Vertical gardening

Meet the tiny London balcony and windowsills that vertical gardener Mark Ridsdill-Smith grows an abundant harvest on.

There are allotments that yield smaller harvests than the one Mark Ridsdill-Smith scooped up from his 9 x 6 foot north-facing balcony, five south-facing windowsills,three north-facing windowsills and a small concrete front garden.

Frustrated with waiting for an allotment in London, where the waiting list yawns on for 40 years in some places, Mark started growing on his balcony in 2009. He was surprised by the amount of food he could harvest.

Mark then set himself a challenge in 2010 to grow £500 worth of food without a garden. By cramming in as many vegetables as he possibly can – and see below for what really constitutes cramming in as many vegetables as possible – he managed to beat that target seven months early, and wound up growing £899.99 worth of food.

Image copyright Mark Ridsdill-Smith

You can read his growing diaries, including how much each harvest was worth, here.

Mark built his own self-watering containers and supported his tomatoes using string supports. He also learnt intelligent ways of using his space, by using fast-growing crops that produce a harvest quickly, interplanting fast-growing crops between slower-growing plants, and planning container combinations such as early potatoes followed by a later crop in June in the same pot.

Mark’s website is a must-read as it is packed with wisdom and information on growing in small spaces. You should also follow him on Twitter for daily tips.

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9 Responses

  1. Karen Jackson

    Amazing amount of produce from a small space, everything looks so healthy too. I orginate from London and know first hand how hard growing space is to come by. Very inspiring post and wonderful photographs.

  2. Caro Shrives

    Mark’s extraordinary growing space is very local to me; sadly, he moved last autumn so the wonderful display is no longer there but his great achievement was to show how every corner can be used for food growing. His enthusiasm is inspiring and well worth catching him on one of his return visits to London when he gives talks to community gardeners. Details of events on his website, or more about his balcony in Alex Mitchell’s book ‘the Edible Balcony’.

    • F&F

      Thanks Caro for your comments. I think Mark’s garden rates as one of my favourites as it’s all against the odds and I love the way the pumpkin has completely taken over the window. What a clever chap.

  3. Caro Shrives

    I love that phrase “against the odds” – wouldn’t Elspeth Thompson have loved this! Mark is indeed very resourceful, the blue painted plant station by his front door was something he made from found wood and made beautiful to look at. I must ask him how he secured the window boxes to his windowsills!

  4. Gloria

    My first thoughts when I saw the house was of Elspeth as it looks like her road in Brixton. Fabulous inspiration for everyone. There’s no excuse to not grow some of your own food.

  5. F&F

    That’s very true Gloria and Caro: Elspeth was a huge inspiration to me as I’ve always found I get far more excited about a daring house covered in vegetables than a big posh kitchen garden (although I do still get very excited by that too). There’s something defiant about growing where you shouldn’t really.

  6. Janine

    Wow, no excuses. What a great use of space! I’m so glad to discover so many innovative people who try to garden no matter what the circumstances. Simply awesome.

  7. theresa

    I love this urban garden! I am going to be planning a balcony garden and am looking for space saving techniques, and it looks as though you have mastered this!


    That is fantastic, I am sure you had put lots of efforts on decorating your garden – it looks greenish and fabulous. This is something special. Love your post and the work. I am sure, this provides more and more inspiration for many people to have garden. Best of luck with the garden and please keep sharing such fantastic posts with us. – I would like to suggest to go for some colorful flowers too that may add more beauty to the garden and the best exposure to outdoor of your home…, cheers…


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