Growers Hub

Roots Allotments Opens in Croydon

Written by
Ed Morrison
February 15, 2024

We have launched our latest growing community in Croydon, London, to help alleviate some of our capital cities' allotment waiting lists which can be the highest in the country. It’s an amazing opportunity for younger generations and families to get growing especially when considering the lack of places available in urban areas and the growing trend of young people feeling like they have to move to cities to find success.

Roots members will be involved in creating our new growing space as a flagship example of how food production and biodiversity can co-exist together and thrive! From establishing a greater diversity of wildflower species, planting heritage fruit trees, creating insect habitats, planting native hedgerows and hand-digging ponds to introducing natural pest control solutions. There are many things we can do to make sure that the places we grow our food can become beacons of biodiversity whilst fostering a lush sense of community.

We came across a study carried out across multiple UK cities, farmland, nature reserves and allotments that highlighted allotment sites as being just as important and effective for helping boost pollinator numbers even when compared to nature reserves. We hope that along with growing an abundance of flowers, fruit and vegetables as well as additional habitat creation efforts we’ll make a fantastic space for humans and nature to benefit from.

Source: The Urban Pollinators Project

Finding access to land in and around cities is incredibly hard, with many of our greenfields already owned by housing developers. This does leave slim pickings for ambitious green-fingered growers who want to get their hands in the soil and re-learn ancestral skills that the supermarkets have removed from our society. Practicing horticulture falls firmly within the definition of agriculture meaning that a change of use is not needed when a space is already being used for agriculture. In the face of increasingly hard to obtain growing spaces, we feel it is the right use of peri-urban/greenbelt land by opening up what were private spaces that may have been used by a single farmer previously, to being able to benefit many people in the local area as well as having further reaching community benefits. 

At our Croydon location, we are partnering with Black Farmers Market CIC to establish a 1-2 acre market garden that will become a platform that encourages the local community to grow food and champion themselves as food producers of the future. The UK horticultural scene lacks diversity and has created barriers to entry for Black growers (or non-white aspiring growers); from access to land, recognition and respect for the produce they make, access to selling at local farmers markets and more - where they are often met with rejection. This is the reason the Black Farmers Market was created. To shine a greater, more accessible light on Black growers and act as a platform for wider change and recognition.

We are super proud to be partnering with them and will be spending 2024 planning for a successful launch in 2025. We understand the future of food production isn’t black and white thus we need to collaborate to create a unified vision of a future we all want to be part of and participate in. We hope to launch Market Gardens on each of our larger sites to further cement our ambitions of Roots growing communities being a place to skill up future food producers.

Having spaces that can inspire and create confidence in people who want to step into food production is super important for our nation's food resilience. The UK currently imports 80% of its food that’s eaten and whilst our farmers do a fantastic job of being exemplary in welfare standards, we are only just realising the effect of leaving behind EU subsidies. The lack of clear funding and also pressure from supermarkets that put unrealistic standards and unfair payment structures on farmers is leading us to a worrying future where Riverford, reveals almost half (49%) of UK fruit and veg farmers fear they will go out of business within the next year. 

We already have members who joined us for Roots first season who now have growing confidence and are actively contributing towards supporting more localized food production by helping run market gardens. This is Dan who was desperate to get out of hospitality and into land work, here he is proudly standing by some of his garlic beds he’s established on a local farm. We’re looking forward to the future and seeing how many people can use Roots as a springboard into local food production!

We are also looking to create and replicate the success of our Good Vibes Projects in Bath where we partnered with local schools to provide children with education opportunities and help charities get access to growing spaces. On Top of this we are wanting to partner with someone in the local area to help distribute surplus produce to those who need it most - at our Bath site we donated over 3,000 portions of fruit and vegetables across the 2023 growing season. 

1) No digging needed! Your Back Will Thank You

Yes, it’s true. You’ll be picking bountiful harvests without needing to dig, turn or fork the earth! Your back will thank you because digging takes about 2 x times longer than No dig. Beds are made by covering your growing ground in cardboard and placing nutrient rich compost on top - giving you a surface that’s ready to plant straight away!

2) Less weeding 

Weeds get suppressed by the layer of cardboard and compost, they then die off because of no sunlight! If soil stays undisturbed then weeds and their seeds are more likely to stay locked into the ground instead of sprouting when disturbed on a traditionally dug allotment.

3) Feeding the soil creates healthier plants

By building yearly layers of organic matter and not disturbing the soil’s ecosystem, you will increase the amount of good microbial activity. Good microbes help plants access nutrients and water, so the healthier your soil - the healthier your plants! 

4) You’ll do less watering!

No dig beds retain moisture better because you’re introducing organic matter, not taking it away. By keeping the soil’s ecosystem in-tact and encouraging bacteria, fungi and worms to do their thing will create better layers of soil that save water for when your plants need it - instead of bare dug ground that leaks moisture! Water is a precious resource and no dig helps us make the most of every drop!

5) Higher Yields Are Scientifically proven!

No dig has been proven to produce significantly higher yields by Charles Dowding over the last 9 years at his Homeacres Farm. He has been weighing the results of identically planted dug vs no dig beds and over that time the results are 100’s of kg’s greater.

6) Reduce Single-Use Plastic! <3 The Planet!

Every harvest throughout the seasons means you’ll be totally cutting out vast amounts of single use plastic that is used in supermarket produce! The supply chains we rely on use way too much making no dig a great way to start reducing personal consumption of single use plastic.

7) Experience Less pests & diseases

The result of great soil health by the no-dig method helps good bacteria, insects and animals thrive! Using natural methods of pest control we can learn to work with nature instead of against it - a single teaspoon of healthy rich soil can contain up to 1 billion bacteria!.

8) You’ll help fungal networks and they’ll help your plants grow

Fungi are a super important part of running a productive healthy patch. When soil is full of life and undisturbed there will be miles and miles of fungal networks beneath your feet trading nutrients with each other and your plants.

9) Save time and be 40% more productive by no dig!

When you don’t need to spend hours and hours digging, turning and prepping the soil for planting, you’ll be able to spend it doing the fun creative side of gardening - planning, planting, pruning your patch to create your own edible zen garden.

As a bonus you will also feel the mental and physical boost of growing your own

Gardening and feeding yourself with incredibly fresh nutrient dense food has amazing positive side effects for both people and the planet. As time goes by you’ll feel closer and more at one with nature.