One Urban Balcony. One year. £900 of home-grown food. 90,000 people on allotment waiting lists

allotment - grow it yourself

The National Allotment Society estimates that 90,000 people in the UK are currently on the waiting list for an allotment. In the clamour for more allotment spaces, are we ignoring the food-growing assets right on our doorsteps? GIY (Grow It Yourself), an emerging global movement of up to 50,000 food growers, will launch in the UK on 20 July in Birmingham at a public event where the potential of balcony and small-space growing will be discussed alongside other practical and inspiring GIY talks and workshops.

During times of recession people turn back to the land in order to save money and reconnect with something real and tangible. Food scandals, rising food prices, health and environmental concerns, have combined to create unprecedented interest in home-grown food. But for those who don’t have a garden or access to an allotment, the desire to grow food can meet a brick wall.

Mark Ridsdill Smith vertical gardenOne of the speakers at the GIY UK launch will be ‘Vertical Veg’ founder Mark Ridsdill Smith. Mark’s work shows that you don’t need a garden or allotment to grow lots of food, he explains:

“I grew £900 worth of food on my London balcony and window sills in one year. I focus entirely on growing food in containers and in fact, I have never had my own garden or allotment. I started my growing in London on a balcony, and this year I’m creating a new container garden in my small back yard in Newcastle.”

Founder of GIY, Michael Kelly, believes that small-space urban growing is often mistakenly dismissed as inconsequential:

“A lot of people look down their noses at growing in small containers, as if it’s somehow not quite as important as garden or allotment growing, but we think it has huge significance for two main reasons. Firstly, with a little creativity you can grow a substantial amount of food such as high value herbs and lettuce leaves. Secondly, food growing on any level helps us understand where our food comes from and how it’s produced. This food empathy with larger scale growers can have a massive knock on impact on our food choices, health and ability to live more sustainably.”

Alys Fowler, Lia Leensdertz, Mark Diacono, Michael Kelly (GIY)The GIY UK Gathering brings together some of the UK’s leading food growers and food growing advocates. The event, supported by biochar company Carbon Gold, will bring up to 400 people together for a fun-packed day of practical and philosophical talks about growing your own food; the opportunity to quiz experts and to discuss, debate and network with a friendly community of food growers.

Other speakers include BBC gardening presenter and author Alys Fowler; Abel & Cole food editor, author and urban gardener Rachel de Thample; photographer, writer and smallholder Mark Diacono; food and gardening writer Lia Leendertz, Craig Sams (Carbon Gold), Paul Clarke (Pop Up Farm), Michael Michaud (Sea Spring Seeds founder), Dr David Shaw (Savari Trust) and Maddy Harland (Permaculture Magazine).

The GIY UK Gathering takes place in the University of Birmingham on Saturday 20 July 2013 from 9am to 5pm, and tickets for the day cost £25. Tickets and more information are available from

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