Growing pains: Guerilla gardening in Glasgow
Glasgow’s Guerrilla Gardening campaign is currently transforming the Townhead area of the city centre with seed and bulb-bombing tactics. Their cause resonates with a lot of green-fingered but flat-bound gardeners, desperate to make the most out of any and all the green space in Glasgow.
In Maryhill there is another cause that local residents feel is worth fighting for: the upkeep and preservation of the North Kelvin Meadow. The green space between Clouston Street and Kelbourne Street was formerly the site of playing fields but is now a community hub with raised planting beds for keen growers.
The North Kelvin Meadow Campaign was the subject of some controversy in summer 2009 when campaign organisers Douglas Peacock (chairman) and Karen Chung (treasurer) failed to respond to a notice for eviction from the meadow enforced by Glasgow City Council. Glasgow Sheriff’s Court then granted the continuation of an interdict to prevent them from setting up any more raised beds. The council has a 2008 proposal to build 115 flats on the land that is still in the offing, against which the campaign has a 800+ signature petition.
Both the council and the campaign have their reasons for urban development and conversation of green space respectively, but while the debate goes on, local residents are making the most of the first spring sunshine to start cultivating their beds.
Mother of two, Anne Glass is a 39-year-old former legal secretary. She owns one of the meadow’s half-whisky barrels, bought for £25 (plus soil) from Glasgow Wood Recycling. ‘There are such high queues and waiting lists and so on for an allotment, that there was no way that I’d have been able to get one,’ she says. She now grows a variety of veg in her barrel. ‘Last year I managed to grow peas. I also had some carrots, beetroots, lettuce and radish in. I’m doing a lot more this year: broccoli, cauliflower, leeks and onions.’
Glass’ situation is that of many city-dwellers. ‘I’m a sort of frustrated gardener basically, stuck in a flat,’ she says. ‘It’s really difficult to get the space to do stuff, so I’m really looking forward to taking the step beyond a few seeds in my windowsill.’
Glass’s eight-year-old boy is also a fan. ‘He likes to run around and investigate and help the people. He was helping when we were putting soil into tubs last year. I think it’s really important for families to be able to spend that sort of time together.’
Douglas Peacock describes the demand for more raised beds as ‘huge’. ‘There are few meadows in Glasgow,’ he says. ‘That sounds pretty obvious but there are very few. We see that there’s a lot of potential here.’ Despite an uncertain future for their plants, the Maryhill meadow’s gardeners will still be making the very most of the warm months this year.
To get involved in Glasgow Guerilla Gardeners register at www.glasgowguerillagardening.org.uk for updates on dig days. Then turn up at Townhead with some tough gloves and any unwanted plants. You might also want to invest in a four-pack of Seedboms.
In Edinburgh, why not try an introduction to Organic Gardening at Bridgend Allotments, 41 Old Dalkeith Road, Sat 24 Apr, 9am–4pm, £40 (£20). Book on 0131 664 9559. Or get involved with Edinburgh Backgreens Association.
If you’re not ready to turn guerrilla, both Glasgow and Edinburgh council offer allotments. But be warned, waiting times can be lengthy. See council websites for details on how to apply.
Alternatively, cultivate your own herb and vegetable window box. You can buy a ready-made Spring Window Box Garden with starter plants for £24.99 from www.rocketgardens.co.uk.