All too often, front gardens in London look miserable and bedraggled, their only features a couple of wheelie bins and some discarded furniture. That’s no longer the case in Islington after a community came together to grow in front of their houses and around trees in the street.
It all started with a giveaway from the local council, who handed out wildflower seed to locals so that they could sow them in the pits around trees growing in their streets. Two women who did just that, Naomi Schillinger and Nicolette Jones, decided to go one big step further and set up a community gardening project.
They put flyers through the doors of the homes in their areas, and suggested growing the ‘three sisters’ – sweetcorn, pumpkins and beans – in front gardens using growbags, and also by digging up the concrete on some plots. The Council was so impressed by this last idea that it gave the growers a grant to pay for the removal of the concrete.
Naomi says people in the local area took pretty readily to the idea of brightening up their front gardens. “I think that neighbours signed up as this reflects a real hunger for people to join in and get to know one another in their neighbourhood,” she says. “There was no pressure to join up, but by putting their name down, they got free seeds and growbags delivered to their front gardens to grow veg in. Seemed to appeal to most people. Ah! the power of gardening.”
The Council also donated plants for the tree pits and asked the gardeners to be party of the borough’s entry for London in Bloom and Britain in Bloom.
All the locals gathered for the first time at an event called Cake Saturday, held in a front garden, to discuss the vegetable growing project. In the ensuing weeks, they lent time to one another to deliver growbags and compost to one another’s gardens.
There are now 100 households taking part in the Blackstock Triangle Gardens growing project, and this year the front gardens boasted runner beans, spinach and radishes as well as the three sisters.
You can find out more about this marvellous cheerful project by reading Naomi’s blog, Out of My Shed.