How to grow food in strange places…

You don’t need a garden to grow your own fruit and veg. If you’re a budding horticulturalist with no space to swing a trowel, here are some creative – and sometimes bizarre – ideas from around the world. Mushrooms in disused railway tunnels and strawberries in drainpipes… perhaps it’s silly but I find food growing in strange places both bizarre and romantic. Horticulture can be so creative. It can involve melons growing on net curtains and rice growing on pavements. Introduce an against-the-odds element – like doing it in Tokyo, that seething, steely metropolis – and it’s somehow all the more exciting.

Seeds sprouting on an old mop

My love of the bizarre and the romantic – and of vegetables – has led me on a journey, albeit it an armchair one. I’ve found people growing food in some unlikely places, for fun and from necessity, and on a personal and a commercial scale. Rowena and Philip Mansfield farm fruit, herbs and fish in Anglesey, North Wales. I was drawn to this Welsh couple, who have swapped urban life for something very rural, because they’ve been growing strawberries in a drainpipe.

From sections of humble pipe, and employing less humble hydroponics, they’ve harvested 75lb of berries. They’re dismissive of my delight. ‘Nothing original about drainpipes,’ says Philip. ‘We look at all pipes and see them sprouting food. Just pass water along the tube and let the plant roots touch the liquid – they’ll take up whatever nutrients they need.’

See Helen Babbs for more on urban food-growing (and some inspiration)!

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