Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Our Garden City; Grow Your Own Commentary

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Our Garden City; Grow Your Own Commentary

Article excerpt

Byline: Rosie Boycott Chairwoman, London Food Board

WHEN I started my job with Boris Johnson as chairman of the London Food Board there was a running strand on The Archers about whether someone from Ambridge should appear on the plinth in Trafalgar Square. London's a useless place, one of the potential participants complained, you can't grow anything there. "At best you could eat pigeons."

How wrong could they be! London is full of people wanting -- and succeeding -- to grow their own. Whether it's in a window box, on a roof top or by turning previously derelict stretches of land into vegetable growing plots where people can garden together, food is a great uniter. The simple process of planting seeds, digging and watering is both magical and restorative.

At the end of last year we launched Capital Growth, which aims to create 2,012 new growing spaces in London by 2012. It wasn't a new idea -- Vancouver, soon to play host to the Winter Olympics, had launched a similar scheme, planning on creating 2010 new growing spaces by the start of the Games in 2010. I'd hoped that by April we'd have 50 spaces signed up: in fact we had almost 100 with many more waiting in the wings to join us.

British Waterways offered stretches of land beside canals (and is planning on building floating gardens on barges) as did hospitals, schools and mental health institutes (who understand the therapeutic value of gardening). Many people have located numerous unused small spaces in their neighbourhoods.

Gardens in cities don't have to be big and it is amazing how much you can grow in a converted builder's bag, a recycled polystyrene box, an old market tray, even in disposable coffee cups, plastic food containers and old wellingtons. You just need imagination and the will to grow.

I have recently discovered the best way to keep plants hydrated -- and just in time as it turned out with this week's temparatures reaching 32C. Wash out a one-litre plastic bottle and cut off the bottom. Insert the neck of the bottle into your plant pot, window box or bed, as close to the plant and as far down into the soil as possible, then simply fill it up with water. …

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