For the last few years, Naomi and her neighbours have been running a community gardening project in a triangle of streets around Blackstock Road. From – quite literally – small seeds, the scheme has flourished to encompass over 100 households, with people using their front gardens to grow vegetables and flowers.
“A few years ago, Islington Council were giving away free wildflower seeds. I saw a disused window frame in Nicolette’s garden and knocked to ask if I could use it for mini greenhouse. We got chatting about how to share the seeds and green up our streets, and that’s how the scheme started.
Using Nicolette’s local email newsletter and knocking on doors, we encouraged neighbours to join the project and delivered growbags, full of compost to make it easy for everyone to start growing veg. Winnings from Islington in Bloom helped us to continue planting in the area by giving away bulbs for spring flowers.
Our Cake Sunday events spread the news about the project further and helped create a sense of community, with the neighbours meeting up to collect free seeds over tea and cake. We also greened up our tree pits, the earth base around street trees, with gorgeous plants like hollyhocks.
People have been planting French and runner beans, which make fantastic use of vertical space, as well as spectacular tromboncino courgettes and sweet cherry tomatoes, which are expensive to buy but produce a great crop from just one pot. Window boxes are also wonderful veg spaces for small round Paris Market carrots, salad leaves and pea shoots – another gourmet veg that’s really easy to grow.
On the corner of Ambler Road and Romilly Road there was a very dense and overgrown hedge – a neighbour sculpted it into a herd of full-size topiary elephants, which has become a landmark in the area. We’ve also been able to remove the concrete from some front gardens, improving drainage and expanding our green space.
Everything we supply is free, thanks to grants we’ve received. People have been delighted and intrigued to see what can be created, and the fact that it all takes place in front gardens means that we see each other much more and the area has become a friendlier place to live.
I love living in Finsbury Park as everything is on your doorstep. We have many wonderful cafes and restaurants, great local shops for food shopping (and everything else), our own vibrant theatre and I especially love the fact that I know so many of my neighbours.