Many people have decided that depending on their local supermarket just isn’t enough. The opportunity to grow some of your own food is all around us in SE16. From the window-box to the garden, from the allotment to the community garden and our very own urban farm, SE16 has many possibilities to feed yourself and your family from your own efforts.
Making space to grow your own veg can have so many benefits. Of course we all know that the fresher the veg, the more nutritious it is; so picking seasonally from your own windowsill can’t be bettered. The cost of food is a major factor in people deciding to grow some of their own; it’s cheaper and costs less to transport. And then there’s the sense of achievement! Growing food is a labour of love and can give you a real boost. You have to slow down if you are going to nurture new growth from your kitchen pots; just weeding them can stop the hectic pace of life for a moment. And then comes the chance to swap tips (and perhaps carrots) with neighbours, to make new friends and find fresh inspiration from joining in with other growers.
“…pressing apples they’ve collected from the orchard and tasting the apple juice, or learning about dairy products and churning their own butter…”
“The key idea behind the farm is to connect people with their food,” says Gemma Hooper Farm Manager at Surrey Docks Farm. “There’s something for everyone here. Every day is different with an amazing mix of people from all parts of the community enjoying the Farm’s unique mix of food growing activities. Our young people get involved in every aspect of the farm; from caring for the animals, collecting eggs and harvesting vegetables. Folk from city firms volunteer to build us raised beds and local adults can learn what to grow on their windowsills. We train adults with learning disabilities, teaching them horticulture and animal care skills, making jams and chutneys from fruits grown on the farm and even working in our Farm Shop to sell vegetables they’ve harvested. Local primary schools bring classes for practical workshops such as pressing apples they’ve collected from the orchard and tasting the apple juice, or learning about dairy products and churning their own butter. Food on the hoof and in the ground is our reason for being here!”
“…Growing food is a labour of love and can give you a real boost…”
Gardens and Allotments
The Farm is only one of many places dedicated to growing in SE16. We have three allotment sites in SE16 – two on the junction of St James Road and Lynton Road and another next to Patterson Park. The high demand for allotments means that there are long waiting lists at all three sites. One Family Allotment is nestled behind the CGP Café Gallery in Southwark Park offering families with pre-school kids space to grow. Galleywall Nature Reserve have some raised beds that often need tending. You can volunteer to help Lottie Muir at the Rotherhithe Shaft Community Garden or the team at the Time and Talents Garden. St Joseph’s Primary School have their own allotment whilst the Adams Garden estate run their own gardening project. Bede House supports two growing projects with volunteers with learning disabilities and the Chaucer Gardening Group works with people with mental health issues so everyone has a chance to join in growing locally.
“…Food is too important to leave it to other people to decide what you buy, produce, prepare or waste…”
Growing your own
You can of course grow food yourself. It only takes the smallest of pots to have your own herb garden on a windowsill. Or you can use window-boxes to be more ambitious with some simple veg like lettuce or chard but you also need to ensure the soil is enriched with some compost. You can branch out to use grow bags if you’ve the space. You could try tomatoes grown in a plastic bag. A sunny spot is best but make sure the roots are deep enough not to dry out as soon as it warms up; 15cm should be plenty for most veg. You can start your veg from seed; you can collect the seeds from tomatoes or pumpkins and plant them in Spring or you can get some off an established gardener who might swap the seeds for a share of the produce. There are lots of places to go for advice; you might already know someone with a flourishing plot or you can always get along to the Growing Masterclass on 11 October 14:00-16:00 at the Drummond Road Community Growing group (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Farm and the local allotments are great places to meet fellow micro-farmers!
Food is too important to leave it to other people to decide what you buy, produce, prepare or waste. It really is worth getting the best quality food you can afford, preparing it with love and care and wasting as little as you can. Growing your own makes sense at so many levels. Perhaps you want to have a go!?