It all started with a pot of basil on a windowsill, but soon Corrie Rounding was dreaming of onions and potatoes.
The problem was where to find the space to grow tiny plants in big and beautiful vegetables. The second-floor apartment in Rounding, south London doesn’t even have a balcony, and waiting lists for city center assignments have skyrocketed during the pandemic.
Nonetheless, Rounding, 29, will soon start planting his own vegetable garden after agreeing to rent space from a neighbor who has more garden than he has time to cultivate.
The simple and enjoyable idea of connecting people who want to grow their own food with those who have gardens or unloved bits of backyard is the idea of this neighbor, Conor Gallagher. This week, it will launch AllotMe, a digital platform aimed at making renting garden space as easy as Airbnb has made renting a spare bedroom.
Gallagher, 30, who grew up in Belfast, said: ‘After moving to London I saw how people wanted to eat healthier, ethically and sustainably, but faced obstacles such as a lack of food. space or excessive costs.
“So many people don’t have a garden or access to an outdoor space, and getting a housing estate through traditional channels is difficult, if not impossible. There is a huge desire for a lasting life, but often no way to satisfy it.
Seeing neglected gardens, especially unloved front gardens, he realized that there were untapped reserves of unused outdoor space: “So why not bring the two together?”
Even before the website officially launched, hundreds of people signed up to rent junk garden space.
One in five local communities has waiting lists of more than 1,000 people and two-thirds have waiting lists between 100 and 400, according to the Association for Public Service Excellence. Almost nine in ten councils say there has been a noticeable increase in demand for plots during the pandemic.
Phil Gomersall, president of the National Allotment Society, said: “New sites are being created across the country, and planning authorities are asking developers to include allotment spaces in their plans. But there is much more demand than availability. “
In his Leeds plots, where he has been digging and planting for 27 years, the waiting list has dropped from four to 36 during the pandemic; another site in town now has a waiting list of 170.
Gallagher’s hope is that AllotMe will be as revolutionary for food culture as digital platforms have been for short-term house rentals, taxi services and door-to-door deliveries. He admits that not everyone will want a stranger to dig and plant in the back garden, but he said: “Ten years ago people would have hesitated at the idea of a stranger sleeping in their bedroom. ‘friends.
And, he added, strangers may soon become friends. “I hope it will be community based, with long term relationships based on local supply and local demand.”
Despite the perception that assignments are the preserve of seniors who have free time, much of the new demand is driven by millennials, Gallagher said. “These are people who want to live more sustainably and who care about where their food comes from.”