Urban Gardening: Alternatives for the Young

Published: 30/04/2015

A common perception of horticulture is that it is mainly the preserve of older generations. Here at Tiger Sheds we decided to take a look at how younger generations are involved with gardening and the alternatives for those without gardens of their own.

Generation Green Fingers

Surprisingly, a survey published last year revealed that gardening is actually fifth in the top 10 leisure activities for 25-35 year olds. That’s ahead of going to the cinema and visiting family! The Royal Horticultural Society also found that 89% of 18-24 year olds either have a garden or grow plants. So whilst it may be a stereotypically older hobby, there is a growing enthusiasm for it amongst younger people.

When Nick Hamilton, son of the famous Geoff, and president of The Cottage Garden Society advertised for a Nursery Supervisor for Barnsdale Gardens, he too selected somebody young, somebody he described as “the youngest, least experienced candidate” he interviewed for the job.  At 27 he was “still young in terms of horticultural experience gained” but he has been an excellent choice for the position, bringing huge enthusiasm and new ideas with him.

In 2013, a 23 year old gardener was given his own space at the Chelsea Flower Show. He was the youngest ever participant and won a silver medal for his efforts. In the same year, 27-year old Hugo Bugg won the highest award of a gold medal and again broke the age barrier for the top prize. In an interview after his presentation Hugo explained: “My parents are keen gardeners, so I got into gardens growing up. We had three acres of wilderness so there was plenty to play with.”

Small Spaces

If everyone was as lucky as Hugo, then we’d surely have a new generation of Alan Titchmarshs. But in a world with an ever-growing population, green space is hard to come by. The average size of a British garden is about 90m2, which is about the same as three parking spaces. In London though, with over half of people residing in flats or apartments, even this small space isn’t there.

So what options are there for those with little to no gardening space?

Window Boxes

These mini gardens are perfect for those in small flats or apartments. Window boxes are compact containers that sit on windowsills. They are a cost effective method of using limited outdoor space. They can spruce up the drab exterior of a student flat window with colourful flower arrangements, or top up your kitchen supplies with some easy-to-maintain herbs.


You can even plant shallow rooted vegetables.  Some that work well window boxes include:

  •           Radishes
  •           Leaf lettuce
  •           Spinach
  •          Spring onions

Angela Bowron, a keen gardener and blogger at The Awkward Blog gave her top tips for looking after a window box:

“Make sure they get plenty of sunshine. Our window box at the back garden gets plenty of sunlight, but the one in our front yard doesn't so I'll place it by the back window from time to time. If you don't have that option, try and find flowers or plants that live well in shade. The heather we've used has survived autumn, winter and is still looking healthy in spring!”

To get more information on how to get free seeds for your window boxes, click here.

Roof Gardens

Roof gardens are a relatively new concept, popularised in New York where green space is at a premium. There are great examples in the sprawling metropolitan city of vibrant green enclaves brightening the aerial make-up of the city. There are however also fantastic examples in the UK of commercial rooftop gardens like the Rooftop Gardens in Kensington to the small scale but fruitful vision of the Aerial Edible Garden. Whilst it might not feasible for everyone of course, if you have the space on a flat roof then it may be a great way of using that dead space. Because rooftops may be windier than a normal garden it might be worth investing in a potting shed to help keep all your plants and equipment safe.

Find out more information on creating your own roof garden here.


 The British government has had a statutory right to provide allotments since the Allotments Act of 1925 so there’s a good chance, especially if you live in the city that there are facilities nearby for you to use. You have to be over 18 to have one so children and teenagers would need to apply with an adult but if you’re a student or a young professional then you may have the chance to get one. Understandably competition for space is tough and some waiting lists are years long but you may get lucky and find the perfect spot to grow your own vegetables.

Tony Heeson, Yorkshire Rep for the NSALG (National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners) spoke to us about the benefits of using an allotment:

“There are many reasons why allotments are important, green spaces where people can relax and the area can breathe fresh air not traffic fumes, family areas where the whole family can engage in a joint pastime, the production of fresh food such as fruit and vegetables, where you know what has been put on them, the physical exercise and wellbeing from a gentle outdoor activity and the pleasure of meeting and passing time with likeminded people, many of whom will become friends.”

To apply for an allotment in your area, click here.

Community Gardens

Community gardens are a relatively new alternative for the green fingered. They are often based in cities, where residents may not have access to their own gardens. As well as community gardens, inner city farms are now present across the country, offering young people the chance to get involved with horticulture but also get up close and personal with farm animals.


Alyson Chorley from the charity Thrive who use community gardening to help young people with mental and physical disabilities spoke to us about the benefits gardening can have on disadvantaged young people:

“Students at Thrive benefit from one to one support and tasks include sowing seeds, growing and harvesting vegetables and herbs, and learning how to use tools safely. We teach numeracy and literacy skills during horticultural activities. All the activities at Thrive help them to work in a team of people their own age and make new friends and work and communicate more easily with adults. It’s also a chance to learn a new hobby and have options for further study and the possibility of a rewarding career whilst developing horticultural knowledge.”

To see where you can get involved in community gardening, click here.

So whether you live in a flat, a house share, rented accommodation or a terraced house with a concrete yard, there are plenty of other opportunities to get involved. Getting out in the fresh air with other likeminded people or growing your own produce can have great positive effects on your health and wellbeing. Like many other young people, it might be time to embrace the greenery and swap the TV remote for a trowel.

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