Even The Smallest Space Can Make A Difference

It's #NationalGardeningWeek and this Bank Holiday will see millions of pounds spent across the UK at garden centres but it is easy to forget that there are millions of people in our country today who are completely dislocated from green spaces. As a nation of gardeners we have let down those who live in urban areas. Back in 2014/15 in England alone there was a population of 54.3 million, of which 9.3 million (17.0 percent) lived in rural areas and 45.0 million (83.0 per cent) lived in urban areas (these figures are taken from DEFRA). Across the whole of the UK this is set to rise to nearly 93 percent by 2030. We are a nation of gardeners but our cities still remain bland or architectural symphonies of metal and glass, all of them are choked with traffic. The idea of living in a city again fills us with dread but we are lucky, we are grateful for that but it is time that we started to see our cities as places that should be grown in from urban farms to living walls. Mexico are doing it. Singapore has done it but as of yet in Manchester we have concrete around grass at Piccadilly Gardens. There are trees planted into concrete wells. It's also been damned in a recent report for air pollution from WHO. Even in Sheffield, a city known for its green urban spaces, the council are in the middle of a campaign of felling trees in the city. Network Rail are in the middle of cutting down trees around their rail lines. Rather than greening Britain we are in the middle of one the biggest extinction problems with ash dieback and sudden oak death. We will lose millions of trees and the idea that cities still neglect their civic responsibility to green our streets is horrifying in the face of the percentages of people living there. We can all put pressure on our civic leaders, but we can all be rebels by embracing those small spaces around us this May Bank Holiday. Last year we built this planter out of scrap wood, you can find out how to make it here. The idea behind the planter was simple, to squeeze out a little more growing space in our front garden. This planter sits on top of the gate post and weighs a ton.

Make a planter

Last year we grew lettuce in it, we went outside, harvested some of it and brought them indoors and added them to our dinner plate. This year we have turned it over to strawberries because we love strawberries.

Strawberry plants


No small space will feed an entire family unless you start to add up all the small spaces and large spaces you have around you. You may be scratching your head and thinking, I have a back yard, I have no garden, I live in a flat, but this is where as gardeners we can get creative. A few years back we had a small front garden no bigger than a car park space. We had a fence, and as we learnt to grow we looked at it and thought it was a wasted opportunity, so with wire and plant pots we constructed a living fence and planted strawberries in them. That year we had enough fruit to feed us throughout the season and barter the rest for vegetables we wanted from local growers. We then looked at our path and thought, What a waste of space. So we built an apple arch over the path, you can see the old garden here and the arch. Archways are great in gardens or small spaces because they add height, and rather than reach for a clematis you can grow runner beans up them. At one point we had a grape vine on our wall and yes, we had bunches of grapes!

Cottage garden

Everyone has walls and you can now turn them into green walls, living, breathing walls. You can buy kits for this or just knock something up with old guttering an a drip system. You all have front doors, you can get a large pot, weigh it down and plant into it. You could get together with all your neighbours this May Bank Holiday and say, Let's all do it together, let's make a difference. There are back ginnels, abandoned pieces of land, derelict gardens that can and should be grown in. Cuba did it. We can do it. Every small space can make a difference to how you live today and tomorrow. Even that windowsill in the kitchen is crying out for a pot of basil.

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