Covid-19 and our gardening - please read

Growing for our communities – 2020

tiny veg seedlings

Many people have asked how they might be able to support their communities in these uncertain times; we came up with a plan…

We thought we would encourage more people to grow veg. So we advertised the idea that we could supply a selection of seeds, compost, seed trays and pots; we had a flood of interest.

We undertook a risk assessment, minimised contact between people assembling and delivering the boxes, wore PPE at all times and, importantly, got the green light from Lambeth Council. We set up a Crowdfund to help us deliver the pilot and are very grateful to Engie , to the London Freedom Seed Bank (who donated seeds) and the amazing Paolo Arrigo of Franchi Seeds of Italy (watch him on youtube) for generous financial and material support and we couldn’t have done any of this without the support of Myatt’s Fields Park, providing us with a depot for distribution and many materials too.

That was Phase 1. We then got funding from the London Community Response Fund to deliver a second phase through the summer – more seed, compost and trays and support for growing in the shape of zoom calls and videos from the amazing Fabrice at Myatt’s Fields Park.

The upshot was around 170 new growers, several new community gardens and a general buzz around growing food all over London – on balconies, in back yards, and in community gardens.

Watch the third of our Lambeth Food Stories here and listen to some of the incredible stories from IEL member growers.

Supporting local food and drinks businesses

As we emerge from lockdown, now is the time to support our local retailers. By shopping local, more money stays in the local community; for every pound spent, 63pence stays local, as opposed to 40pence staying in the local economy if we shop in a supermarket. There are probably shorter supply chains too, as local food businesses often purchase locally.

One way to ‘shop local’ is to support your local market – as they re-open, now more than ever, they need our support. Go to Love Your Local Market 2020 (Twitter: @loveurlocalmkt) to find out more.

Two of our food and drinks businesses have been in touch, to report on their experiences of the past few months and how they have adapted their businesses.

Local Greens has ridden a wave of highs and lows during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have remained open and working, supplying South Londoners with fresh fruit and veg, throughout the crisis. March brought a surge of customers our way, so much so that we had to redraw our operational plans and minimise strain on our suppliers by importing produce from the EU. That was unprecedented for us, but our small, UK-based suppliers could not keep up, given the time of year and the demand.

We lost several staff members to quarantine and had to suspend volunteering for everyone’s safety. Many of our collection points are local pubs or cafes and several are unfortunately closed at the moment. After consolidating our collection network, we also crafted a social-distanced packing system that we’re finding may be more efficient for the long term.

What has been the most uplifting part of this entire experience is our customers’ response. From the outset, their overwhelming question was, “How can we help?” We set up a group for customers to assist others who were isolating or ill; they’ve left lovely hand drawn messages on our collection sheets, sent donations for the food bank and we’ve gotten to meet so many of them at the manned collection points. Our customer numbers have leveled off from March’s surge, and we invite all new signs up to the scheme. We will be thrilled when a semblance of normalcy returns and we can welcome back our collection partners, volunteers and all of our wonderful customers in person.

and Wolfe’s Drinks sent us this report:

“Like all small businesses who are struggling at the moment I really appreciate it when people choose to spend their money with me, buying local and making it possible – hopefully – to survive. My Shrubs are all handmade by me in London using only fresh fruit, botanicals and vinegars making them lovely to drink, clean and complex. 
Currently you can buy Wolfe’s Drinks online direct from me on Big Barn  – I’ve made a special offer for you, if people add ‘Shop Local’ at the checkout it will give them a 20% discount. Anyone can arrange to collect from me at home, so no delivery charge if they do that.
I’m also selling online with Oval Farmer’s Market –  to collect from Montgomery Hall, SE11 5SW on a Saturday. They are also now running a small market each week that people locally might like to support for their weekend shop. It’s open 10 – 3pm and is just across from The Oval. Guzzl in Brixton is selling a full range, they’re open Friday and Saturday and also have a local free delivery for online orders.”

Virtual garden tours

Ever wondered what other community gardens look like? Now’s your chance to take a look, from the comfort of your own home!

Streatham Common Community Garden has sent us a video tour around their amazing space, which you can watch here.

We visited Rosendale Gardens Orchard and Community Kitchen Garden – you can watch the IEL members’ zoom here – within it is a short video around the space (at 8.58mins). We will separate out that video soon.

Our next tour will be to Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses – on Tuesday 30 June, 6.30pm. Click this link to find out how to join.

If you’d like to show people around your plot, we’d love you to take part in this – either send us a video or we can arrange a zoom, get in touch

Guidelines for visiting community gardens, under new Tier 2 regime.

Streatham Common Community Garden

Update: 15.10.2020

We know how important it is to get into our gardens but we also know that the disease is spreading, so we urge you to follow the guidelines as London heads for Tier 2. There are currently no restrictions on travelling to outdoor spaces and you can meet in groups of up to six (not in your household or bubble).

  • Do not visit your community garden or allotment if you or any member of your family are self-isolating or feel unwell.
  • Anyone considered medically vulnerable/subject to government shielding advice should not visit the growing space.
  • Avoid public transport to visit your garden; instead walk, run, cycle or drive to the allotment, either on your own or with one other member of your household.
  • Do not allow your garden to be open to the public.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands after using the allotment gate. It would be helpful to others if you wiped down the gate, as well, if you can.
  • Don’t wash your hands in the communal water troughs.
  • It may be necessary to establish a rota for usage if plots are close together; garden leaders should publicise maximum number of visitors and display on an external board.
  • Only work on your plot with your household or bubble. If you share the plot with someone from a different household then you must observe safe social distancing rules. Ideally, work out a timetable so you can visit the plot separately.
  • Maintain safe 2 metre social distancing protocols at all times.
  • Don’t make anyone a cup of tea and keep all communal amenities closed.
  • Don’t share tools.
  • Don’t visit the allotment shop.
  • Ensure your children keep to your plot and avoid playing in communal areas.
  • If you take your dog with you, ensure it is kept on a lead, within the bounds of your own plot. If it wanders off and you need to retrieve it from communal areas this could place you and others at risk.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands thoroughly before and after eating food, and when you get home.

If you would like to find out more about what other members are doing, or need some practical advice, please do get in touch.

Gardening is Good

An odyssey around east London, showing how gardening can fix almost everything, from climate change to loneliness. In addition, you might like to read an article about gardening and mental health here.

Produced, directed and edited by Dorothy Leiper, an IEL member.

Director of photography: Clive Gill

presenter: Geoffrey Juden

sound design: Marie Tueje

music: Shane O’Neill

Microbiome rewilding: biodiverse urban green spaces strengthen human immune systems (by University of Adelaide)

credit: Jacob Mills

A research team led by the University of Adelaide has found that revegetation of green spaces within cities can improve soil microbiota diversity towards a more natural, biodiverse state, which has been linked to human health benefits.

In the study, published in the journal Restoration Ecology, researchers compared the composition of a variety of urban green space vegetation types of varying levels of vegetation diversity, including lawns, vacant lots, parklands, revegetated woodlands and remnant woodlands within the City of Playford Council area in South Australia.

The purpose of the research was to understand whether it is possible to restore the microbiome of urban green spaces, a process known as microbiome rewilding. It is believed this process could expose us to a greater variety and number of microbiota (organisms living within a specific environment) and provide a form of immune system training and regulation.

Lead author of the journal paper, PhD student Jacob Mills from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences and Environment Institute, says historically humans lived in more rural and wild landscapes, and children spent more of their childhood outdoors, allowing exposure to more microbes.

“Urbanisation has radically changed our childhoods. More time spent indoors, poor quality diets and less exposure to wild environments has led to significant increases in non-communicable diseases such as poorer respiratory health,” says Jacob.

children looking into tree canopy
Children exploring woodland at Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses

“Exposure to biodiverse natural environments carries ecological benefits—green spaces with higher eco-system function give children better exposure to pick things up from soil, for example, there are microbial compounds in soil that reduce stress and anxiety.

“Put simply, the more diversity in microbiota that children are exposed to, the healthier they will grow up,” he said.

The research found that the revegetated and remnant woodlands examined comprised more native plant species than other green spaces such as lawns and vacant lots, and had greater diversity of microbiota.

Furthermore the soil microbiotas in revegetated urban green spaces were similar to those found in remnant woodlands, and differed greatly from lawns and vacant lots, which had lower microbiota diversity.

“This indicates that the revegetated woodlands soil microbiome had somewhat recovered to its previous more natural biodiverse state,” says Jacob.

“Plant species richness, soil pH and electrical conductivity were the main variables for microbial communities in our study, the more diverse the soil biodiversity the better the eco-system function. Urban spaces low in microbial diversity tend to be more conducive to pathogens and pests, also known as microbial ‘weeds.'”

“Increasing plant species diversity is important for the structure of microbial communities and increases eco-system function,” he says.

Jacob says the findings of the study has implications for urban design, landscape architecture and councils.

“Our study provides a footing for urban planners and designers to place the environmental microbiome and access to diverse green spaces in their design principles when developing and rejuvenating urban areas.

“Greater biodiversity comes with the potential to reduce non-communicable disease rates through improved training of our immune systems to fight illness and disease.

“It could be implemented as a potential preventative health measure, particularly beneficial for lower socio-economic areas and could lessen the burden on our health systems.”

The study is believed to provide the first evidence that revegetation can improve urban soil microbiota diversity towards a more natural, biodiverse state by creating more wild habitat conditions. This evidence supports initiating further studies within the growing field of microbiome rewilding.

“We hope that this work will inspire further research to understand and measure the impact of microbiome rewilding on human health,” Jacob says.

Building stronger communities – growing for our neighbours, part 2

Beautiful vertical seedling garden, sent from Claudia

Here are some ideas of ways to re-distribute your seedlings. Please get in touch if you have other ways of doing it:, or you need some support.

If you have links with a school, find out all students registered for free school meals and share a message with the school that they can pass on to those families (leave veg at the school gate)

Find your nearest mutual aid group on WhatsApp and send a message there (if you don’t have access to this, we can help)

Find your nearest faith group – churches and mosques are a great network to tap into

Get in touch with your nearest childrens’ centre – they may not be open, but they will definitely be in contact with families who would appreciate some extra veg

You may have a local community garden or allotment that would welcome some summer seedlings; check out our online map to find one near you

Perhaps you have a neighbour who is still shielding – would they like a couple of plants?

Leave seedlings on your doorstep and invite neighbours to take a pot – maybe say something about how they reach people who wouldn’t normally grow food? There’s a downloadable print out for you at the bottom. Invite any growers to get in touch with us for support through email

If you live on an estate, talk with the TRA and see if they can help with distribution. Urban Growth is working on several estates across the borough and will be helping us with this.

Perhaps your local GP surgery or pharmacy knows of people who could do with some extra food.

Once you have some plants to give away, download and print out the message below, which you can display along with your seedlings. If you are able, try to keep a count of what you hand on and to how many people.

Community gardens in Stockwell partner with the NHS

Amazing things happen in times of crisis; we’ve seen extraordinary acts of kindness and selflessness by many people in our communities – not least, amongst our health workers. Incredible Edible Lambeth was therefore so pleased to be approached to work with Stockwell’s GP Wellbeing Team.

This week, one of our community gardens will be making up bundles from the garden to give to five GP practices as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to our incredible local NHS staff.

The beautiful Landor Garden – a secret space tucked in behind Landor Road will be making this first offering. We hope that a partnership will evolve, linking green spaces with health centres, providing opportunities for GP’s (and pharmacists) to offer alternative places of sanctuary to their patients. We know that ill health can be a result of isolation and loneliness and that community and Nature, though never a cure-all, is so restorative.

We very much hope that this scheme can be replicated around Lambeth – get in touch if you’d like to find out more

Schools during lockdown

We were so sad not to launch our new film Growing Up in which we highlight the work of four amazing primary schools in Lambeth – do take a look, it will make you smile.

We realise that during this pandemic, many schools are staying open for the children of key workers. We want to support these schools through this period and encourage them to join our Growing for our Communities scheme. Some schools are looking to share seedlings with all their parents and kids during this time – is this something you’d like to do too? If so please get in touch with us and we can help you achieve something amazing!

Our friend and fellow IEL member, Seonaid from Sprout Up is creating simple How to Grow videos – she has just published her first one – follow her here. Seonaid works tirelessly with kids to promote food growing in schools.

Finally, if you’re reading this and are not yet a member of IEL, please consider joining today as a Group Member and join the other schools in Lambeth who are already IEL members.