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Green infrastructure? Only with allotment gardens

Sandra von Rekowski

01Small gardens are under pressure. Because of the growing demographic development in the cities and municipalities there is more and more need for living- and commercial space. At the same time, high-quality and easily accessible existing green infrastructure must be protected, further developed or newly created. This is vital for the city of the future.
Allotment gardens play a decisive role in the maintenance and further development of urban green spaces, especially because of their optimal, inner-city location. Quick access to the allotment garden, ideally on foot or by bike, is a key feature of such an allotment garden. In addition, allotments in overheated cities are important cold-air and biodiversity “islands” and places of social interaction. And not only allotment gardeners should benefit from the use of inner-city allotment garden sites, but also residents without an own plot.

In the study "Changing allotment gardens - innovations for dense spaces" the potential to integrate allotment garden sites more strongly into urban open space planning is examined in detail. Thus, the interviewed municipal administrations are convinced that above all public accessibility, integration into the green and open space network, nature conservation, biodiversity and climate protection as well as publicly usable common areas can contribute to allotment garden sites being part of green infrastructure. Also, within the city and regional associations, the networking of the allotment garden sites with the existing urban open space is one of the most important tasks for a sustainable allotment garden system. Above all, potential is seen here in the integration of public foot, hiking and cycle path networks. Allotment gardens as green learning places, public play areas, social and cultural offers for the public and the creation of habitats for animals and insects are also mentioned as measures to strengthen the green infrastructure.

An allotment garden site consists of publicly accessible paths, communal areas and often also play areas in addition to the leased areas of the allotment gardeners,. Especially where the pressure on allotment gardens is increasing, it has to be ensured that surrounding residents also benefit from these areas. In order to ensure that the allotment gardens are opened up to the general public, the associations already make use of appropriate measures (see study "Changing allotment gardens - innovations for dense areas: In the course of new planning and re-planning measures for allotment garden sites, the surrounding neighbourhood should in the future be taken into account and integrated to a greater extent, in addition to the allotment gardeners as a further important target group.

For the development of concepts for networking, a strong community of city and regional associations and local decision-makers from politics and administration, such as urban planning and green space offices, is therefore needed. After all, attractive public recreation areas not only serve to enhance the allotment garden sites themselves. At best, they are the connecting element of a city's green infrastructure. They not only qualify the urban green and open space network, but even expand it through their existing structures. In addition, open and experienceable allotment garden sites offer the chance to upgrade entire residential areas and contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of their residents.

Photo: Thomas Wagner
Openly and well-designed pathway at the allotment garden site “Sonnige Höhe” (sunny heights) in Chemnitz

The Office International du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux and the affiliated federations call upon all allotment gardeners to take part in the Week without pesticides organised from 20th till 30th March 2020.


A week without pesticides 2020
Can we make difference – Yes, we can.

There are many alternatives to the application of harmful chemicals and it is important experimenting straight away with these alternatives. Protect our environment, have fun and continue to enjoy your gardening in a more natural way without the use of chemicals.

With our love of gardening and growing activities we have become the guardians of the extremely important green corridors in the urban environment. These corridors include parks, woodland, household gardens and allotments. Recent scientific research has proved beyond doubt that allotments are the most beneficial to the community and to these green corridors. They are more fertile, produce more crops per sq.m. than agricultural and commercial growers, are more environmentally diverse and offer a greater carbon sink than any other type of land usage, even woodland. With all that in mind it is crucial we protect these areas and our allotments to the best of our ability.

How can we do that?

By cutting down on the use of pesticides which contain a multitude of harmful often lethal chemicals we are helping to maintain the balance of nature. As we all know by eradicating one pest with chemicals quite often also affects other beneficial insects, not only by absorption of the chemicals but by ingestion by other insects and creatures in the food chain.

So how can we do this?

Let's take brassicas as an example, by simply covering them with a cloche of fine netting (ordinary netting allows butterflies to lay eggs through it), scaffold debris netting is a very good cheap option and has a multitude of benefits, it can dispense with the need for chemical sprays. It will not only keep butterflies at bay and resultant caterpillars but also provide a barrier to pigeons which can devastate your brassicas. It also creates a micro climate protecting plants from wind, scorching, allows rain through and retains moisture and heat reducing the need for watering. So, there are a multitude of benefits by simply erecting a fine netting cloche. However, what about aphids I hear you say, simply by complimentary planting of tagetes (marigolds) within the cloche should be an adequate deterrent to the aphids and it also works very well in poly-tunnels.

Aphids can also be eradicated with a simple bar soap solution which is a much more environmentally friendly way than spraying with chemicals. Also watering brassicas in the earlier stages of growth with diluted comfrey and nettle juice does prove a deterrent to insects, maybe it is the strong smell that does it; this method is not a good idea near harvest time though. Another method is to spay with diluted garlic juice.

When it comes to weeds, constant hoeing will keep the weeds down and if caught before going to seed all the foliage can be composted creating another cost-free benefit for the garden. Even the most difficult of weeds such as mares' tail (Equisetum arvense) can be composted by rotting down in water or black plastic bag first or drying in the sun until completely brittle before adding to the compost heap.

If you collect water, which I hope you do, and collect it in an open container put a teaspoon of vegetable oil in it and it will stop mosquito larvae forming.

The International Office du Coin de Terre et des Jardins familiaux delegates met in Luxembourg

OIThe national delegates met in Luxembourg on March 6th and 7th, 2020 for their annual statutory general assembly.

In addition to the statutory missions, the work for the amendment of the Office statutes and their adaptation to the current requirements could mostly be finished.

The brochure “the soil is alive” is a document, which should help allotment and amateur gardeners to increasingly protect the soil, their most valuable working tool. It is now ready in German. It could be translated into English, French, Dutch and Swedish. The brochure will be issued in June, both as a brochure and as an issue of the Hyphen. It will still be translated into Finnish as present for the Finnish federation’s 90th jubilee.

All the federations informed on their activities. This exchange brought again interesting insights and provided – according to what was needed – new incentives for national activities.

The next issues of the Hyphen will deal with the topic: “We are proud of……” and will present projects, groups, sites, programmes and should have a multiplier effect.

The Office and the affiliated federations continue their efforts for an ecological gardening.

A memorandum will be published on the Office homepage, the national websites as well as in the national allotment magazines and is also a contribution to the annual week without pesticides (20th – 30th March, 2020).

5 requests for an Office diploma for ecological gardening, 1 request for the diploma for innovative projects and 1 request for the diploma for social activities could be positively assessed. The Office database with examples of a good horticultural practice could be extended with the help of these projects.

The delegates will meet again during their study session in Helsinki (Finland) on 26th August. During this meeting the Finnish allotment federation will celebrate its 90th jubilee.

The next statutory general assembly will take place in Luxembourg on March 5th and 6th, 2021.

1000th edition of our federation's magazine

Our first magazine was published in 1930.

magazinThe original name of our magazine was ‘De Volkstuin’ (The allotment). The magazine gave hints and tips on how to grow crops.

Today we publish eleven magazines per year, filled with tips and information about gardening. Besides information on the work on allotments and vegetable growing we talk about private gardens, ornamental gardens, ecological gardening. Our organisation made it its mission to promote garden pleasure for allotment gardeners and private gardeners. In addition we give information on projects in our organisation.

Fixed articles are activities in the vegetable, the fruit and the ornamental garden. The same counts for our children’s corner, flower arranging and plagues and diseases. Each article addresses problems or tasks for the following month. This way all gardeners can prepare themselves.

Almost all of our articles are written by volunteers, schoolteachers, professors, garden contractors, but also experienced leisure gardeners. There is a working group lead by the auditor. In 2017 they ordered an enquiry to evaluate the current magazine. Based on the feedback they received they try to make the magazine even more appealing than before. The biggest challenge is to address a broad public, from experienced gardeners to layman, young and old, families living in the city and in the countryside. 

As an organisation we cannot thank and applaud these volunteers enough. They put their heart and soul in to this magazine. They create a professional magazine worth reading every month!

Participation of the allotment gardeners in the FEW-Meter Project

FEW PartnerWhat is it about? Within the framework of the research project "FEW-Meter" (Food, Energy, Water) studies are being carried out in Germany as well as in France, Great-Britain, Poland and the USA to investigate the efficiency of "Urban agriculture". Urban farming is a generic term for food production in urban areas. Worldwide the small-scale cultivation of fruit and vegetables in cities is increasing.

Urban agriculture can take many different forms:

Community gardens are included in New York City and London, but also roof farms, aquaculture, kitchen gardens and therapy gardens are conquering the cities. Allotment gardens have been an established feature in many European cities for more than a century. This development is strongly pronounced in Germany and Poland.

Allotment gardens have always been places of self-sufficiency, which have been experiencing a renaissance since the turn of the century. Allotment gardens are part of the social and ecological network of a city they are in many ways part of the good climate in the urban residential areas and are places of nature experience. Thus it cannot be denied that allotment gardens are also part of urban agriculture.

How efficient and sustainable is urban farming?
What quantities are harvested all year round?
How much water and energy are used?

Questions over questions to which the researchers want to find reliable answers.

However, biodiversity, the gardening experience, the use of the harvested products, fertilisation and plant protection are also topics that are being investigated.

In cooperation with the researchers from ILS (Institute for regional and urban development research) and the regional allotment gardeners' federation allotment gardeners from NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) will record their harvested products in 2019 and 2020 and document their horticultural and ecological activities. They will be supported and advised on site by our garden expert and lecturer at the Stephan Grote State school in Münster.

The researchers Runrid Fox-Kämper and Kathrin Specht from the ILS informed about the challenging and exciting project during the opening workshop on November 10th 2018 at the State school.

It is great that12 allotment gardeners from Bochum, Dortmund, Münster, Lünen and Oelde take part in this project.

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