Growing Spaces: What Can You Do?

In advance of Thursday evening’s Growing Spaces meeting at the Library Lecture Room, let’s take a quick look at some of the possible solutions to your food growing problems that we might be able to help deliver:

Lack of Space

Many houses in New Mills only have small yards or gardens, and within these there’s competition for space between catering for children, pets or washing, and the conditions may not be conducive due to shading or poor soils. If you recognise this problem you’re probably unlikely to be able to become completely self-sufficient, but then this is rarely the aim for most people. If you can grow even a limited selection of a few carefully chosen plants then you will experience the fundamental satisfaction of producing your own food, as well as making an important, even if limited, contribution to reclaiming better, healthier food, with lower carbon emissions, lower pollution, less waste and in all likelihood, a better taste.

The chances of getting an allotment soon are, for most people, as slim as a green bean. You may not want the demanding task of cultivating such a large space at a distance from your house anyway. The obvious way to tackle this problem then is to make best use of the space you have. This may be through wall or window boxes, window-ledges inside and out, pots and other containers. You can move these about to provide a flexible space and to tackle shading, and have control over the soil used. Various products can help keep the soil moist, from regular watering to gel granules, mulch, plastic bottle watering adapters through to fully automated watering systems. You can choose what you grow carefully to ensure the plants you choose are adapted to thrive in these conditions and preferably can save you some money compared to supermarket produce; there is a wide range, from herbs to fruit trees. There are even new types of fruit trees available which just grow vertically, taking up no more than 18” diameter – small enough for just about any garden.

There are other ways you might be interested in: one option is to start a community garden in a bit of otherwise unused public space. You can see these in many town and city centres these days, including not just the widely known Incredible Edible Todmorden, but less ambitious projects such as the New Mills Community Orchards, down to the veg planters in Piccadilly Basin or Levenshulme.

Or you could join up for a landshare scheme, where someone with a garden or land they cannot look after is matched up with someone who wants land to cultivate. There’s no need to set anything new up here, Channel 4’s Landshare scheme already exists to fill this gap, and may just need significant local publicity.

Lack of Time

The trick here is to grow undemanding plants that tolerate some neglect and don’t produce a bumper crop all at once. Many herbs are ideal, but there’s plenty of easy vegetables as well, such as leeks and spinach. Even better are more traditional perennial ‘forest garden’ plants that come every year, such as Good King Henry or currant bushes.

Lack of Cash

Certainly if you visit the garden centre the array of materials, tools and seeds can seem overwhelming. But it’s quite possible and practical to make growing your own food save you money if you know how, as much of the kit isn’t essential. Should we be looking to create free ‘starter kits’ to grow easy crops to reduce the risk and increase confidence, maybe? Coupled with better advice, this could unlock growing your own food to many more people.

Don’t Know How

All the above solutions require some knowledge to be really successful. Local knowledge, of suitable crop types and conditions, is even better. There’s loads of this around from experienced gardeners and allotment holders, but you may need to be able to learn from them more easily, or be given the confidence to try things yourself. Alternatively it may the cooking part that you have doubts about; do you need some really good recipes or better cooking skills to get the best out of your produce?

Over To You…

This isn’t a comprehensive list of solutions. Some might appeal to you more than others. You probably have other ideas, or other problems we haven’t addressed. That’s what Thursday’s meeting is about – we want to know what you’d like to do, and what’s stopping you. Then we can decide what we can do about it. We want to leave after the meeting with some practical ideas, and fill people with enough enthusiasm to help deliver them. Let’s make it happen!

See you Thursday, 7:30pm !

(If you can’t get to the meeting, but are interested in the project, send us your thoughts at; we’d love to hear from you!)

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