If you want to grow food but don’t have access to a plot of your own, consider joining a local or national garden sharing scheme. At their simplest, gardenshare schemes operate as matchmakers to pair up would-be growers with people who have land, but aren’t using it.
That might sound simple enough, but schemes are very variable in terms of what they expect from you. Some (such as Landshare) act as simple matchmakers, whereas locally-run schemes usually attempt to vet growers and pair them up with someone who owns the sort of plot they want to use, and help both parties to come up with a written agreement.
These agreements may include such things as a percentage share of the produce being given to the garden owner, times of access, behaviour, access to mains services, bonfires, and so on. This may sound onerous, but in the event of a disagreement they can help prevent the relationship between grower and landowner from turning sour.
A final feature of many gardenshare projects is the involvement of Garden Doctors, experienced growers who volunteer to help less experienced folk with regular or on-demand visits to overcome the solitary nature of gardenshare growing. Some schemes also deal with this by arranging work gangs or socials.
The pros of gardenshare schemes
- Although not yet as popular as allotmenteering, a gardenshare scheme could potentially find you a plot close to your home
- Growers and garden owners often become great friends
- Well-run schemes offer vetting and support
- Can provide a framework to help a reluctant neighbour take the plunge and allow you to work their garden
- Improves the neighbourhood by bringing neglected land into use and getting people talking
The cons of gardenshare schemes
- At the time of writing there is no coordinated list of gardenshare schemes, but if you would like to start one you may be able to get some help from the Transition Network.
- Drawing up an agreement may be off-putting unless the scheme offers help
- If the scheme offers no support you may feel out on a limb
- A good relationship between garden owner and grower is crucial
- Make sure you don’t forget the insurance side of things. Your local allotment association may be able to help.