World Environment Day is celebrated annually on 5 June and encourages awareness and action for the protection of the environment. It was established in 1972 by the United Nations at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, that had resulted from discussions on the integration of human interactions and the environment. One year later, in 1973 the first World Environment Day was held with the theme "Only One Earth".
World Environment Day 2023 is a reminder that people’s actions on plastic pollution matters („Beat Plastic Pollution“).
Further information on this year's events and campaigns can be found at https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/
Solutions to Plastic Pollution #BeatPlasticPollution
Plastic avoidance can be achieved in almost all areas of life with simple solutions. We allotment gardeners can also make an important contribution.
If plastic remains in nature, it does not decompose there and persists - larger pieces of plastic become sources of danger for animals, microplastic finds its way into the material cycles of all ecosystems, where it is broken down even more and thus nanoplastics are created which can even penetrate the cells of living beings.
Allotment gardeners in particular should observe and implement the following points:
- plastic-free seed pots
- buy plastic-free plants (plant market, seed exchanges)
- buy high quality tools and use them for a long time
- use alternative materials (local wood, clay, stone, metal, bamboo, reed, jute, hemp, coconut fibre, wool, straw and compostable paper)
- keep organic waste plastic-free!
- reuse, exchange or return flower pots
- refresh potting soil with compost instead of buying new
- produce fertiliser from kitchen waste
- propagate seeds by yourself
- mulch instead of film against weeds
Let's do our bit for the environment and against plastic pollution!
May is a busy month for allotment gardeners in Finland and throughout Europe. While gardeners, for example, in southern Finland are gradually starting new gardening season, the gardeners near polar circle are busy with planning and dreaming of the spring to come.
May 22nd is International Day for Biological Diversity. It is a special day, and, at the same time, it is like any other day in allotment gardens. On that day, like every day, allotment gardens provide insects and birds protection, nesting sites, and food, and thereby support biodiversity of nature in tightly built city environments. Allotment gardens are gardens with rich vegetation vital for the important pollinators, many of which are threatened species.
Biodiversity in nature is close to the heart both of the Federation of Finnish Allotment Gardens representing local allotment garden societies from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and all the other federations in Europe and Japan, united in the International Allotment Federation. All allotment federations are non-profit associations aiming to promote and develop allotment gardening. They drive sustainable development with the help of voluntary environmental leads in local allotment garden societies. Environmental leads inform and inspire fellow gardeners. They share best practices and ideate ways to maintain and increase biodiversity across allotment gardens throughout Europe, including tips for composting and recycling, avoiding chemicals, and removing introduced species in the garden.
Allotment gardeners celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity working in their gardens, keeping the soil alive with everything they do. On May 22nd, they do what they know is best for the biodiversity in city environment, like they do every day.
May 22nd is, however, also an opportunity to invite allotment gardeners to increase even more, if necessary, their efforts and invite all other gardeners to join in, in the same efforts, to safe biodiversity for us and the coming generations!
UN Environment Programm: Convention on Biological Diversity
UNESCO: International Day for Biological Diversity
As a garden park, why open and cooperate with the surrounding area?
There are many reasons why you might want to involve the area around an allotment park in your garden association.
Possibly it is too much work to manage the allotment gardens properly and hands are needed. Perhaps there are people outside the garden gate waiting to be of service. Lending a hand with chores or working in the garden. Or gardeners may not feel seen and known for their useful work for nature, biodiversity and healthy food in the outside world, because the association is too closed.
Another reason could be a lurking threat to the survival of the allotments. This could be a termination of a contract with the municipality or owner, because of other plans like housing development.
But the purpose of opening up a garden park will always be to maintain yourself as a garden association in the long term. Even better: revalorising an allotment site and association into a more highly valued place and organisation in an urban area.
What to do when pressure and threats increase?
There is growing pressure on open space in the Netherlands. The government wants a lot of new houses to be built in the Netherlands to be located within existing urban areas since the beginning of this century. Allotment gardens feel the pressure, unless their high social and environmental value.
The allotment association of Ons Buiten in Utrecht experienced a serious threat at the beginning of this century. The beautiful park had to disappear, houses should take the place of the ornamental allotments, the small animal pasture, the vegetable gardens and of course also the gardeners. How could this association convince the city board of the importance for the urban environment? How could the board and the gardeners continue to garden in the place they had made so beautiful and natural together?
This were the main questions to find answers to.
They needed help. Fortunately, they were able to engage Wageningen University to conduct research.
How to become indispensable to the city and the municipality?
The researchers realised a participatory study together with gardeners, people from the neighbourhood and representatives of institutions such as the neighbourhood council, schools and AVVN. The leading question was: how to make ourselves indispensable to the city and the municipality. This resulted in a manual that could lead to success in the next decade.
This happened in 2006.
Some 10 years later in 2016, a successfully operating partnership has been realised between Gardenpark Ons Buiten and the environment.
Many allotment parks in the Netherlands have since benefited from this process and this way of working. Even municipalities nowadays embrace this set-up to benefit from garden parks in the pursuit of more greenery and biodiversity in urban areas. Of course, it is important to be able to further tell this story to our European friends of the Federation. At the end of this article, there are finding places on the internet for more info.
How do you realise added value in the face of threats?
It is important to make a well-considered start.
To start a change process, it is important to be well organised internally. Keep in mind that your association's vision or organisational structure may need to be changed, to properly handle the desired future. Consult other similar initiatives, learn from others. Be flexible.
Consider these points:
• Formulate a clear need (e.g. at garden park Ons Buiten: “to stay here in the city we need to reinvent ourselves, otherwise houses will come here”).
• Examine the current functioning with the entire association (e.g. at Ons Buiten garden park a meeting was organised for members to express all criticisms, ideas and wishes, and very important: to be included in the plans)
• Draw up a vision (e.g. We want to mean something to the whole society as an association)
• Inform everyone about plans and developments (e.g. make newsletters and welcoming information meetings)
• Structure the planned changes (make a plan of action, working groups, make the changes visible in an annual plan e.g.)
• Quickly take the first irreversible steps of achieved successes and quick wins (e.g. a new name: Tuinenpark Ons Buiten (= gardenpark), local residents were allowed to use a vegetable garden, the animal pasture was expanded).
• Create informal meeting moments (e.g. organise a treasure hunt for children, organise a dinner for all interested persons, members and people from the neighbourhood).
Searching for a new and appropriate direction and role for the allotment site involve exploring their meaning for the members and the people living and working in the neighbourhood.
If you want to cooperate with the environment, it is important to go through a number of steps to gain insight into changes you can make.
You can figure this out easily. Identify the qualities of your association and your garden park. Ask various people and institutions in your area what they think and want of your association and activities. Find out from the results what you have to do to meet the desired future image.
In the case of Garden Park Ons Buiten, the following conclusion was drawn in summary: Many qualities but too closed to the outside. Needed were an inviting attitude and attention to the outside, openness, democracy and cooperation inside. It became clear that the social and ecological values of Tuinenpark Ons Buiten were not always fully appreciated or utilised. As members they were often not as welcoming as they could be. They felt they could offer more to the adjacent neighbourhood! But how to organise this in successful way?
Social value in three layers: ecological, social and cultural.
Garden Park Ons Buiten organised the approach to innovations as follows.
A garden park's significance to society has an ecological, a social and a cultural level:
Ecology (such as environment, food quality, biodiversity, soil) forms the basis. It is important not only for the location itself, but also for the natural value and liveability of the city. On this, the social level (such as friendship, cooperation, desire to belong) develops. On top of the social we find the cultural layer (such as landscape elements, garden styles, artistic elements and an eye for beauty).
They made working groups into which the inventoried measures to be taken fitted logically:
• working group green management
• working group on accessibility and buildings
• working group public and social activities
• working group communication
• working group for purchasing and management
Concrete measures were many, sometimes small, sometimes far-reaching. Such as putting up signposting, recreational shared use borders, sensory garden for the elderly, making inviting signs, placing benches and picnic tables, getting rid of hedges or pruning them low, welcoming volunteers for the animal pasture, opening the clubhouse to organisations from the area, organising activities for children, updating the clubhouse, offering services to the neighbourhood, renovating paths in the garden park, strengthening the ecology, ad information about interesting plants and trees, inviting neighbours to take place in committees or board, information about do’s and don’ts, resolving a conflict with a street, making a script for a film about this process on local TV, ensuring a dazzling presentation for the public and media.
Participants in working groups could sign up during meetings or were invited by fellow members. The delegates of the groups formed the steering committee. The chairman of the steering committee, also a board member, was the linking pin with the board and the proposed decisions in the General Assembly of Members. This set-up made it possible to continue the change process without disrupting normal board work. At the same time, it was possible to work on a change process internally in the association. Especially because a lot of members were active in the working groups.
After about 8 years, the work was completed and incorporated into the association's policy. Even after these years, the initiated process of change appeared to continue. To this purpose, the association uses the instrument of member consultation meetings. As soon as new policy proposals emerge, they are jointly discussed before decision-making takes place. This has led, for example, to an energy-neutral policy: green roofs, green lighting, solar panels, central water point, everything organic.
What should you pay attention to when creating added value?
A change process as described here can only succeed if the efforts are rewarding for all participating parties. Several forms are possible of joint efforts with desired success. Some examples show how to deal with this.
One of them is cooperation. During the process, Garden Park Ons Buiten started cooperation with two neighbouring garden parks, De Pioniers and Ecological Garden Park de Driehoek. They took measures for prevention and security together with the police and the municipality. This positively influenced the change process, as it strengthened trust for a good outcome.
A second way is to form a coalition. This means that two or more parties agree to work together to achieve a common desired outcome. It also means that together they are willing to compromise.
An example is the resolution of a conflict between the public strip on the north side of the park and the street located there. Both parties were mutually in discord on both sides of a small canal. The neighbours in the street were suffering from too much shade from tall trees and a messy appearance, while the gardeners were experiencing disturbances due to children of neighbours appearing in their gardens too often. The municipality was aware of overdue maintenance and came to the rescue financially. Garden Park Ons Buiten started a project led by a landscaper. After an inspection on both sides, both parties appeared to agree 80 per cent and everyone was able to put their shoulders to the project. The discord disappeared into a beautiful collaboration. Some neighbours became active in the association and even a neighbour joined the board. To this day, residents help the association keep this now beautiful natural strip tidy. They say they are lucky to live there with the view of a beautiful park.
An important way of mutual benefit manifests itself in a contract. As mentioned, the municipality was planning to build houses on this site. During the period of change, the end date of the association's collective rent contract with the municipality was approaching. Fortunately, the interim successes had reached the municipal council and the city council through successful PR, and the mood was in favour of retaining the garden park. In preparation for a new contract, the association, together with the other garden parks in the city and AVVN, pleaded for a longer contract than the then current 10 years. This succeeded with a contract of 2 x 10 years successively. In addition, the municipality, in cooperation with the allotments and the AVVN, provided a policy document that was officially adopted by the city council in 2012. A satisfying thought for the allotment holders that with the path taken, they were also able to secure contractual security.
Finally, the best part: celebrating the success achieved. It is now a tradition at Ons Buiten garden park: the annual Groenmoetjedoen day with activities such as wheelbarrow races, open gardens, live music. It is a warm welcome for members, local residents and others. It is an urban day, so all visitors are welcome. Most times, some officials and political representatives come for a drink and a chat. Sometimes the association invites the mayor to mark a special event. We mention: the opening of the new chicken house, the birth of a goat, the adoption of an animal from the animal pasture, events with a nod to background interests. Informally connecting with each other and light-hearted networking makes many flowers bloom.
Result: Gardenpark Ons Buiten became indispensable for the neighbourhood ...
• Ecological green management realized
• Created a meeting place and added value for the neighbourhood and allotment gardeners
• Anchored in networks and institutions
• Talents discovered, resources found and invested
• Improving the quality showed that more people are using and enjoying the park
• And the neighbourhood became indispensable for Gardenpark Ons Buiten
Member of the Management board of AVVN and allotment gardener in Utrecht
(Source: Hyphen 78)
De meerwaarde van tuinparken, De betekenis van tuinparken in een stedelijke omgeving, Rapportnummer 222, ir. Noor van der Hoeven en dr. ir. Derk Jan Stobbelaar, Wageningen, mei 2006, https://edepot.wur.nl/44891
Tijd van de tuin, Ans Hobbelink, Hanneke van de Klippe, Hans Lägers, Utrecht, Tuinenpark Ons Buiten, december 2016,
Een Nieuwe Koekelt: kloppend groen hart van Ede, J. Kruit, H. van Blitterswijk, J. Stokhof de Jong, J. Duyf, G. Rijnbeek, J. de Zwart, Rapportnummer 258, Wageningen Environmental Research 2009,
Welkom op Tuinenpark De Koekelt, De kracht van tuinenparken voor de wijk, Lise Alix en Hansje Eppink, Rapportnummer 284, Wageningen, april 2011,
Bewoners maken het groen, Derk Jan Stobbelaar, Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences, Landwerk, February 2012 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259867382_Bewoners_maken_het_groen
For the 19th time the Blumengärten Hirschstetten invited visitors to the "Vienna Allotment Garden Fair" last weekend. Numerous allotment gardeners took advantage of the summer weather to get information about building, designing and feeling good in house and garden.
On Friday shortly after one o'clock, the organiser Klaus Ranger asked for the opening with the guests of honour. The host of the „Blumengärten Hirschstetten“ (flower gardens), the director of the city garden Ing. Rainer Weisgram, as well as the local councillor Mag. Gerhard Spitzer and the head of the district Donaustadt Ernst Nevrivy welcomed the guests and wished the exhibitors much success.
The allotment garden family was represented by President Ing. Willhelm Wohatschek. In his welcoming speech he focused on the necessity to enable and promote alternative forms of energy also in the allotment garden in order to push the independence from gas.
Mayor Dr. Michael Ludwig welcomed the guests and thanked the organisers for the opportunity to host a fair in this form. By way of introduction he underlined the great importance of allotment gardens for the urban climate. He expressed his wish that the allotment gardeners would set an example for the preservation of biodiversity in the city. The mayor, himself an allotment gardener, then visited the exhibitors and showed great interest.
The almost 80 specialist exhibitors and about 20 stands with decorations and accessories covered a wide range of topics related to home and garden. Particularly in demand were the latest trends and innovations in energy and heating, as well as biological products in the field of plant protection and soil improvement.
The many advice stands were very popular. These included the stand of the Landesverband Wien (Vienna regional federation) and Zentralverband der Kleingärtner (central federation of allotment gardeners).
Our officials were happy to help with questions about allotment gardens. On our kiosk PC we were this time also able to give direct assistance with our services.
The specialist adviser eagerly answered questions about plant health and gave tips for more biodiversity in the garden.
Of course, the ladies of the Frauenfachgruppe Floridsdorf (women’s expert group) were not to be missed this year. Their homemade delicacies from their own garden were very happily tasted and bought for a good cause.
At over 20 degrees, the large outdoor area in front of the two glass houses was a special attraction. From a large selection of plants to garden furniture and pools, many things could be inspected and also purchased immediately.
Also in the outdoor area, 23 stations of the "Genussmeile" (Pleasure Mile) offered their products. Thus fortified, many took the opportunity to stroll through the lovingly designed theme gardens of the Hirschstetten flower gardens.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the EvOTION organising team for the successful days at the fair. We are already looking forward to the 20th allotment garden fair next year.
Further information and pictures can be found at:
The Federal Allotment Garden Law (BKleingG), as the foundation of the nationwide allotment garden movement, has laid down the uniform framework conditions for allotment gardens in Germany since it came into force on 1 April 1983.
The regulations for allotment gardening in Germany have now been in place for 40 years. In particular, the protection against dismissal ensures green cities in the sense of environmental justice. And social justice is reflected in the favourable conditions for leasing an allotment garden. The rent for an allotment garden is also moderate, based on the local rent for commercial fruit and vegetable cultivation. This makes allotment gardening a comparatively inexpensive hobby. In addition, the BKleingG guarantees that allotment gardeners receive permanent leases that cannot simply be terminated.
In addition to all these advantages for tenants, they are also required to observe a few rules when managing their allotment gardens. These rules are not the strictest and they are not difficult to observe. They include, among other things, the cultivation of fruit and vegetables, which is a must for the use of an allotment garden in the sense of allotment gardening. As a rule, you also have to keep to the maximum area of 24m² that can be built over and simple equipment for the arbour - because permanent living is not allowed here, as the focus is clearly on gardening.
The sum of the provisions of the BKleingG and the rules made locally in federations and associations fulfil their purposes and are ultimately to the benefit of all. About 13,500 non-profit allotment garden associations, 500 city, district, county and regional federations and 20 regional federations ensure that allotment garden sites are a permanent part of the public green space system. They give the allotment gardening community the good feeling of having found in their allotment gardens a safe place of permanent existence where people can feel free and fully enjoy and live out the benefits of one of the most popular hobbies nationwide. Thus, with a great deal of commitment and heart and soul, fruit and vegetables of all kinds are grown in hundreds of thousands of allotment gardens to provide for themselves. The protection of the BKleingG also makes it possible for the large allotment community to make a lasting contribution to climate resilience and biodiversity on more than 44,000 ha of land in the country, both in urban and rural areas. Ultimately, each individual contributes to the preservation and continuation of allotment gardens in our towns and cities despite increasing competition for land use. So use and enjoy the freedoms that the federal allotment garden law has offered you for over 40 years.
Sandra von Rekowski, BDG