London Calling: Rooftop Flowers, Veggies, & Bees

London Calling: Rooftop Flowers, Veggies, & Bees

Being car-free, I often write about walking in L.A., stopping to smell the roses and star jasmine, seeing a tiny green shoot defy city life and flourish in the crack of the sidewalk, the minutiae missed when you’re hurtling by at 40 miles an hour. But I also take for granted the ease with which I navigate my familiar city. Walking through the busy streets of London can be hazardous to your health, or at least your life expectancy, should you forget that the bus barreling down the narrow roadway drives on the left side of the road. The city has graciously painted guidance on many a street corner, telling tourists to “look left” or “look right,” but what about looking up?

As you make your way through the throngs of central London, you see signs directing you to gaze skyward, and you might catch a glimpse of green from the rooftop gardens growing veggies.  You might also catch sight of a swarm of lawyers and bees.  The London-based international law firm Olswang transformed its rooftop into a bio-diverse garden, growing flowers and food, and is now home to over 80,000 bees.  Volunteers at the firm, trained in bee-keeping, are part of a self-sustaining bee network in the community.

We’ve talked before about the secret life of bees here on the blog, and why we so desperately need our bee network. As the law firm’s Website reminds us, that “environmental changes, pesticides and new diseases are all causing the world’s bee population to decline rapidly. The issue is so serious that it has been recognised as a global phenomenon by the United Nations. Yet bees are crucial to our ecosystem; of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.”

In a continuing quest to bring back the bees, what will you plant? Check out my previous post to get tips on growing bee-friendly sunflowers, and think about what else you want to add to your garden to attract the pollinators to your yard: from heather to red-flowering currant to English lavender.

Is London leading the way for growing from the roof down?  As its Rooftop Greenhouse initiative reminds us:  “Not only can we grow food crops and consume them in the building below, we can also make use of the greenhouse to heat the building during the day, and the building to heat the greenhouse at night.”

Back across the pond, the folks behind Fresh Food Generation noticed under-served communities in Boston, who, lacking the food trucks of other areas, as well as grocery stores with options for organic, affordable food, were in need of healthy food choices. The team formulated a plan to “retrofit a food truck to serve healthy, locally sourced meals at affordable prices in neighborhoods that have been missing out” on the gourmet food truck trend, providing them with locally sourced, nutritional foods, year-round. Original Green, based in Los Angeles, is a project of home&community, inc., and supports homesteading, urban farming, and food entrepreneurship in low-income communities.

What is your city doing to grow green and fight hunger? What do you dream of doing and growing?  Tell us in the comments, or over on Twitter @TheCityFarm.

Look Right. Look Left.  Look Up.  London reminds us that life is to be lived in balance, looking both ways, eyes on the street for safety, with plenty of pauses to look up, look around, and take in the swarming and buzzing of life around us

(Photo credit: Olswang Rooftop Garden)