On Saturday, September 22nd 2018, the time had come again: For the 21st time, the Allotment Award took place in the large ceremonial hall of the Viennese city hall. The theme "My allotment and the moon" again had an enormous amount of submissions, which made it difficult for the jury to choose the winners.
After the presenter, Alex Jokel, had welcomed the guests, the evening continued with an interview with city councillor for women and housing in Vienna, Kathrin Gaal. She talked about how the city is supporting gardening in Vienna. Afterwards there were talks with the president of the Austrian federation, Ing. Wilhelm Wohatschek, and the chairman of the Viennese association, Helmut Bayer. They talked about the very hot summer in the allotment garden and the role of the moon in their own allotment gardens.
Then the prizes were awarded to the different groups, whereby the prizes for the children, which were awarded for the third time this year, were very popular again. The buffet, which was excellent as usual, got great attention as well. Musical entertainment was provided by Martha Butbul, better known as "Jazz Gitti".
Next to the liqueur tasting organised by the women's groups, the extensive supporting programme in the lodges and the adjacent rooms included a photo corner for souvenir photos and the video lounge "allotment TV ". Around 10 p.m. it was time to leave and the guests went home with a little farewell gift, which consisted of a glass of strawberry jam, homemade by the women's groups of Simmering and Floridsdorf in Vienna.
Summer is over, nearly everything has been harvested. It won't be long before the last potatoes will rejoin the darkness in the shelter. And what will happen to the soil? If we haven't been/aren't careful, over time it has/will become bare. So we must act to protect it, to nourish the micro-organisms, to make up for the loss of nutrients taken from past growth, to avoid leaching and soil impacts from the upcoming bad weather. How can we do this over the course of harvests?
Several possible interventions:
• The waste from current plants after possible crushing, e.g. beetroot leaves, leeks, chicory (but not the bits of roots as they grow back)… anything that does not show any sign of disease. Add a few dead leaves or other shreds, exactly as you would for composting: this is called ground compost, which will form the soil for the following season.
• In the same pattern of thought, cover your soil with a mixed bed of turf and dry leaves shredded with a lawnmower, shreddings of different sizes, washed and desalinated seaweed if available…
• Plant "green manure": this name is given to a plant grown to not leave the soil bare or invaded by weeds. These species (rye, phacelia, clover, mustard…) will not be harvested but reintegrated into the soil's surface in spring, after shredding, in order to improve its structure and enrich its humus.
You can then plant vegetables greedy on organic material: courgettes, potatoes, tomatoes… Leave the vegetation in place over winter. Even if it is killed by the cold or continues to grow, it will form a protective barrier for the soil.
Bare soil becomes impoverished, other soil gets richer. Mushroom filaments that sheathe roots, called mycorrhizae, risk disappearing in winter, even though they multiply by 20-25 times the surface in contact with roots and allow certain elements to be better absorbed and reinforce plant defence systems. In nature, mature plants are strewn across the soil, leaves fall and protect it all, slowly decomposing and fertilizing it. It is nature's cycle that we reproduce.
What can be sown at the end of summer?
Green manure helps with crop rotation. You should avoid growing consecutively plants of the same botanical family: near radishes, no cabbage, or turnip, or rocket… not even mustard, or rapeseed as it is part of the same family, the Brassicas. Fabaceae (clover, vetch, pea, bean…) store nitrogen from the air in their roots and pass it onto vegetables grown after them. They therefore precede plants greedy of nitrogen. Phacelia, buckwheat, spinach, rye, oat are important as the vegetables in their family are unusual.
From the end of August to mid-September, choose from: crimson clover, lucerne, bean, rye, phacelia, mustard, oat, according to your garden plan:… for next year!
In 2015 we started our garden label in Belgium, after being inspired by our northern neighbours AVVN in the Netherlands. The city Torhout and the town Bornem were our 3rd and 4th projects that signed in. After 3 evaluations and a 2 year journey these two projects received in September their final judgement. Our external jury awarded both projects with 3 out of 4 stars. A good score for these two young projects.
Torhout 'de smallen entrée'
There is a good vibe on this park, sociable and cosy. Three gardeners guide the less experienced gardeners, the neighbourhood is involved and invited to activities. There is a good mixture in activities e.g.: BBQs, barter trade, workshops, small competitions,… The neighbours are encouraged to develop their own garden. There were still underdeveloped projects concerning the design of the park e.g.: a composting toilet was still absent, the green roofs on the large sheds and the demo-garden had to be further developed. For this reason the jury awarded the project with 3 stars.
In the two years a tremendous amount of work has been done. And the participants grew more and more interested in the project along the way. They attracted people with the right mindset to lead this project with the necessary dynamism. All start advices from the jury were addressed. It is still a 'work in progress' a continuation of the group meetings and schooling is necessary. The demo-garden is still getting shape, but they're heading in the right direction and the delivered efforts were rewarded with 3 stars.
The successful initiative of the Lower Austrian association called "Counting birds in the allotment garden" entered its second round in 2018 and has been well received in the Lower Austrian allotment garden associations. BirdLife Austria, an organisation for bird protection, again took a closer look at the results of the counting.
At the end of April, 19 allotment garden associations followed the call to count the birds in their allotment gardens. That's a great success, because in comparison to last year, the participating associations nearly doubled. "Birds are indispensable for allotment gardens", described chairman Franz Riederer the big success of the initiative.
The tree sparrow takes the lead
As in the previous year the tree sparrow, the blackbird and the Great Tit have been the most seen in the Lower Austrian allotment gardens. The Blue Tit, collared dove and the Western Greenfinch have also been diligently reported by the bird counters. "The findings fit perfectly into the picture of Austrian gardens – these very common garden birds could be found in the allotment gardens too" according to Benjamin Seaman, bird watcher from BirdLife.
Green living room for garden birds
The birds especially fly to the allotment gardens of the associations Traiskirchen, St. Pölten-ASGV-Stattersdorf and St. Pölten-Kollerberg", because there the highest biodiversity was observed. In Traiskirchen you even find 20 different bird species! A special "eye candy" were the five goldfinches there – with their colourful feathers they are always an absolute eye-catcher. These flashy birds are also called "thistle finch" because of their food preference for thistles. They feel especially comfortable in gardens that have many wild herbs and shrubs. But generally speaking, birds are always an indicator for an intact environment. "The more bird species are observed in the allotment garden, the more valuable it is for the fauna", BirdLife says.
Bird's paradise in the allotment garden
With a few measures one can aim to attract birds to one's allotment garden and enjoy them the whole year around. Our animal "subtenants" fly to natural, diverse gardens with many native shrubs, hedges and fruit trees. Also, nesting boxes can be attached and in winter a bird feeding station can be put up. That way the bird watching from your own garden door is possible all year long.
Apart from the pepo species with its zucchini, pumpkins, patisson, patidous and the amusing spaghetti squash, there are still two other species that contain treasures: the species maxima and the species moschata. They are even considered to be the the best squashes.
The species maxima
This is the best of all. It is the floret of squash maxima and there are many varieties. The maxima are easy to cultivate in the moderate climate of the Centre and North of France. You can easily distinguish them from their cousins, the moschata species thanks to their leaves that are little lobed, almost round and especially thanks to their peduncle, big, round and thick and covered with fibrillations that give them a spongy appearance. These squashes exist in all sizes in all shapes and with varied colours.
Some of the most famous varieties:
The bright red pumpkin of Etampes
It is undoubtedly the best known due to the anteriority of its cultivation in the garden. In the last century and until the 60s or 70s, it was very often cultivated. It is true, that it is a magnificent squash, with its brilliant brick red colour and of good size. However, we nowadays know that its taste doesn't match its appearance. Very largely supplanted by other varieties that appeared about thirty years ago, its soft flesh is not very tasty and is generally used in soup with milk or cream.
The blue pumpkin from Hungary
As its name suggests this pumpkin comes from the East. It is one of the favourites of squash lovers. Round in shape, a little ribbed, it is light in colour with a nice blue-green and its flesh is thick, firm and orange. Its size is not excessive which is of a great advantage when you do not have a large family. It weighs about 3 kilos on average. It is not too demanding to cultivate, provided it is fed correctly at the beginning and with a scanty but regular watering. It is not often present on market stalls, where you find more well-known varieties. However, its seeds are not hard to find.
The black squash of Eysines
This one does not go unnoticed! Not by its size, but by its brownish skin covered with corky warts. These warts are very variable in number: sometimes scattered, sometimes covering the whole squash. When you see it, you can wonder if it is really edible. Go straight for it: it is delicious with a special taste, close to the nut, which makes excellent gratins and soups. If you have some left, keep it as a decoration: it will intrigue many of your visitors.
We do not need to present it anymore. It is part of these squashes that appeared twenty years ago and it quickly imposed itself by its taste between nut and like hazelnut, its reasonable size, its flesh being well suited to many preparations like for example: puree, gratin, soufflé, soup etc. Some people also eat it raw and grated. It only has one downside you have to be well equipped to cut its very hard bark. Of Japanese origin, there are many sub-varieties: Uchuki Kuri, Red Kuri (the best) French pumpkin, bigger and pear shaped, Blue Kuri etc. It is an important source of vitamins and trace elements, which can be enjoyed in the heart of winter.
Marina di Chioggia
Of dark green colour and blistered with large warts, this is a squash that doesn't look great. It requires space, at least 2 sqm, and can reach a respectable size: 5 to 6 kg. However, when it is found in a kitchen garden, it certainly indicates the presence of a gardener, expert in squashes. For it is without any doubt the best of the maxima species. Not particularly demanding neither on the field conditions nor on the climate conditions, it requires the manure of a mature compost to help it reach maturity in October. You can try to curb its expansion by cutting it, but then you will have larger squashes. It has a dark orange flesh, thick and sweet, and can be kept without any problem in a temperate room until February – March. If you have a very large specimen, you can cut the flesh into cubes and freeze it for later use.