Community food growing gardens gear up for Edible Open Gardens Day

More than 100 of the UK's community food-growing gardens will be opening their gates during September 2012.

UK’s largest Edible Open Gardens event in September 2012

More than 100 of the UK’s community food-growing gardens will be throwing open their gates to the public during September 2012, in the largest open event of food-growing spaces ever seen in the UK [1]. The Big Dig Edible Gardens Open events are part of The Big Dig [2], a project funded by the Cabinet Office’s Social Action Fund [3] and co-ordinated by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming [4]. Six cities – Brighton, Coventry, London, Manchester, Middlesbrough and Sheffield - are taking part in the event this year, with over 5,000 people expected to participate throughout September.

The key weekend of activity is 14-16th September, when community food growing spaces in four cities will be opening their gates to the public. The aim is to show people that a food growing space can be set up just about anywhere and so inspire people to get involved in their local food growing spaces and set up new ones of their own.

Amongst the more unusual spaces involved in London is a floating allotment on a canal barge, where they not only grow fruit, veg and herbs, but also keep bees and have laying ducks. The project was set up with the help of Shoreditch Trust and won the London Green Corner Awards in 2010. On 15th September they will be running a pop up café with tea and cakes and two beekeepers will be on hand to answer questions.

In Sheffield, the "Growing streets" project is aiming to get an entire street growing their own fruit and vegetables by transforming their front yards into 'micro-allotments'. One micro-allotment already exists in the front garden at 16 Hallamgate Road, which will be open during 14th-16th September. The aim is to spread this idea across Sheffield, transforming the city’s front gardens one street at a time.

In Brighton on 15th September one of the great community spaces that will be open is the London Road Station Partnership garden. A group of neighbours took on two patches of dead land at a city train station and their lush, productive, organic garden is the perfect remedy for commuters stepping off a train. At another garden, people will be able to make a pizza and cook it in an oven made from clay dug out from under the oven’s foundations.

Meanwhile in Manchester, The Walled Garden Project at Wythenshawe Park is also taking part in the Edible Gardens open event. The project is part of the Manchester Learning Disability Partnership and provides therapeutic training in horticulture, and woodworking skills for adults with learning disabilities. They grow and sell plants and vegetables and use recycled wood to make bird boxes, planters and bird tables to sell to the public.

The Big Dig’s Clare Horrell said: “The Edible Open Gardens events will be the first time many of these gardens have been opened to the public. We want people to come and visit, taste what is growing and be inspired to get involved so that growing food becomes part of every community.”

Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, said: "The Social Action Fund is designed to help bring people together through innovative projects that can make a real difference in local communities. The Big Dig is doing just that - enabling community groups to transform unused spaces in cities across England for everyone to share and enjoy. Edible Gardens Open Day will give people a chance to sample the incredible range of projects and hopefully be inspired to get involved themselves."


For more information please contact Clare Horrell or Seb Mayfield on 0203 5596 777 or or or go to


Editorial Notes

1. Details of all the gardens involved and activities and events happening as part of the Big Dig Edible Gardens Open Day can be found on the Big Dig website Enter your postcode to find your nearest gardens.

2. The Big Dig is is a nationwide project which aims to engage over 10,000 people in community food-growing projects across England. The following partner organisations are managing The Big Dig in each of the six cities:

  • Brighton & Hove – Brighton & Hove Food Partnership
  • Coventry – Garden Organic
  • London – Capital Growth
  • Manchester – The Kindling Trust
  • Middlesbrough – Middlesbrough Environment City
  • Sheffield – Grow Sheffield

The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens is also a partner in the project and is providing advice to community groups on land issues as well as organising training sessions.

The project builds on the success of Capital Growth which has helped over 60,000 people to get involved in new community food-growing spaces in London. Capital Growth’s Edible Open Garden’s event in 2011 attracted over 1,500 visitors to community growing spaces in the capital.  

Follow The Big Dig on twitter @thebigdiguk, or visit our website

3. The Big Dig is funded by the Social Action Fund and is managed by The Social Investment Business, on behalf of the Cabinet Office. The Fund supports social action projects in England from civil society organisations, public sector bodies and businesses with a track record of running social action programmes. The Social Action Fund is part of a broader programme of support for social action that was announced in the Giving White Paper and takes its place alongside two other sources of funding - Innovation in Giving Fund and Challenge Prizes.

4. The Big Dig is co-ordinated nationally by Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming which advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. Sustain represents around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local level.

5. The Big Dig is very grateful to Compost Direct for providing in kind support to the project and providing prizes for the spaces for Edible Gardens Open Day. Compost Direct is a family run online supplier of quality compost, topsoil, bark, turf and blends based in Elstree, North London. The family owners, the Lewis' have a long history in farming and diversified into organic recycling in the 1990s when they opened their green waste and wood recycling site. Councils, landscape gardeners and the general public bring their green waste into the site so it can be made into compost and other garden products.  Compost Direct was established in 2009 providing an online means of ordering the products. All the composts are 100 per cent peat free and made in North London. Compost Direct said "With our history in dairy farming and diversification into organic recycling through our compost

business we are delighted to be working with Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. We hope our products will help support the growth of community food growing projects across the country through the Big Dig project".