I was born in the biggest city in my home country and aside from the odd few years I lived in a provincial town when I was a small child, I have always lived in big cities. Havana, Miami, the Washington DC area, Naples, Italy, London, etc. You get the idea. I’m a city girl through and through and I have never made any excuses for that. I love high rises and crowds and I would give my first born (OK, not really) to live in Manhattan. However, there are a few country-life things I have come to yearn for in recent years.
I never had any interest in gardening of any sort until I moved to the UK in 2006. We rented an apartment in North London and there was a pick your own farm within a 15 minute or so drive. We were in the outskirts of London proper so there was some aspect of country/rural life to if you just drove a bit. Vegetable gardening is big in the UK, there are several magazines about it and they even have local government support community garden type schemes.
These gardens are called allotments. These allotments (of land) are in a large plot of land and subdivided into small plots, the allotments themselves. The individuals rent (if you will) these small pieces in the large plot and plant it, tend to it, etc. Each individual is responsible only for their own plot. This is a great way for normal people to grow their own vegetables. Most houses in the UK have very small yards, if at all, so growing in your backyard is not necessarily an option. I think allotments started in WWII but I am not sure.
Being exposed to all that made me really want to give growing vegetables a shot. We were lucky enough that our apartment had a small garden (though we had to leave the building and go through two gates to get to it) so I said “why not?” and got to it. Because we rented, we couldn’t really dig and plant and raised beds would damage the grass so I decided to just do container gardening. I planted herbs, lettuce, carrots and strawberries. Turns out, I didn’t have a black thumb at all. The carrots were delicious and the little salad we got was good too. The herbs served me well (until I let them die) and the birds enjoyed the strawberries cause I didn’t get to them fast enough. I loved it.
Then we moved to the US and trying to keep it up, I planted tomatoes in three containers. They were prolific but it just so happened that they were prolific at the point in my pregnancy where I could not stomach anything and the thought of food alone made me want to run to the toilet. My husband does not like tomatoes so they went to waste. What a shame. That put me off but I really want to get back into it. We bought this house in March and even though it is a house, we do not have a yard. We do have a big porch so I am currently considering Square Foot Gardening in raised patio boxes. We’ll see what comes of that.
As for the allotments, I REALLY wish the US had this sort of thing, even if not government supported. I have looked high and low for any sort of garden that rents out lots in our area but they do not exist (or they are very well hidden and kept secret). We have even considered buying land either for us or to start an allotment type business but alas, we cannot at this point. If I was friends with anyone that had a big enough piece of land I’d beg them to let me use a small piece of it to grow things. We live right next to Redlands, Florida, an huge agricultural area, you’d think it would be esay to find a small plot of growing land, no?
So, I hope we can at least make something with what we’ve got and gived SFG in raised patio boxes a shot.
PS. As a side note, we often talk about how next time we buy a house (in 5 years or so) we are definitely going to buy one with some land, nothing huge, just enough to grow a few things and maybe even keep a few animals. Remember how I said I was a city girl through and through? Yeah? Well, I wonder where this suppressed country girl is coming from but my family would be horrified!
Here are a few pictures from my UK garden, if you can call it that.