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Close up of the head of a purple globe artichoke with a city street in the background Close up of the head of a purple globe artichoke with a city street in the background

Focusing on Edible Britain during National Gardening Week

By Sara Venn

National Gardening Week is celebrated between 29th April to 5th May and this year’s theme is Edible Britain, focusing on the huge amount of people growing some of their own food, be that in their own gardens or on allotments, or as part of community groups either in gardens or in the public realm as so many Incredible edible groups do.

Public realm spaces can be challenging to grow food in, but as Incredible Edible we call for a change in the urban realm and call for edible landscaping to become something that local authorities across the country really consider, instead of sad, badly maintained amenity planting. Where a tree is planted, why not a fruit tree where appropriate? Where a hedge is needed why not edible hedging such as blackthorn or Japanese quince? Where areas need underplanting why not mint, lemon balm or a bee friendly alternative like catmint, rather than sad looking periwinkles and pachysandras? Rather than beds of roses why not beds of mixed currants?

Of course, this means a complete change in the way design teams across the country work and this is a challenge but isn’t everything Incredible Edible stands for a challenge to what has become the norm and a request for a kinder future? Surely filling the public realm with food supports a kinder future that puts health and well-being at the core of our towns and cities.

Inevitably there are questions around the safety of food grown in our towns and cities, but very little thought is given in these questions about where in the UK our farms are. Generally, farms and fields are by main roads for easy access so there is no real problem with food grown in towns and cities, as long as they are washed before eating. In fact, the cynic might say they’d be more concerned eating supermarket food that is grown inorganically!

This is not a call to turn our towns and cities into farms or even self-sufficient spaces. But it is a call to ask for a change in horticultural practices to include edible landscaping where appropriate and turn our public realms into spaces that support health and well-being and our planet by growing food, flowers for pollinators and generally more beautiful plants in the public realm, celebrating the diversity of plant life we can grow in our towns and cities and increasing the beauty all around us.

So over this week let’s support the idea of edible landscaping by sharing our stories of growing in the public realm by telling our stories and tagging our social media posts with #nationalgardeningweek and let’s show the difference public realm edible landscaping could offer across all our towns and cities.