A new matchmaking service - the Garden Partners - has been launched to link green-fingered Londoners who have no outside space with people who have gardens that they make little use of.
© Mark York
With interest in grow-your-own food spiralling, and waiting lists for allotments in some parts of the capital topping 40 years, the two-year pilot scheme is being seen as an innovative response.
'Allotment waiting lists are topping 40 years while older people are stuck with gardens that they can no longer tend'
The experiment starts in Wandsworth with pensioners who have gardens they are no longer able to tend.
Each pair of “garden daters” draws up a personal written contract agreeing what will be grown in the garden, who will pay for seeds and equipment, and how the produce will be shared. No money changes hands.
Says project boss Sarah Jackson of Age Concern: “It is being funded by NHS Wandsworth following reports that older people just cannot manage their gardens and are suffering gardening injuries while trying to hack back the wilderness. Both parties share the produce, so it can give people more access to fresh fruit and vegetables.”
The project, launched in May, is the first of its kind in the UK. Ruth Joad, 42, from Battersea, is one of its first volunteers. She says: “I am studying horticulture but I live in a flat with no outside space. This is a brilliant idea.
“The woman I visit is only five minutes down the road and is really lovely. At the moment I am pruning and hacking back, but when it is a bit more prepared I will be growing flowers and some nice pots of vegetables.”
So far there are more garden owners than gardeners signed up for the project because volunteers have to submit to a criminal records check and the process can take around three months.
For more information about Garden Partners, call 020 8877 8940, or visit www.ageconcernwandsworth.org.uk.