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The phenomenological calendar

The nature's seasonal clock

KalenderAccording to our timing, a new year has just begun with its exactly calculated dates. The processes in nature, however, do not exactly correspond to these schedules, as they strongly depend on the changing weather conditions. Whereas in the tropics and sub-tropics, the plants' vegetation and rest periods are triggered by rain and dry periods, the average temperature influences the state of the vegetation in our latitudes. In our imagination we combine the four seasons with certain images: Spring brings greenery, summer blossoms, autumn ripening fruit, winter shows bare branches and fir green. But nature does not always stick to this calendar. Often a harsh wind blows or even snow falls at the beginning of the spring as marked on the calendar. The activities in the garden must, of course, be in harmony with the real conditions. A better orientation as the regular calendar is so provided by the phenomenological calendar, which is based on longstanding observations of recurring events in nature.

The often smiled at peasants' rules reflect this knowledge, whereby some "wisdom" should be evaluated critically. From these traditions "the doctrine of phenomena", the phenomenology developed in the 18th century. Within phenomenology the observations from agriculture and forestry, meteorology and ecology are linked. The phenomenological calendar of the German weather service mentions ten seasons for vegetation. The development states such as flowering and maturing of certain plants mark the beginning of a season. However, this may be different from one landscape region to another. Due to weather conditions, there are often outbreaks, which can lead to a phenomenological season starting very early or very late. Based on decades of recordings in many small regions, there is a tendency, despite some irregularities, of an advancing in time of spring.


1. Prespring        
Beginning of the hazel flowering or alternatively of the snowdrop blossom 

2. First spring     
Beginning of the forsythia flowering or alternatively of the leaf development of the gooseberry


3. Full spring
Beginning of the apple flowering or alternatively of the stem’s leaf development


4. Early summer
Beginning of the black elder flowering


5. Midsummer
Beginning of the flowering of the large leaved lime or the ripening of the currant

6. Late summer
Beginning of the ripening of the spring apples or alternatively of the fruit of the ashes


7. Early autumn
Beginning of the ripening of the black elderberry   


8. Full autumn
Beginning of the ripening of the pedunculate oak or alternatively of the buckeye      


9. Late autumn
Beginning of the leaf colouring of the common oak or alternatively of the buckeye    


10. Winter
Beginning of the growing of the winter wheat or alternatively the leaf fall of late maturing apples or of the pedunculate oak


Thomas Wagner
Bundesverband Deutscher Gartenfreunde

"Counting birds" in allotments: New counting activities in January and April 2018.

Black bird, song thrush, fink and starling – our feathered roommates enjoy the marvellous nature on allotments in the same way as we humans do. They find their food, raise their young ones and bring us much joy with their sweet singing. Therefore, the first bird survey took place in spring, on the Lower Austrian allotments. The bird protection organisation BirdLife Austria presented these exciting results in 2017.


All together, at the end of April, 10 allotment associations, which had participated with enthusiasm in the bird counting action, reported their most common garden birds to Obmann Franz Riederer. “Most of the bird reports were from the Krems allotment gardens followed by Stattersdorf and Traisenstrand/Edelwies. The action was a complete success – the allotment gardener’s heart also beats for birds!” the chairman reports full of pride.

The most common birds on allotments
The field sparrow grabbed the gold medal in the first allotment competition, closely followed by the blackbird and the great tit. The garden red tail just missed the podium, but was nevertheless sighted on 60% of all the allotments. These results of the survey from Lower Austria also coincide with the bird species, which are found on Austria’s local gardens, commented Norbert Teufelbauer from BirdLife, specialist in ornithology.

statistikRecord holder St. Pölten Kollerberg
Particularly exciting is the biodiversity observed on Kollerberg’s allotments: The bird friends spotted 22 of the 31 sighted bird species! With this result the allotment garden association Stattersdorf (15 species), Klosterneuburg Rollfähre and also Krems with 8 spotted species could be clearly left behind. Birds visit natural gardens with a diverse garden design and presenting many native crops, hedges and fruit trees. Such allotments are especially attractive to the feathered friends and one will soon be rewarded with a multitude of bird species.

Special highlights of the bird counting were the sighted lesser spotted woodpecker, one chiffchaff and one wren. These small birds like gardens with some higher trees, but also presenting denser corners with shrubs and hedges and a large range of insects. “Birds are considered to be important indicators of an intact and a livable environment. The more bird species you can observe on the allotment, the more valuable it is for the animal world” stated the biologist.

The national federation of allotment gardeners of Lower Austria and the federation of the ÖBB Agriculture, with their local departments in Lower Austria invited all the associations, to report people ready to count birds for the „hour of winter birds“ – beginning of January 2018 – and people ready to count birds for the activity “spring and birds on the allotments” – end of April 2018. Not much effort and input is needed, just an hour of one’s time. The people ready to count birds that have been reported to the organisers will receive the necessary information and documents in due time. Those members, who already counted birds as “pioneers” last year informed that they will also be available for this action this year, because this „work“ in the garden brings them special pleasure.

BirdLife is the only countrywide and international bird protection organisation in Austria. For the last 8 years already BirdLife has been successfully running the Austrian wide bird survey “hour of the winter birds” around the 6th January. More information can be found at 

End of the year 2017

Dear allotment gardeners

Malou WeirichSeveral of our federations are already a hundred years old. Others, as well as the Office, are preparing to celebrate this anniversary. It is certainly a performance after all these years not only to still exist, but above all to still be attractive.

This is, however, not self-evident. Constantly our philosophy, methodology, meaning and purpose have to be challenged and objectives have to be reformulated and/or expanded.

Gardening is trendy again. More and more people are looking to get in touch with the soil and are interested in gardening, in eating healthy fruit and vegetables and having interpersonal contacts. They want to live in a humane neighbourhood, in towns favouring people's development.

Yet, many people lack the necessary knowledge about gardening. However, they can find this knowledge in allotment associations as the allotment gardeners have gained a great experience over the years. That's why the waiting lists to get an allotment are long. This is considered as frustrating by some people.

Some others, on the contrary, believe that allotments are over regulated, too conservative and situated too far away…….Therefore, people sometimes wish for a freer way of gardening, on smaller plots, on their doorstep, without many rules or contributions to be paid to an association. So now new forms of gardens arise: community gardens, intercultural gardens, city farms………

In the past, the construction of buildings or industrial activities were considered as main priority in order to create economically viable cities. According a study of the European Environment Bureau over the last ten years 5% of the EU area has been covered by constructions and changed into an artificial zone. The motorways have been extended by approximately 41% (15,000 km). However, one believes, that now a paradigm shift can be discerned towards an ideology showing a greener urban design. The EU Commission has also elaborated guidelines for urban green infrastructures.

So it is now our mission as allotment gardeners, both on national and international level, to use this trend and take appropriate measures so that people can continue gardening or get the possibility to do so and that allotments will be considered and permanently protected as an active green area in the urban green infrastructures. It is not to be denied that allotments contribute to the improvement of the urban environment, to the preservation of biodiversity, to the improvement of the urban climate as well as social cohesion to name only these few.

The federations and the Office have to make an in-depth analysis of the urban environment and question the challenges and positive aspects in order to develop the best future strategy for the allotments to be considered all over Europe as an unavoidable element of more environment equity.

During its study session in Copenhagen the International Office analysed the wishes of the national allotment gardeners and questioned its methodology in order to adapt itself to the current situation and to develop an innovative strategy for the future. Many steps were proposed that should now be put into practice: better communication, increase of visibility, lobbying, conclusions of partnerships, networking, increased efficiency and a better participation of all through the preparation of subjects in workgroups and the reshaping of the meetings etc.

A study group is analysing the various forms of urban gardening in order to be able to best position ourselves in this area. Another study group is dealing with the elaboration of a concept for future orientated expert advice in order to provide the necessary missing knowledge to the allotment gardeners and perhaps also to other amateur gardeners in order to enable them to practice a nature friendly gardening. Our federations have in fact accumulated a great deal of knowledge over decades and gained a great excellence in this area.

Allotments must remain an all-round product and continue to serve people. We must combine tradition and innovation, inspire young and old and continue to make our contribution to the wellbeing of people and society, to nature and sustainable development. We were and are a form of urban gardening, perhaps also the most lasting one. We have to reach out to other forms of urban gardening in order to create human friendly cities.

In the coming year 2018 may the words of Einstein on the one hand "One cannot solve a problem with the same way of thinking as it came about" and of Francis Bacon on the other hand: "The young vine gives more grapes, but the old one gives better wine" ….. accompany our deliberations and our actions for the well-being of the allotments and our cities.

In this spirit I wish you a good health and much success for 2018.

Secretary General of the International Office du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux

The benefits of olive oil

The olive tree is widespread in the south of France but can acclimatize itself pretty much anywhere. Although it is not common in our gardens due to its large size, we all use olive oil. We often add it to our vegetables; whether it be on salad, in food preparation, cooking or even in cosmetics. But did you know that as well as tasting good, olive oil is also good for you? In this article you will discover the benefits of olive oil, but don't forget that – as with everything – you shouldn't go overboard with it.

oliveOlive oil is good for our health
First of all, if you aren't sure which olive oil to pick, it is best to choose cold-pressed, bio, extra-virgin olive oil. Above all, avoid refined and heated oils which are cancerogenic and harmful to health.

Olive oil contains oleic acid (56-83%), an acid which can reduce the highest cause of death: cardio-vascular disease.

It also contains as much linoleic acid (Omega 6) as breast milk; so you could put a spoonful of olive oil in your children's soup. Omegas 3 and 6 are essential fatty acids that we can't produce ourselves and that we can only get from our food.

However, beware of taking too much, as Omega 6 must always be balanced with Omega 3, which we often get too little of. You can find Omega 3 in fatty fish and certain fibres (flax, walnut, rapeseed, soya etc.)

What's more, olive oil has anti-oxidant properties (vitamins E, C and polyphenols) that prevent cancer, as these properties prevent the ageing of cells.

If you heat the oil, beware that it becomes cancerogenic at temperatures of more than 210c; so if your oil smokes, you must discard it.

Olive oil vs cow's milk
When we are cooking and want to add fat, we generally use butter from cow's milk, or oil. Although they are not the same from a taste perspective, and their use varies by region and cooking habits, you should know that olive oil is better for your health than butter.

Olive oil only contains 14% saturated fat, which is a lot less than margarine, which is around 40%, and butter, which contains 55%. Olive oil is the most easily digested fat: you can even use it instead of butter on your toast in the morning, if you place it in the freezer the night before.

In addition to being the most digestible, it has as much calcium as cow's milk, at 120mg per 100g; however, vegetable calcium is 75% absorbed by the digestive tract, as opposed to only 30% for animal calcium.

oliveOlive tree flowers
Only one flower in 20 becomes an olive. Olive tree flowers can also be used for their energy: dried and in herbal tea. They are anti-cancerogenic, nourish the skin, can be used as a gentle laxative, for rheumatisms and are good for the brain.

Malvina Beauclair
Jardin Familial de France no. 502/2017

The Office executive board met in Vienna

The executive board dealt with the implementation of the suggestions made during the study session in Copenhagen.

It first underlined the excellent organisation of this session and its positive results.

The Office executive board met in ViennaIt could be acknowledged that meanwhile several decisions could already be put into practice:

- The exchange of the national magazines could be activated and very positive comments were received.

- The networking of the editors could be started. Bürte Lachenmann from Switzerland was ready to coordinate and increase this cooperation. The executive board thanks her for this initiative and supports this beneficial cooperation for both the national federations and the Office.

- The national PowerPoint presentations worked out for the international congress in Utrecht are online. Already some federations consider to update them. One federation promised to send the missing presentation.

- The map aiming at showing allotment sites to be visited is already online. The executive board acknowledged with satisfaction that the federations are thrilled by this project and have started to fill it with life.

The executive board has also discussed in depth the positive proposals made by the working group, created in Copenhagen. The further steps and innovations will be discussed in the general assembly in February 2018.

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