Help yourself to the community garden – The Edible Bus Stop

If you walk along Landor Road in south-west London and you suddenly stumble upon a pretty, green patch with oregano, broccoli and strawberries, you’ve found The Edible Bus Stop. Founded by a group of locals including Makaela Gilchrist and Will Sandy, the project is designed to bring the local community together, while also making a desolate part of the neighbourhood look welcoming.

The garden doesn’t really come into its own until summer, when fruit trees, bushes and vegetables will sprout up, feeding the area. Anyone can grab a tomato or carrot when they walk past, although it would be wise to wash them first! The garden is free for all, but the philosophy is that if you pick something, you also plant something.

When Makaela discovered that the council wanted to build new houses next to the bus stop, making the street considerably narrower, she rallied the troops and handed out 400 leaflets to neighbours, asking them if they wouldn’t want to create a local garden, that everyone could enjoy and make use of. The locals turned out en masse for the first day of digging, and The Edible Bus Stop was born.

That was little over a year ago and now, the aim is to turn the patch into an inner city orchard. With the help of Lambeth Council, awards and funding, the community garden will hopefully prosper. So far, the green space hasn’t suffered from vandalism and there have been very rare examples of theft; a scarecrow has mysteriously been abducted and 6 pumpkins were harvested in one night. Ironically, the guerrilla gardeners have also been guerrilla gardened themselves. A tropical plant that formerly lived in a Chinese restaurant appeared one day in the flower bed, and other additions have also enriched the patch.

In the spirit of the Olympics, and being the Olympics Local Leaders 2012, the garden will grow black potatoes, red and blue sweetcorn and other edibles that will represent the colours of the Olympic rings. For the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the founders are organising a Big Lunch street party with games such as ‘onion and spoon race’, ‘carrot relay’ and ‘runner beans’; it’s definitely more creative than huddling together in the local pub. The Edible Bus Stop is no stranger to royal activities, as it boasts leftover plants from the very first garden installation of START (Prince of Wales’s sustainable initiative) which was held at Clarence House.

Relying on volunteers to keep the garden patch going and growing, Makaela and Will are keen to keep the area as open as possible, and don’t want to set up any fences acting as boundaries.  This, they believe, will do nothing for community spirit. They haven’t invested in an outside tap either, as it proved that hoisting hoses from nearby gardens also brings people together, working for a good cause.

Their biggest task to date is how the Bus Stop can engage teenagers and get them involved. Kids and the elderly have happily rolled their sleeves up, but local teens have been less eager to participate. Then, there’s also the question of what happens after the election; if the council isn’t re-elected, will the new builds appear on the map again? The Edible Bus Stop shows no sign of slowing down however, plans for two new gardens are in the pipeline (behind Clapham Common tube station and on West Norwood High Street), then there’s the involvement with Chelsea Fringe Festival as well as the agenda to create London’s first Green Bus Route (transforming the neglected space along bus route 322). Things are looking bright.

If you’re a gardener and would like to help, there’s more information about the project here. As a layman with green fingers you can also donate flowers or come down for a dig-day. 

Should your garden be in need of some TLC and you need a gardener, post your job on to get quotes from up to 3 previously rated tradesmen.

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