Fall is one of the best times to start a garden that will bloom next spring. But around one in five households in London do not have a garden or outdoor space.
Acting as a sort of “Airbnb for gardeners,” a clever new site brings these would-be gardeners together with those who may have outdoor space but don’t have the time, ability or inclination to care for it.
Founded by Conor Gallagher, AllotMe brings people with plans together to create a win-win situation.
“With all the benefits to the environment and our mental health, more and more young people are turning to what was once considered a pastime for the elderly.
“While demand has increased, land earmarked for allotments is decreasing, so it was clear we needed a new approach to create more plots from unused land across the capital and beyond,” he explains.
Stockwell Success Story
Architect Corrie Rounding, 31, has spent two summers on her property in Stockwell, which is a four-minute bike ride from her second-floor flat in Oval. “I remember picking rhubarb, apples and raspberries from my grandparents’ garden, but until recently I never thought much about gardening.
“Like many people during the pandemic, I was increasingly desperate for some outside space. I heard about AllotMe from a friend and decided to give it a try.”
Rounding up pays £20 for a 50 square meter back garden, and her first growing season was a steep learning curve: “The tomatoes ended up rotting and dying, and the snails got a lot of the rest,” she recalls.
With a little guidance from her great aunt, her gardening guru, she has planted some raised beds and has been much more successful this year.
“I’ve grown zucchini, aubergines and peppers, the tomatoes have been a great success story and I hope the potatoes will be the same. I don’t think I’m saving any money growing my own, but the produce is definitely tastier.”
I come here after work, it always feels very peaceful and I can go home with a bowl of tomatoes and lettuce leaves
She loves the relaxing effect in the garden. “I come here right after work, it always feels very peaceful and then I can go home with a bowl of tomatoes and lettuce leaves.”
Bethnal Green blooms
Strategy consultant Amy Bendel, 28, finds tending to her AllotMe property in Bethnal Green similarly therapeutic. After moving to London from Paris in early 2021, she was hoping to improve her work-life balance, but her flat share doesn’t have a garden.
On a visit to Hackney Farm, she saw an advert for AllotMe and browsed the local properties before settling on a £16-a-month front yard a 10-minute walk away.
After removing the weeds, she found some unused pots that she had filled with compost and planted with geraniums, hostas, bluebells, and delphiniums.
“Though the delphiniums are struggling a bit. It’s quite a shady place, so I didn’t get any vegetables.” Three months later, she visits her small plot almost every day. “There is something mindful and therapeutic about gardening. I’m always learning and it feels good to get dirt under my fingernails.”
Reap benefits in New Malden
People become gardeners for many different reasons, but Helen Webster’s motivation was frustration at seeing her 120-foot garden in New Malden being neglected. She decided to list an 11 square meter section of her garden with a new AllotMe tenant, Rosa, after discussing how the arrangement would work for both of them.
“I previously had three gardeners that I found through local ads, but with AllotMe, people are much more interested in gardening.”
Webster doesn’t have the time to keep an eye on her garden for a variety of reasons, but she hated the thought of the space being wasted.
“I used to grow vegetables, but now I don’t have the time. It’s all too much for me, so it’s great that someone can take some of it off my shoulders.”
Her new tenant is an experienced gardener who no longer feels safe on her allotment due to the increasing crime rate.
Access to Webster’s garden is via a locked side gate, and this owner has not only provided her tenant with a small greenhouse, faucet and hose, but has gotten off to a great start by covering the ground with cardboard to protect the to create the perfect weed-free start to the increasingly popular “no-dig” gardening method. “Rosa, my new tenant, just needs to dig up compost and transplant her seedlings.”
Webster doesn’t charge a fee for her plot. “I totally understand when people have to do this, but I don’t want to. If Rosa wants to share her produce that would be great and I can share my potato harvest and cooking apples. I am really thankful that the garden is productive and being used.”
In addition to shared products, there are also social benefits. While AllotMe focuses on growing produce rather than spending time in the host’s garden, Webster and her new tenant have already chatted while tending their own parts of the garden, she recalls. “We actually got pretty philosophical.”
No outdoor space? Here’s how to grow
Find your plant gang
Look for other garden participation programs like Lend and Tend, or get involved in a local community garden often found in small parks or churchyards. Many gardens open to the public also welcome volunteer gardeners. Visit lendandtend.com.
Plant a vegetable garden
When you’re ready to spruce up a few pots of supermarket herbs at the kitchen sink, there are stylish kits to help. Click-and-grow indoor gardens automatically provide water, light, and nutrients, and range from compact countertop sizes to three-tier plant stands that can grow around 50 edibles. Visit clickandgrow.com.
Start small and unofficially take over an overlooked local speck, like the ground around a mature tree. Remove weeds and litter, break up the soil and plant pretty bedding plants.
Use the space on the ceiling
When you just can’t fit houseplants in anymore, it’s time to hang them up high, using lightweight pots hung from ceiling hooks or using plant hangers – there are tons to choose from on Etsy. Hang a trio at different heights for more impact. Visit etsy.com/uk/market/plant_hangers.
For the plant-savvy but space-constrained tiny terrariums, you can enjoy a fascinating miniature ecosystem on your desk or coffee table. Put one together with help from The Urban Botanist. Visit theurbanbotanist.co.uk/collections/terrariens.
garden under water
Aquascaping allows you to create your own underwater kingdom using a plant-only aquarium – as well as rocks, stones, driftwood and gravel to complete the look. YouTube is your starting friend, and it’s all too easy to become obsessed with it. Visit riverwoodaquatics.co.uk.
Create an indoor garden
Are you ready to take houseplants to the next level? Choose a corner by framing or framing a window. Zone the space by painting the walls and ceiling a deep, lush green. Fill the main space with something big and leafy like a monstera or fiddle leaf fig, then fill in the gaps at the top and bottom with hanging plants and smaller pots, all in shades of green.
Pick your own weed
If you have “crack plants” growing on your fence, wall or curb, why not join in and tweak your surroundings with a packet or two of seeds, from happy, vibrant poppies to Erigeron karvinskianus with its masses of daisies Flower.
Conveniently with an app
If you don’t feel ready to keep a real plant alive, test your virtual green thumb with apps like Viridi, Terrarium: Garden Idle, and Dream Garden Makeover.