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£669 ($1068 Canadian) worth of food grown on this patio, balcony and windowsill

Food growing balcony paradise © Vertical Veg by Sarah Cuttle.

Gardener Mark Ridsdill Smith

Vertical Veg is a not-for-profit enterprise that aims to inspire people to grow high yields of food in small spaces.

Can you grow £500 worth of food without a garden or an allotment? That’s the target Mark set himself on 1 May this year – all from his 9 x 6 foot north-west facing balcony and six window sills in Tufnell Park, North London. By 8 October he’d already beaten his target by £169, growing food worth £669.

“Few people realise just how much you can grow in a tiny space” says Mark. “This year my balcony and window sills have produced the equivalent of 100 bags of salad, 120 packets of herbs and 92 punnets of tomatoes – as well as runner beans, courgettes, mange tout, carrots, potatoes, blueberries and strawberries. The harvest weighs 66 kilos or 145 pounds in total – and there is still more to come.”

He adds: “A big advantage of balcony growing is that you can keep a constant eye on your crops and harvest your food five minutes before you eat. It doesn’t get fresher than that!”

Even if you have only a few windowsills, you can still grow several hundred pounds of food a year. Mark estimates that over £200 of food came off his four south facing window sills.

What next? “I’ve upped my target to £782 for the year – roughly the amount grown on a London sized allotment. With winter coming, harvests will now slow considerably – but I hope to get close!” (The National Society of Leisure and Allotment gardeners estimate that a 300 square yard allotment produces £1564 a year. London allotments are roughly half this size.)

The most productive and valuable crops were:
£205 / 23kg – tomatoes – equivalent to 92 punnets of supermarket tomatoes
£186 / 10 kg – salad – equivalent to 100 bags of supermarket salad
£96 / 2.4kg – herbs (mixed) – equivalent to 120 supermarket packs of herbs
£42 / 6.4kg – runner beans -equivalent to 42 supermarket packs
£26 / 2.8kg – courgettes

See more details and photos here.


1 amand restenson { 10.13.10 at 11:16 am }

Wow amazing!

2 Jennifer Cockrall-King { 10.14.10 at 12:08 pm }

Hi Michael, I was just at Mark’s place last week on my “urban ag” tour de force of London / Paris / Toronto! It is indeed incredible how much food he is growing on his little patio, plus windowsills. After we saw his place, Mark took me to a very interesting rooftop food growing project in Crouch End in London. I’ll try to get that blogpost up in the next day or so. Cheers — Jennifer

3 Munira { 10.19.10 at 11:36 am }

this is so very inspiring. i have a small courtyard and have been trying to grow things, but the success rate is frustrating. my tomatoes refused to fruit, the corn half grew and then died, my mint got infested by some straaaange bugs, and the chilli plant has signs of leaf curling. basil is growing fine though. but i’m going to give everything another shot. this time in my tiny balcony. just because i found this article so inspiring!

4 alice koh { 10.19.10 at 10:29 pm }

very interesting.. pls advise me how to start an urban garden, on a rooftop?

5 patricia { 10.22.10 at 7:19 am }

Thank you for this–the most inspiring article, and picture, I have come across in my search for good ideas to use my small space for gardening.

6 Leanne { 11.03.10 at 6:57 pm }

We have a bit more land than that, but with chickens, lettuce in pots, and tomatoes and cucumber in our hothouse, plus a reasonable sized strawberry bed and a few bits like celery and spring onions, we’re likely to be self-reliant in dinners this summer (salad + eggs, strawberries for dessert).

The cost? A few packets of seed, some point-of-lay pullets (ours came with the house when we bought it), a plastic wrap DIY hothouse, and some strawberry runners donated by friends.

7 Peter McFadden { 02.04.13 at 8:40 am }

I think you need to change your supermarket. £205 for 25kg tomatoes, come off it, that’s over £8 a kilo, no-one pays that much.
£26 for 2.8kg of courgettes? No way.
Good article, but don’t spoil it by making exaggerated price comparisons.