Garden the streets of Luton!

Luton Council is inviting local groups to grow fruit, vegetables and bee-friendly plants on public land.

The scheme, called ‘Garden the Town’, launched this month and offers a simple application process for people wanting to transform council-owned land around them into vibrant public gardens. Help is also available with how to get started, and even to discuss funding options if necessary.

Similar successful schemes have been set up in cities and towns around the UK and it is hoped that organisations, businesses and residents’ groups across Luton will take up the invitation to begin gardening the town. As well as improving the appearance of the town, it is now a recognised scientific fact that gardening is good for physical and mental health. It’s been shown to increase life satisfaction, wellbeing, sense of community, and even cognitive function as well as reduce stress, anger, fatigue, and depression and anxiety symptoms.*

Free strawberry plants given away in High Town.

Some groups, such as Penrose Roots, Edible High Town and Groundwork have already been developing public gardens. There are weekly gardening sessions and all the produce is free for local people to take away (for more information on these groups, please visit edibleluton.org).

Doris Brittain, who works with Edible High Town says “We have taken on about 6 small plots now around High Town. Most of them attracted litter and fly-tipping before. Now we grow all sorts, from curry plant to cabbages. There’s something special about seeing someone’s face light up as they dig up potatoes from just outside their house that they
are planning to cook for dinner that night.”

Apart from the obvious benefits of fresh food, according to Doris, it’s also a great way to get to know people and businesses in the area: “I know most of the people who live
around here now and many of them stop to chat, say hi and pick up some fruit or veg when they pass. It’s also been fun learning together and swapping ideas for what to do with chard, kale or artichokes! People constantly comment on the difference it makes to the area.”

Luton Council are hoping that the new scheme will encourage more groups to start turning public land into similar edible garden spaces. Imagine a town where you can
just nip out to get some plums from the local community orchard, or pick your own fresh salad leaves when you need them. Potatoes and carrots growing in roundabouts, broccoli growing where there were previously discarded cans and crisp packets.

If you are part of a local group and want to find out more, or if you are ready to apply for some land, the council would love to hear from you. Just download and fill in the application form, which asks for details such as where the land is, what your plans are, and basic contact information. You’ll usually hear back within two months of applying.

*See Gigliotti and Jarrott, 2005; Gonzalez et al, 2010; van den Berg et al, 2010; Wakefield et al, 2007; Wichrowski et al, 2005; Wood et al, 2016; Rodiek, 2002; Wichrowski et al, 2005; and many more.

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