Lush Foodie Abudance in a Small Urban Garden

This modest backyard garden provides its owner with fruit and vegetables all year round, thanks to an innovative low-maintenance approach…….


I was spending a lot of money on organic food,” Esiah Levy says, explaining how he came to create his super-productive garden in Croydon, south London.

“So, I set about finding alternative sources of organic food. There aren’t many farmers markets near where I live, so the next logical step was to learn how to grow it myself.” While juggling his day job, Levy attended Capel Manor College in London’s Regent’s Park, learning how to cultivate fruits and vegetables without plant foods or fertilizers, using the innovative no-dig technique.

“You don’t have to dig the soil to grow produce…..”

…….Levy says. “All that does is expose it to more weeds. This method focuses on the soil and its ecosystem by layering the ground with organic materials, such as horse manure and coffee grounds.”

Levy used this approach to transform his small back garden into a foodie paradise in just two years. It now feeds him and his son year-round, and demands very little time and effort to maintain. Its success encouraged Levy to set up an edible gardening design and consultancy business to help others grow produce in the urban landscape. “The best thing is,” Levy says, “anyone can do this!”

Victorian Spaces by London Photographers Chris Snook


Garden at a Glance

Who lives here: Esiah Levy of Urban Edible Garden Design and his 2-year-old son, Mehki
Location: Croydon, south London
That’s interesting: The garden measures just 15 by 9 feet (4.5 by 2.7 meters) yet includes 23 trees.

Levy grows an astonishing array of fruits and vegetables in his garden, from the kale to turnips, beets, carrots, soft fruit (including raspberries and black currants) and several kinds of apples, pears and more unusual orchard fruits.


“I have 23 trees in this garden,”….

….. Levy says. “It’s an orchard shape, with fruit trees along the walls and down the path, soft fruit growing beneath and a raised veg bed at the back.”

Williams pear are just one of the varieties Levy grows. “My son, Mehki, just walks out into the garden and picks fruit off the trees to eat,” he says. “His favorites are Granny Smith apples, rhubarb, spring onions and blueberries.”



The "No-Dig" Technique

Levy prepares another section of ground using the no-dig technique. Rather than dig into the lawn to create a bed, he covers the grass with a layer of horse manure, then cardboard, then coffee grounds, building up layers of organic material.

“The whole point with no-dig is that there’s no extra labor, and you’re not destroying the ecosystem in the ground,” Levy says. “What you grow is just as good as if you were using plant feed, and you get far fewer weeds, too.”


A handful of soil from Levy’s garden is wriggling with worms.

“That’s what you should see when you dig into soil,” he says. Worms are essential to the health of the soil, providing aeration and drainage, and their castings are packed with beneficial nutrients.

“You can buy worms online if you are planting out a planter,” he says, “but if you are creating a veg patch on the ground, just add lots of horse manure and they will find their way in.”


Levy has added his own twist to the no-dig technique…..

…..and likes to lay bricks on any newly prepared patch. “It’s good to put something heavy on top,” he says. “The worms are happy under the bricks, and there is no light getting to the grass and weeds.

I only leave the bricks on for about three weeks, until a bamboo stick can be pushed in with no effort, like a knife through butter, which normally would be difficult, as grassed areas are very compacted.”


Levy’s method of gardening is also cost-effective.

I’ve always said gardens shouldn’t cost money,” he says. The organic materials Levy uses to layer the soil and condition it are sourced locally and often free. “Call Starbucks and grab some coffee grounds. Go to your local riding stable and get some manure,” he says.

“They want to give this stuff away!” He also uses cocoa husks, a by-product of the chocolate industry. “I go to the Mast Brothers, a chocolatier in Shoreditch [east London] for mine,” he says.


The raised bed at the far end of the garden….

… bursting with vegetables, from kale and carrots to celeriac and turnips. “You might have to buy seeds and fruit trees initially, but after that you shouldn’t have to spend too much to start your garden,” Levy says.

You can gradually become more self-sufficient, too. “Once you have a crop of carrots, if you grow 50, leave 10 to go to seed,” he says. “There are your seeds for next year.”


For Levy, the benefits of the no-dig technique….

…..stretch well beyond the quality of soil it creates and the abundance of fruit and vegetables. “It’s also easy and quick,” he says. “I’ve done hardly any work in the garden this year; all I’ve done is lay down some mulch. I did that last September, and I’ll do it again around now, as it takes about a year to break down and reduce.”

This is gardening for the time-pressed and space-poor urban dweller. “Anybody can do it!” says Levy. “If you live in a flat with only a balcony, put a plant pot out on it. Add some worms, some coffee grounds or cocoa husks, and some mulch, and then feed the soil with your own fruit and veg scraps. Simple.”


From the far end of the garden…..

……. you can appreciate the abundance of plants growing here. “As this garden is actually going to produce food for me, it has to reflect the natural ecosystem of a forest,” Levy says, “with a combination of tall and low-growing plants layered up, rather than a single fruit tree.”

This layered approach cuts down on the need to water, too. “Some plants retain moisture, and those plants that provide ground cover keep the soil moist, too,” Levy says. “It saves you time and effort.”


Levy has planted lavender throughout his garden too.

“It’s for the bees,” he says. “Lavender attracts them, and they then help to pollinate the fruit trees. It keeps them going and means I always get fruit.” 🙂


article copied from an article on The "Houzz" Website
…and special thanks to Bobbi Hill, a Gaia Health Blog contributor, and my #1 fan, for directing me to such an inspiring article 🙂


Copyright Disclaimer: allows embedding of photos for use on one's own site,
and thus the right to copy and use photos is implied


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Ron Finley: The "Gangster Gardner"
He plants food and gardens in Vacant lots in South Central L.A.


The "Garden of Eatin' ", Episode 5,
"You Reap What You Sow" (Recipes from the Garden)


Healthy Eaters, Strong Minds (What School Gardens Teach Kids)


click here or photo for all my articles in
"Sustainable Eating, Living, and Gardening"

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