I Can Help You Grow Food in Containers and Overcome the Challenges of Urban Gardening
Hello, I'm Mark and I teach people to grow food in containers at home. I provide practical, step by step training to help you create an abundant and attractive container garden - on your balcony, patio, rooftop or front yard.
I demonstrate how you can grow plenty in a small space - so that you can pick and enjoy fresh salad, herbs, vegetables or fruit on most days of the year.
I am excited by how growing at home in urban areas can help us eat better, feel more connected to our local community, interact more with nature, and live with a lighter footprint.
When I started growing on my London balcony in 2009, I struggled to find relevant information. Most gardening books assumed I had space for a compost heap, a greenhouse and a potting shed. They didn't tell me how to re-use my potting mix, which crops grew well in less sun, or how to keep plants healthy and thriving in containers.
Since 2009, I've experimented, made lots of mistakes, and continued to learn. I've visited and learnt from professional food growers. And I've connected and exchanged learning online with others growing at home in containers all over the globe.
I've worked to distil all this learning and present it in an accessible, easy to understand format - so that anyone can create a productive edible garden in containers.
In addition to the blog, I have written an Award Winning Book ("engaging" and the most "comprehensive" they'd seen, according to the judges).
I also run workshops, and offer online courses for those who prefer to learn with support, community and structure.
My London Balcony back in September 2010 - before I moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in the North of England.
About My Growing, a brief history of Vertical Veg
Back in 2009, with no garden and unable to get an allotment, I started growing food in containers on my 8 foot by 6 foot (2.5 x 2 metre) balcony in London. To my genuine surprise, we were soon picking fresh food for nearly every meal in spring, summer and autumn. In 2010, I calculated I grew the equivalent of £900 of food in one year.
We also met more neighbours intrigued by our plants, started recycling all our kitchen waste in a worm bin and ate a much healthier diet (with fresh veg on the doorstep, this happened without thinking). The plants and nature that came with them also gave us much joy. We unthinkingly started to refer to our small concrete balcony as the 'garden'. I had to pinch myself to believe that we were able to achieve all this from an urban flat. I had thought serious gardening was only possible in the country!
Cycling round London at this time, I noticed so many empty balconies and bare bits of concrete. Many had the potential to be productive and beautiful edible gardens - and to deliver all the wide ranging benefits we had found. The idea for Vertical Veg was born.
In 2011, my family moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in the North of the UK. This offered the opportunity to create productive container gardens in two different homes while we rented. Firstly, in a backyard with almost no direct sun - quite a challenge.
In 2014, we moved to our current home, where I now grow in a North facing concrete front yard. It is considerably larger than my balcony, which has pros and cons. It offers more space to experiment and learn with a wider variety of plants and techniques. But with the extra space, I find it hard to resist adding 'just another pot' - and occasionally I over do it!
Moving out of London enabled us, finally, to get that long awaited allotment. This came with the added bonus of a polytunnel where I can grow chillies (it's too cold outside here). I enjoy the allotment - and it's great for big crops of potatoes, squash and broad beans. But the big advantage of growing in containers at home is the proximity. I can pop out and garden - and pick food for a meal - whenever I have five minutes to spare. I will probably always be a container gardener at heart.