How losing out on an allotment made me get creative about growing veg

Mark Ridsdill Smith – The Guardian’s regular Vertical veg man - explains in this feature how he began growing food on his small balcony and windowsills. The happiness he found completely changed his life

Live better vert vegOver several years Mark has grown hundreds of pounds worth of produce on a small balcony Photograph: Mark Ridsdill Smith

When I put my name down on the Camden allotment waiting list in 1998 I expected to wait. But years passed and I barely moved up the list. My long-nurtured dream of growing my own food seemed no closer to fruition. The only thing growing was my frustration.

I was working in the centre of London, and living in a first floor flat with an 8ft by 6ft balcony, six window sills and a small patch of concrete (where the bins lived). I had imagined that it wouldn't be possible to grow anything in the limited space I had, but a year after putting my name down on the list, I started experimentally growing herbs in a few pots on the window sills of my first floor flat. The following year I tried tomatoes, then aubergines. Still, I clung to the idea that one day I’d have my own piece of ground to grow in.

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