Gardening is a pastime with a multitude of benefits for the environment and general health. The lockdown has seen a surge in people investing in their gardens—that is, of course, if they are fortunate enough to have space for them.
The National Allotment Society reports that in the UK alone, applicants for garden allotments have increased by more than 300 percent in some areas, extending some waiting lists to over 150 years.
Architect Conor Gallagher has come up with a solution for those who would otherwise be waiting indefinitely to sew their seeds. He launched AllotMe this past week, a digital platform much like Airbnb that allows people who have access to unused green space to rent it out to willing growers looking for land.
Gallagher says, “I was aware of so many people with no garden or access to outdoor space, and of the difficulty verging on the impossibility of obtaining an allotment through traditional routes. It became apparent there is a huge desire for a sustainable living but no way of satisfying it.”
Being an architect, he is skilled in spotting opportunities in space. As he passed overgrown and unattended gardens, he realized that there was an “untapped reservoir of outdoor space in London that is going unused.”
Gallagher decided to list his own backyard as the first available for rent on AllotMe. It was picked up by Corrie Rounding, the first “greenfinger” to use the platform. She says “I’ve wanted to find a space to grow my own for so long, but it’s so hard to come by in London… the chance to grow my own is brilliant, but it’s also so therapeutic. I love how calming it is to work in outdoor space.”
Gallagher hopes that AllotMe will boost people’s moods and mental health in a mentally taxing time. He also hopes that making spaces available to those that wouldn’t have one otherwise will help close the urban-agriculture gap and foster stronger connections within the community and to food.
The going rate for a plot is between £15 and £30 a month, depending on size. Part of this fee goes to AllotMe, which provides a “garden guarantee” for those renting yards. Despite its recent launch, there are already over 1,000 people on the AllotMe waiting list in London, however, people are signing up from across the UK.
Currently, there is more demand than there are plots, but Gallagher hopes that this will soon shift as people become aware of the platform.