're lucky enough to live somewhere where there are still allotments available, but think going in with a few others would be less daunting, the Allotments Regeneration Initiative has loads of advice. The charity Groundwork UK also helps with all sorts of community land regeneration projects, especially in cities.
The "gardenshare" scheme mentioned above is similar to Landshare, a UK-wide scheme fronted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and promoted by Channel4.