Allotments: growing on a plate

It was surprising to read a flyer, way back in 2014, about growing vegetables in an inner-city area, produced by a housing association which had recently taken over the local housing stock. Good luck with that!

I say ‘way back’ as so much has happened since then. There’s now a resident-led group that looks after the day-to-day management of a newly built allotment site surrounded by new or refurbished homes.

So, what happened in between?

The first thing to do was to get interest by having a go at gardening. So, in June 2014, local people were invited to a workshop in the grounds surrounding the housing office on Brunswick Street, M13. We discovered one-tonne bags of soil in place with some seeds ready to be planted. It was great to see an interest in growing one’s own food. Perhaps this could take off.

Soon there was a group of people attending occasional meetings to talk about regular gardening sessions. By August of that year a committee and constitution had been agreed to – and a name for the group: Chorlton On Medlock Allotment Society (or COMAS for short).

So, the race was one to get bags and soil and grow vegetables for that Autumn.

We couldn’t dig directly into the soil in case of pollution from previous land uses or because of paving. By September we had a mountainous bean stalk outgrowing its accommodation and ready to produce a harvest.

Going green in Brunswick: residents show the way

We entered our second year in this temporary site with enthusiasm, waiting for the promised allotment plots to be built a short distance away. With workshops from the social enterprise Sow the City we were able to turn wooden planks into raised beds and composters. The Housing Association, S4B, also chipped in with a greenhouse, which was both a joy and a bit of a headache to build. How were we to know that one bag of components was meant for a shed and not our greenhouse?

In 2018 not much could be done as the land we used was due for redevelopment. Fortunately, we had the use of some raised beds in the extensive back garden of a residential block. Work on these produced potatoes, beans, peas, raspberries and courgettes – both for our own use, neighbours and occasionally for the Wellbeing Café nearby.

The next year saw the big breakthrough.

The back garden’s polytunnel had produced marvellous crops, but by December we hit the jackpot when the neighbourhood’s first plot-holders snapped up places on the new allotment site on Hartfield Close (M13 9YX – just a hundred metres from Brunswick Street). It was supplemented by a Portacabin from the nearby building construction compound – our own garden shed!

The first shoots: residents admire their growing skills

Work goes on in the neighbourhood to encourage people to grow and eat their own food and supplement work already done to turn blank green spaces in the neighbourhood into something more interesting and environmentally beneficial.
Gardening has proved the perfect therapy for medical recovery, physical enjoyment and mental wellbeing. The mission continues to show the neighbourhood how good it is to chip in and go green. It’s good for your plate and good for the planet!

If you live or work in Brunswick and want to get involved, come to our regular gardening sessions at Elizabeth Yarwood Court, Kincardine Road M13 9SY, each Saturday starting at 2pm. Phone 07587 672937 to check for any last-minute changes. See our website, for an overview of the society.