Edible Landscapes, Background

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There is a need for locally produced plants that can be used in nearby growing projects and for locally trained people to produce and maintain the supply. Currently such trees and plants are produced in commercial nurseries based outside London failing to benefit the local economy, the local skill base and the environment as a whole. As a piece of land that has existing growing facilities, the site in Finsbury Park is ideally placed to become a treasured local growing hub. We aim to:

  • to increase availability of LOCAL FOOD by producing edible plants
  • to create a WELCOMING SPACE and 'growing hub' for local mental health service users and those interested in gardening, in order to strengthen the local community
  • to build up our local skill base – particularly in relation to PERENNIAL GARDENING

Registered company number: 07359093

There is a shortage of locally grown food in London as well as a limited supply of plants for edible landscaping projects, especially from ethical or organic suppliers. Using remote suppliers fails to benefit the local economy, the local skill base and the environment as a whole. By supplying edible plants such as such as mulberry trees, sea buckthorn, grape vines and everlasting onions we will be helping reduce the carbon footprint associated with food production.

Local transition initiatives, parks groups, growing groups and organisations such as BTCV and Groundwork have an ongoing demand for edible plants and there is a growing demand by householders for home food growing. This trend is reflected in the various initiatives from central government to fund an increasing number of local food growing projects here in London. It is clear that there is an unmet demand and that this is an expanding market. Because the site is local, there will be a lower carbon footprint for the transport involved in bringing plants to growing sites.

As well as learning about perennial plants, keen gardeners and local mental health service users alike will be able to make friends, exercise gently, engage in meaningful work, build a community of interest and enjoy being in a beautiful outdoor setting. By creating this safe space that is run by appropriately qualified staff and volunteers, we will enhance people's sense of spiritual, emotional and physical well-being, giving us all a better quality of life.

PERENNIAL GARDENING is a long-term approach to food growing which is more sustainable, cost effective and low-maintenance than conventional approaches. It is growing in popularity, but local knowledge is in short supply. Also, food growers have an unmet need for practical support in an inspiring setting where horticultural skills can be shared; in essence, our vision for a 'growing hub'. By offering support, information and training we will meet these needs.

Seasonal one-off workshops could be run for the local community on tree care, tree grafting and pruning. These would mirror the nursery's work flow. We could also replicate the important experimental work carried out by the Agroforestry Research Trust in trialling non-native edible species in London.

In the longer term we would like to

  • provide more formal training to those managing growing projects, working in partnership with organisations
  • produce guidance literature and growing kits for new growing projects
  • start an additional social enterprise that would sell locally foraged and processed foods (such as jams, chutneys, fruit leathers, teas and pestos), perhaps even starting an on-site café

One of the main things we have learned from talking to other growing projects is that it is imperative to have paid staff to maintain a nursery. Without constant and reliable maintenance, plants will simply die. In a long term project like this, it is unrealistic to expect volunteers to be able to provide that level of support, especially in the hot summer months. In addition, paid staff will have the training and experience required to carry out the work. They will also be able to communicate their skills to volunteers and other site users such as people on vocational training and vulnerable adults.

Perennial, or 'lazy', gardening is an approach that is beginning to catch on as a way of producing more fail-safe growing projects. The key features of this approach are to:

  • make full use of the growing space's full height (small trees, bushes, climbing plants and ground cover plants) and therefore have bigger yields;
  • use more perennial plants which keep on producing edible leaves or fruits year after year. This saves the gardener the trouble of digging over soil, weeding, replanting and regrowing plants; and
  • use plants that work well together, e.g. have nitrogen fixing plants to 'feed' hungrier plants naturally. This makes plants stronger and less prone to disease as well as reducing the need to provide compost or to water as frequently.

The main advantage of this approach is that it is easy to maintain. Many growing projects are unsustainable simply because inappropriate, high maintenance, annual plants have been chosen. Our well-labelled showcase garden will demonstrate how a selection of perennial plants can work together to produce a high yielding, low-maintenance and attractive food growing site.

proposed site: looking northproposed site: looking north

Want to help make it happen? Use the contact form to get in touch.

Site location:
nearest postcode: N4 2DE

Questionnaire.doc54.5 KB
articles_of_association.pdf196.78 KB