On 21 October, around 500 invited guests gathered in the large ballroom of Vienna City Hall for the 26th Allotment Garden Award Ceremony of the City of Vienna. The allotment garden family had been invited in advance to send in entries for the creative competition with this year's motto "The magic in the allotment garden". The jury anonymously assessed the 179 entries in four categories and awarded the prizes. The award winners were duly celebrated in the festive setting of the gala event.
Welcome to the 26th Allotment Garden Prize of the City of Vienna
The evening was hosted by the well-known Radio Wien presenter Alex Jokel. After a musical intro, the numerous guests of honour were welcomed. This time, they included several district heads who wanted to personally congratulate the award winners from their districts. Kathrin Gaál, Deputy Mayor and City Councillor for Housing, Housing Construction, Urban Renewal and Women, welcomed those present and emphasised the importance of allotment gardeners for the city.
Representing the allotment gardeners, an interview followed with the president of the central federation of allotment gardeners and settlers of Austria, Ing. Wilhelm Wohatschek and the president of the regional federation of Vienna, Helmut Bayer. Both spoke about the current challenges of the allotment garden movement and thanked the guests and organisers.
The award ceremony was hosted by Gerhard Spitzer, Member of Parliament and local councillor. He has not only been chairman of the Viennese allotment garden advisory board since 2012, but was also a member of the jury that evaluated the prizes submitted.
The 2023 award winners
This year, the jury awarded a joint children's prize, three children's prizes for children up to the age of 14 and three children's prizes for children up to the age of 6, as well as the three main prizes.
After the award ceremony, the extensive buffet was opened with culinary delicacies from the Vienna City Hall cellar. The prizewinners works could be admired up close at the Nordbuffet. The liquid delicacies from the ladies of the Floridsdorf district organisation's women's group were particularly popular. Their home-made liqueurs and schnapps were very popular and invited visitors to linger. The creative and elaborate gourmet decorations from the Viennese nurseries are particularly noteworthy this year. After the event, guests were free to help themselves to these. This year, not only delicacies but also works of art could be taken home. On the one hand, a photo wall invited guests to have their personal memories taken, and on the other hand, the quick-drawing artist and caricaturist Ray van Stift was very well attended this year.
The evening was musically enriched by the Zuckerwatte Combo with a rousing pop revue from the 50s and 60s. Young and old sang and danced in front of the stage until the evening drew to a close at around 9 pm. In keeping with the music programme, there was also a candyfloss stand in the north buffet for young and old.
We would like to thank all guests and organisers for the successful evening and hope to see you again next year for the 27th allotment garden award ceremony.
Allotment garden design has evolved over time, and new approaches and ideas continue to emerge.
Here are some new ways and trends in allotment garden design:
Vertical gardening is gaining popularity in urban areas where space is limited. This design technique involves growing plants vertically on structures such as trellises, walls, or stacked containers. It maximizes space utilization, allows for more plants to be grown in a smaller area, and creates an aesthetically pleasing vertical garden.
Permaculture design principles are being increasingly applied to allotment gardens. Permaculture aims to create sustainable ecosystems that are self-sufficient and require minimal external inputs. Design elements include companion planting, water catchment systems, composting areas, and creating habitats for beneficial insects and wildlife.
With the decline of pollinators, allotment gardens are being designed to support bee populations. Incorporating bee-friendly flowers, providing nesting sites for solitary bees, and minimizing pesticide use are essential aspects of this design approach. Bee-friendly gardens promote biodiversity and enhance pollination within the allotment.
Raised Bed Gardening
Raised beds are becoming a popular design feature in allotment gardens. Raised beds provide several benefits, including improved soil drainage, better control of soil quality, and easier access for planting, maintenance, and harvesting. They also create defined spaces for different crops and can be aesthetically pleasing with the use of attractive borders.
Sensory gardens are designed to engage all five senses—sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. These gardens include a variety of plants with different colors, fragrances, textures, and flavors, as well as elements such as wind chimes or water features. Sensory gardens offer a multi-dimensional experience, promoting relaxation, mindfulness, and sensory exploration.
Allotment gardens are increasingly being designed as community spaces where people can come together and interact. Design features may include communal seating areas, shared tool sheds, gathering spaces, and areas for social events or workshops. Creating spaces that foster community engagement enhances the social aspect of allotment gardening.
Edible landscaping combines ornamental plants with edible crops, creating visually appealing gardens that also provide food. This design approach incorporates fruit trees, berry bushes, and colorful edible flowers alongside traditional vegetable beds. Edible landscaping adds diversity, aesthetics, and practicality to allotment gardens.
Smart Garden Technology
Advancements in technology have led to the development of smart gardening tools and systems. These include automated irrigation systems, soil sensors, weather monitoring devices, and smartphone apps for tracking and managing garden tasks. Smart garden technology helps gardeners optimize resource usage, increase efficiency, and monitor plant health.
These are just a few examples of new ways and trends in allotment garden design. Ultimately, the design of an allotment garden can be customized based on individual preferences, available space, and local environmental conditions. The key is to create a design that maximizes productivity, promotes sustainability, enhances aesthetics, and suits the needs and interests of the gardeners involved.
Honorary President of allotment garden park ‘Slotenkouter’, Ghent, Belgium
Board member of East Flanders’ Provincial Allotment Association
published in "Hyphen no. 79"
It is becoming more and more apparent that not only sustainability and biodiversity are in demand in our gardens, but also that the advancing climate change must be taken into account, especially when it comes to planting. There is still enough water in Austria, but we are already seeing problems in agriculture.
The following tips are general recommendations that will become particularly relevant in relation to the approaching climate change. You should try to see the connections in the natural cycle when working in the garden, because then you will be flexible enough to take on new challenges.
In order for your plants to grow healthily, species-appropriate light requirements and soil conditions are basic prerequisites to be prepared for climatic stress. This reads well, but especially in the beginning extreme situations you should pay attention to the fact that it can also become more "Mediterranean" in the choice of plants, but above all that you pay attention to what still looks healthy in the gardens and in the nature of your surroundings and get one or the other plant into the garden.
Here are some more tips for your garden:
• Extremely dry summers cause stress in many plants, often resulting in stalled growth. Symptoms can be: Flower buds do not blossom, fruits are dropped before ripening, premature death of perennials. Plants can cope better with drought stress if they are watered sufficiently at longer intervals. The formation of deep roots is promoted by less frequent watering. In practice, extensive watering at longer intervals is better than distributing a little water in the garden every day.
• During wind and heavy rain, soil that is not overgrown erodes and silts up. To protect it, either vegetation or another protective layer must be applied. The best protection is provided by a plant cover (ground-covering plants, green manure). Where vegetation is temporarily not possible (e.g. vegetable garden, summer flower bed), the soil can be covered with mulch (e.g. leaves, grass cuttings, wood chippings, bark material).
• Planting deciduous trees in our gardens is a big trend. Trees provide shade and evaporative cooling in summer, and in winter they let light into the house. They bind CO², slow down the wind, produce oxygen and act as an effective fine dust filter. Deciduous trees are irreplaceable for a pleasant living space in the future.
• How we deal with our water will also be more important in the future. For this reason, there has been a recommendation for some time to collect rainwater from roofs and use it for watering the garden. The water can also be used for a wetland biotope or you can simply let it seep into the garden where you want it. Sealing of surfaces, such as paths, eaves or terraces, should be largely avoided. In principle, watering should be geared to the needs of the plants. Plants have different needs for irrigation water, so it is better to supply the garden areas individually than to wet everything evenly.
• And finally, it is also about "weed control", which should be carried out extremely selectively. Nowadays, wild plants can be tolerated and included in the design of the garden, a new garden wave is emerging. An area overgrown with wild herbs is in any case preferable to one without - it is not only valuable for the soil, but also for the insect world.
You may have noticed it, there is a trend back to the natural garden, to a garden with shrubs, with beds full of flowers and vegetables, where at least one tree provides shade and not just a measly awning, a garden full of plants that not only survive a longer time without intensive care, but also look good.
Fritz Hauk, Vice-President of the Central Federation of Austrian Allotment Gardeners
Under the motto "Allotment gardens: Diversity that inspires!" many allotment gardeners all over Germany again celebrated the Day of the Garden on 11 June 2023 with open gardens, festivities and activities for young and old and with guests from politics and administration.
Apart from a great biological diversity, it is above all the social and cultural diversity that characterises allotment gardening in Germany. Many millions of people of different generations, social backgrounds and countries of origin get involved year after year. In the 13,500 or so allotment garden associations organised under the umbrella of the BDG, they ensure that these green oases remain places that are hard to beat in terms of diversity.
At the suggestion of the BDG, the day has been celebrated since 1984, always on the second Sunday in June. Traditionally, each year one of the 20 regional associations organised in the BDG takes over the organisation of the central nationwide kick-off event for the green holiday weekend. This year there were even two: the Rhineland federation of allotment gardeners and the Westphalia and Lippe federation of allotment gardeners. Special occasion: Both federations additionally celebrated their 100th federation anniversary!
In the "Bunten Garten" in Mönchengladbach the two chairmen of the regional federations, Rolf Rosendahl (LV Westphalia and Lippe) and Michael Franssen (LV Rhineland) opened the festive event. The Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia Hendrik Wüst gave his video greeting and his appreciation for the allotment garden movement: "The allotment garden movement in North Rhine-Westphalia has constitutional status. This position is unique in the whole federal state." Dirk Sielmann, president of the BDG, underlined the important role of allotment gardens for urban development and the mayor of the city of Mönchengladbach, Josephine Gauselmann, in turn emphasized the interactive power of allotment gardens in her greeting.
The numerous guests from all over Germany were offered a colourful programme for young and old with specialist information, a "market of opportunities" with partners of the organised allotment garden movement, musical entertainment and various hands-on activities. A special highlight: the donation of a red maple for the colourful garden by the two regional federations and the joint planting of the tree with guests from the federation and from regional and local politics.
An extremely successful celebration of the diversity and continuing invaluable value of allotment gardening!
Eva Foos, BDG
Pictures: Hans-Peter Reichartz
Whether or not it’s useful, necessary or desirable for allotment garden parks to be enclosed entities or made accessible to the general public is difficult if not impossible to describe in its generality in an European context.
Indeed, it depends on a variety of factors, including, among others: rural, urban or suburban context, who are the landowners, large or small site, local customs, morality, habits and traditions, prevailing political and economic climate, related costs.
Be that what it may, we will therefore limit ourselves in what follows to some general (historical) considerations from which everyone can draw his/her own conclusions based on the local context.
People throughout all of their history have always tried to shield the land they consider theirs from outsiders by means of enclosures: be it by erecting fences, barriers or walls.
Enclosures define dividing lines and make them visible, but since when exactly have they existed? On Stone Age paintings, for example in the famous Lascaux cave, grid structures are repeatedly found alongside animals, which some scholars interpret as enclosures. A few thousand years after these first painters, people settled here and there permanently and made claims on the land they worked on. Demarcation became necessary to make clear who worked which piece of land, but also to secure it from unwanted visitors.
The original sin
For the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the fence was the symbol of all evil from the beginning. According to Rousseau, people in their original state were equal, happy and content. This was in contrast to bourgeois society, characterised by inequality and distrust. In the fence, Rousseau saw the cause of conflicts between people: "The first man who surrounded a piece of land with a fence and had the idea of saying, 'This is mine', and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of bourgeois society. How many crimes, wars, murders, how much misery and horror he would have spared humanity if he had pulled out the poles or stepped over the ditch and shouted to his fellow men, "Beware of believing this imposter; you are lost if you forget that the fruits belong to all, but the earth belongs to no one."
So for Rousseau, the fence was the cause of inequality between people, and he would probably be proved right today if he saw the so-called "gated communities" that have taken off in many countries of the world as a sign of distinction. Those who can afford it live shielded and among their like-minded fellow men in one of these ‘gated communities’.
The separation from other social classes, the fear of real or perceived crime and the affirmation that one can afford this style of living contribute to the popularity of such complexes in many countries.
Critics, however, see in this way of life the danger of certain classes separating themselves from the rest of the population, staying in their bubble and thus weakening social cohesion.
The fence also plays a role in the Christian art of the Middle Ages; the genre of the 'hortus conclusus', i.e., the enclosed or fenced garden, developed in the Gothic period. It goes back to the biblical Song of Songs, in which the bride is compared to a "closed garden". In these artworks, Mary is shown in a garden that is shielded from the sinful outside world by a fence or a rose hedge. Flowers such as lilies or roses grow in the garden itself, representing Mary's purity.
We also find traces of this in linguistics: while the word (Zaun) in German means a border or barrier, relatives of this word such as 'town' in English and even more the Dutch word 'tuin' refer to an enclosed area enclosed by a fence.
Allotment gardens have always been subject to major changes but modern tendancy is to integrate them better not to say wholly into the surrounding social fabric. As a consequence, in a lot of cases, the tenants see their privacy threatened. There’s a great deal of fear of losing privacy when strangers suddenly look over the fence into the garden.
A paradise on a Monday morning
Most of our readers will be able to effortlessly recall the picturesque scene below: if there’s a paradise on a Monday morning, then it is the allotment garden, anywhere in or at the outskirts of a major city. Warm late summer light shines at ten o’clock in the morning and there is a stillness as if the seriousness of life was light years away. The long, hot summer and the working zeal of the gardeners have provided for a splendor of flowers. All around, fruits and vegetables are being harvested, raspberries, potatoes, beans, tomatoes. From a distance, only the rattling of a passing train is reminiscent of the hustle and bustle of the city, but who cares?
Gardeners are sitting under the canopy of their garden shed, in front of a coffee and a glorious day. Nevertheless, they are dissatisfied. Their idyll is threatened by a small but nasty revision of the law that the city council is about to vote on: In the future, the allotment garden areas are to be developed with individual walking and cycling paths and made accessible to the general public for all kind of activities.
This “social dimension of the allotment gardens”, as it is called in cheerless administrative language, should bring added value for the population in the city heated up by climate change. From gardeners’ point of view, it means the end of privacy in a piece of home.
Every city government knows that things get complicated when they focus on garden areas
In many cities, investors are seeking space for flats and offices, but at the same time, green spaces are becoming increasingly important in the face of climate change, urban warming, and urban densification.
For many city dwellers, gardens are a cheap refuge in a ‘countryside’ and represent a slice of individuality and privacy. Every city government knows that things get complicated when they tackle allotment garden areas.
Public health and exercise were always at the forefront of allotment gardening. Poor nutrition and precarious living conditions had a disastrous effect on health during industrialisation, and there were fears that the youth would go down the wrong path. In the early 20th century, more and more countries became aware of the necessity for an allotment garden movement.
Gardening becomes a civic duty
At the turn of the century, allotment garden initiatives emerged in many European cities, which ultimately became an integral part of social policy. The factory workers depended for their livelihoods on potatoes and vegetables in their gardens.
During the First World War, the situation worsened: thefts in the gardens increased, which is why the gardeners joined forces. It quickly turned out that just guarding the gardens alone was not enough.
In the Second World War gardening even became a civic duty. Gardeners felt obliged to grow potatoes, using the same arguments that count again today with the emergence of the ecological footprint: milk and meat from 40 ares of land fed only one person, the authorities calculated in advertisements – potatoes on the same area but six people. Food was so scarce and expensive that allotment gardens once again became vital for many people.
Only with the economic boom after the Second World War did self-sufficiency lose its importance. Gardening developed into a leisure activity, vegetable beds were reduced, and lawns, ornamental shrubs and barbecue areas were used instead. At the same time, demand fell and many areas disappeared. The cities used them as land reserves or overbuilt them.
In many cities there are only half as many allotment gardens today as there were in 1945. But even when the economy was booming, the parcelled green spaces reflected the sociological realities: from 1960 immigration made itself felt, and the allotment garden concept had to adapt to this new reality. More and more, the gardens developed into a place of relaxation for a wide variety of city dwellers.
Littering, theft, vandalism
Gardening is a piece of luxury at an affordable price: at Slotenkouter allotment garden park in the city of Ghent gardeners pay +/- 100 euro a year for an area of around 200 square meters.
Some gardeners are all the more horrified at the thought of people suddenly strolling through the gardens. They fear an increase in littering, vandalism and theft. Numerous already are the examples of garden houses and sheds set on fire in allotment parks.
For many, the idea alone of opening the garden site to the general public is looked upon as an intrusion into their personal lives.
Much of the garden debate is reminiscent of the resistance that every reform necessarily brings along and to the victims it inevitably creates. After all, one cannot expect the fattened calf to share the angels' enthusiasm over the return of the lost son.
There are numerous examples where governments have faced opposition to their plans to open up allotment parks to the general public.
The new longing for rural life
The dispute makes it clear where the journey is going: city authorities will increasingly demand that allotment park sites leave their isolation and integrate fully into the urban fabric. With the urban longing for rural life and with every hot summer, interest in green open spaces increases. We ourselves observe that more and more people are appearing among the gardeners who are neither connected to nature nor have a green thumb.
The family garden scene is still reacting sceptically to the attempt to better integrate the areas into the city fabric. But if I am not mistaken, the new walkways through the allotment gardens are just the beginning: a hundred years after their spread, allotment gardens are given a new urban planning and sociological function – and more weight. And in my opinion, nothing will be able to stop this trend.
Those of us who are lucky enough to live near parks, open spaces, and green areas know the joys they bring: the calming views of trees and green lawns, the singing of birds, the fresh air, the scent of flowers. Overwhelming evidence demonstrates the benefits of city parks. They improve our physical and psychological health, strengthen our communities, and make our cities and neighbourhoods more attractive places to live and work.
We as garden professionals and citizens need to join the effort to bring parks, open spaces and green areas into the neighbourhoods where all can benefit from them. While government plays a vital role in the creation of public parks, governments cannot do the job alone to set up and maintain all of these allotment sites. We have to come forward and help the government (at community level) by making small committees or trusts to maintain the parks/green spaces within our community. Working together, we can help many more people and our next generations to experience the joys of jogging down a tree-lined path, of a family picnic on a sunny lawn, of sharing a community garden’s proud harvest. We can create the green spaces that offer refuge from the alienating city streets-places where we can rediscover our natural roots and reconnect with our souls.
Willy Goethals, Honorary President of allotment garden park ‘Slotenkouter’, Ghent, Belgium
Board member of East Flanders’ Provincial Allotment Association
published in "Hyphen no. 78"