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Knowledge creates perspectives

At the latest with the beginning of the Corona pandemic, allotment gardens have increasingly become the focus of many people, and thus of the media and also of science. All those who enjoy their own allotment garden or the allotment garden site in the neighbourhood know what positive effects are associated with it. In the best case, the cultivation of healthy food, protection of nature, the environment and the climate, a balanced diet, physical activity in the garden, community, integration and inclusion, leisure activities, creativity and education all come together. Allotment gardens provide the multifunctional spaces that are so urgently needed.

Scientists and scholars from all over the world are interested in our "jack of all trades device". At the EU level they are investigating how "urban agriculture" - of which allotment gardens are an important part - can be increasingly integrated into European, regional and local policies. Internationally, evidence of the positive health effects of allotment gardens is growing. It is also proven that (small) garden soils are among the most important carbon reservoirs. Biodiversity, the further development of allotment gardens according to needs and the wide range of educational and technical advice offered by the federations are further significant fields of research.

The gain in knowledge for the associations and federations, for politics and administration should not be underestimated. Scientific evidence is one of the most important foundations for strengthening and further developing allotment gardens as an integral part of communities.

The entries for this year's BDG Science Award are numerous and promising. The selection of award winners will not be easy. Let us surprise you, we will report!
To the BDG Science Award:

Eva Foos, BDG
Image : Source : Kristina Rainer

Climate protection begins in the garden

Our gardens are changing - hot summers, mild winters, heavy rains and long dry periods: All this presents gardeners with new challenges. It is time to make your own garden climate-proof!

Reto Knutti is considered one of the world's leading climate researchers. As a professor of climate physics at ETH Zurich, he is one of the main authors of the last major report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Recently, he said in an interview that without immediate action, a global average temperature increase of five degrees - in Switzerland probably even six or seven degrees - should be expected. Climate change presents us all with new challenges, which of course do not stop at us gardeners. When gardening, the following applies: "The right plant in the right place" and "gardening in the cycle of nature". Those who remain true to this principle should actually be able to continue to achieve a good harvest or enjoy their lush blooms in the future. However, we will have to take into account a few gardening facts that climate change brings with it. These include longer dry periods and heavy rainfall events as well as a longer growing season and milder winters.

Climate change and climate protection
"Everyone who actively gardens, whether in their own garden or on the balcony, is a climate protector," says book author Verena Schubert (see book tip). Trees, shrubs and perennials process carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce oxygen. On the one hand, every plant helps to break down carbon dioxide. And on the other hand, home-grown fruit and vegetables also reduce transport and thus carbon dioxide emissions. Climate protection and recreational fun in one's own garden thus form - in the truest sense of the word - a fruitful combination.

Climate-friendly gardening
The path to a climate-friendly garden begins with the soil, whose fertility depends on the nutrient cycle. A plant returns the nutrients it extracts from the soil for its growth when it dies. Harvesting interrupts this cycle - with the harvest, nutrients are withdrawn from the soil, which - as fertiliser - have to be returned if a permanent harvest is to be made. But which fertiliser is the right one? "Synthetic chemical fertilisers and pesticides cause CO2 emissions in production and can also become environmental toxins," says Verena Schubert. She therefore consistently relies on natural fertilisers and plant fortification: "A good supply helps plants, animals and people to be robust and have good defences." Preventive plant fortification with extracts of field horsetail and comfrey and stinging nettle are, for example, the best plant protection! They increase the resistance of fruit, vegetable and ornamental plants, drive away pests with their smell and help the seeds to grow well. A few, such as tansy and garlic, can also fight fungal diseases. According to Verena Schubert, regular use ensures strong, robust and vital flora that can better withstand frost, heat and drought. In addition, these broths enrich the soil life, which makes nutrients available to the plants, and they also contain nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and minerals themselves. "The best and cheapest fertiliser is your own compost!" the expert knows: "All garden waste is recycled in the compost and turned into valuable humus." By the way: compost is the ideal substitute for peat, which is unfortunately still used in large quantities. But peat cutting in the peatlands, which store large amounts of carbon dioxide, not only releases the carbon that has been stored since time immemorial in the form of CO2, thereby accelerating climate change, but also causes the creatures that live there to lose their habitat forever. Compost instead of peat is therefore the climate-friendly motto!

Diversity instead of monoculture
Many different plant species, mixed in a colourful way, ensure that the soil is not depleted one-sidedly and basically needs less nutrient supply. Certain plants are good neighbours and can strengthen and protect each other. "This plays a role especially in the vegetable garden," says Verena Schubert. "Onions and leeks planted next to carrots, for example, keep the carrot fly away. Savory protects against aphids, and nasturtiums in turn attract cabbage whitefly caterpillars, aphids and other pests. Cabbage plants and celery also help each other in this way. Celery rust and the caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly will then be a thing of the past. Lettuce, on the other hand, keeps the infestation of ground fleas on radishes at bay.
"With effective and simple measures, we can make our green oasis fit and at the same time positively influence the climate," Verena Schubert is convinced. Try it out?!

The pillars of the climate protection garden - tips from Verena Schubert

• If you garden with climate protection in mind, you do so with nature and not against it.
• Garden without the use of pesticides, synthetic chemical fertilisers and peat.
• Go for preventive plant strengthening, the right plant in the right location, plant diversity and compost management.
• Less is more: allowing and waiting are gardening virtues that make a natural garden possible in the first place.

Christina Bösiger - Hyphen no. 77

Allotment gardens with great media resonance

In 2022 allotment gardening was again on everyone's lips. Apart from social, political and horticultural topics, the BDG also dealt with topics of garden culture in its press work. The demand for allotment gardens is just as popular a topic as the question of successful self-sufficiency from the allotment garden. 

It's clear that the 25th national competition "Gardens in Urban Development" was the number one topic in the past year 2022. The BDG received the most enquiries about the national competition. It was already foreseeable during the tour in the summer of 2022 that the federal competition would meet with a great media response, as press spokespersons of the cities, journalists and camera teams of regional and also national TV stations were present at almost every stop on the route to accompany the jury on its forays through the 22 allotment garden sites. And also in the aftermath there was a lot of reporting about the federal competition and its results.

The BDG was also actively consulted by the media on gardening and horticultural topics. Above all, gardening tips were requested: What is going on in February and March? What gardening tasks are due in November? What do I have to do to prepare my garden for winter? How does allotment gardening succeed in climate change and especially in times of drought? Looking back at the hot, dry summers of the past few years, this is a very topical subject, to which allotment gardens in this country are already taking influence and reacting with many valuable measures. Appropriately, there was also an increasing number of enquiries about self-sufficiency in the allotment garden. How does self-sufficiency work? What needs to be done to achieve a good harvest. What are the advantages of sowing historical and regional seeds in the allotment garden and where can they be obtained?

Of course, the nationwide demand for allotment gardens was again a major topic in the press. The facts and figures of the allotment garden movement in Germany were of particular interest, always with a view to the already high demand for allotment gardens, which was further increased by Corona in 2020.

More than 41% of the enquiries received by the BDG were made by print media. Among others, Der Spiegel, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Tagesspiegel, GartenFlora and many others reported on topics relevant to allotment gardens. For online reports, one third of the journalists did research for my Homebook, ZDF WISO or Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, among others. 15% of the enquiries were received by the BDG for TV productions by ZDF, WDR, RTL or MDR. Finally, 11% of the requests for radio contributions were addressed to the umbrella organisation, among others from RBB 24 Inforadio, Hessischer Rundfunk and Deutschlandfunk.

Sandra von Rekowski, BDG

Pictures: S. v. Rekowski (photo 1), K. Rainer (allotment)

End of the year 2022

Dear allotment gardeners

It is with mixed emotion that I address you today at the end of the year for the 35th and also for the last time. Since 1981 I have had the honour, but also the sometimes difficult task, of serving our beautiful and valuable international organisation, first as Deputy Secretary General, then as Secretary General.

"He who jumps into cold water dives into a sea of opportunity" (Finnish proverb).

This is what the founders of our organisation did by creating a movement whose values are even more relevant today than ever. Their successors have continued to develop the movement and adapt it to ever-changing challenges.

In 1988, we adapted the statutes, which had remained nearly unchanged since 1926, established a non-profit association, created all the conditions for a cooperation with international organisations, and further modernised the statutes, for the last time in 2022.

Since 1988 we have been able to successfully publish several issues of the Hyphen every year. The 77 issues are both a link between all the members and a tool for our external representation.

We were able to establish contacts with the EU, respectively get granted membership in international organisations: Europa Nostra, participative status with the Council of Europe, observer status at the UNEA.

Finally, the Japanese allotment gardeners could become members of our organisation, and contacts now also exist with the allotment gardeners from Ireland.

In the last 40 years, as in every life, there also have been less positive events. It is unfortunate that we could not permanently count the allotment gardeners from Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic as members.

The application for membership in UNESCO was not successful and the cooperation with the EU received a big setback after the Maastricht treaties.

Regrettably, after several attempts, we also could not permanently inscribe the European Day of the Garden in the calendar of our organisation.

All the positive things could only be achieved with the generous support of the Luxembourgish government, especially the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment and other ministries. Not to be forgotten for their valuable support are Luxembourgish Members of Parliament and Luxembourgish representatives at International Organisations.

No less important was the support and good cooperation with all the members and the so often technical, respectively financial support from some federations. Dear members, any support, however small, was very much appreciated.

To all, at whatever level, a very heartfelt thank you for your valuable help and support.
Now we have to continue on the same path, or adapt it, if necessary.

Today, it is hardly possible to lead our large organisation alone and on a voluntary basis, with few material means, and to tackle the new challenges of the future. We now need a new set-up and perhaps also a certain professionalisation.

More financial means are needed to do more lobbying and to achieve more visibility, which will be even more necessary in the future. Not only statements, but also active participation in international events and workshops at international organisations, as well as technical input in this framework will be necessary. The cooperation with science (e.g. Cost and Researchgate) should be continued and, if necessary, deepened. The decision taken at the occasion of our study session in Stockholm to carry out a project under the Erasmus programme is a step in the right direction.

According to the motto: "We are Urban Gardening" we should not close ourselves to new forms of gardening, but integrate them, as far as possible, and place ourselves at the forefront of an expanded, multifaceted movement. The new realities in the cities and the new desires of the authorities and the citizens should not be overlooked.

Our member federations are facing great challenges. Of course, these vary from country to country and require national solutions. Nevertheless, perhaps we should listen more to these problems and see if they exist elsewhere and how they were solved there. A discussion of these problems may bring up more useful ideas. Discussions and exchanges among members in our meetings will remain essential in the future. However, the new media, I am thinking of organising webinars, online discussions, can also be an additional means to help to deepen and broaden our cooperation.

"Success comes when you do what you love" said Albert EINSTEIN. You all love our national and international movement. Consequently, I am convinced that all of you together will master the new situation after June 30, 2023, take the necessary steps to keep evolving, respectively adjusting and let all members actively participate. Success will surely come.

Don't wait too long. "Opportunities are like sunrises, those who wait too long miss them."

In conclusion I wish you only the very best for 2023, good health, much success in your allotment garden, your association and national federation, as well as the necessary foresight to position our International Federation well for the future and to be able to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2026 with full dynamism.

I will not forget the many years in our movement and your support and cooperation. Thank you very much for every word and every helpful hand.

Ad multos annos Fédération Internationale des Jardins Familiaux and good luck to all the national federations.

Secretary General

Winners of the allotment garden championship have been determined

Seven times gold for Germany's allotment garden associations

The 22 awards in gold, silver and bronze have now been presented! On 19 November 2022, the award ceremony and closing event of this year's federal competition "Gardens in Urban Development" took place in Berlin. Seven gold, nine silver and six bronze medals were awarded. In addition, there was a total of 31,200 euros in prize money. The awards recognise special social, ecological and urban planning achievements of the allotment garden associations. The motto this year was: "Allotment gardens: urban green meets harvest happiness".

The Federal Minister for Housing, Urban Development and Construction acknowledged the great importance of the more than one million allotment gardens for the supply of fruit and vegetables, as a place for recreation, for biodiversity, for climate protection, for the greening of cities and thus for a better quality of life.

"The 25th national competition made it clear once again that allotment garden sites fulfil their purpose within densely populated cities as well as in rural areas. It showed impressively how the allotment garden movement is able to change and adapt to various social challenges", explained Dirk Sielmann, president of the German federation of allotment gardeners. "In many of the municipalities participating in the competition it has been recognised that it is indispensable to promote and support the allotment garden movement in the current time of change".

Every four years the federal government and the Bundesverband Deutscher Gartenfreunde e. V. (BDG) have allotment gardeners compete for the championship. A jury of experts scrutinises all the finalists on site and assesses their performance on the basis of criteria such as urban integration, urban climatic function, environmental protection and nature conservation, civic commitment as well as planning and design of the site.

The award-winning associations showed once again: the allotment gardeners have long since set out on the path to the future and are getting things done - whether it is species protection, climate-friendly gardening, intercultural coexistence or generational cohesion.

It is clear that the allotment garden movement has a lot to offer and that its members are prepared to continue to play an active role in shaping cities and communities in the future!

The results at a glance:

• Gold went to the allotment gardeners from Castrop-Rauxel, Dortmund, Dresden, Karlsruhe, Leipzig, Munich and Norderstedt.
• Silver went to the allotment gardeners from Berlin, Bremen, Dettingen unter Teck, Freiberg, Hamburg, Kelkheim, Rostock, Sonneberg and Wiesbaden.
• Bronze went to the allotment gardeners from Bad Dürrenberg, Braunschweig, Delmenhorst, Ludwigshafen, Nuremberg and Schönebeck/ Elbe.

Medal table, the brochure on the competition and further information on the 2022 national competition:

Sandra von Rekowski, Eva Foos; BDG

Photo by Matthias Enter

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