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Exchange of experiences with experts from the SPD-state parliamentary group, NRW, in the school of the regional allotment gardeners

• Presentation of the research project “FEW-Meter”

• Healthy nutrition from allotment gardens

Werner Heidemann, director of the regional federation from Westphalia and Lippe

What is it about? Within the framework of the research project "FEW-Meter" (Food, Energy, Water), studies are being conducted in Germany and France, Great Britain, Poland and the USA, which are assessing the efficiency of "urban agriculture".

This is what the members of the state parliament Annette Watermann-Krass, Inge Blask and André Stinka, are interested in. As members of the Technical Committee for the environment, agriculture, nature and consumer protection – they want to address the subject areas of "healthy nutrition, fair and regional cultivation" in the future. The experts met for a first kick-off meeting in the school of the regional allotment gardeners on August 7th 2020.

Urban farming is a generic term for the food production in urban areas. Worldwide, the small-scale cultivation of fruit and vegetables in the cities is increasing. Urban agriculture takes many different forms: These include community gardens in New York City and London, , but also roof farms, aquaculture, kitchen gardens and therapy gardens are conquering the cities. Allotment gardens have always been places of self-sufficiency, which have been experiencing a renaissance at the turn of the millennium. Allotment gardens belong to the social and ecological network of a city, they are in many ways part of the “good climate” in the urban district and places of nature experience. It is clear that allotment gardens are also part of urban agriculture.

Project coordinator Runrid Fox-Kämper, Institute for Regional and Urban Development Research (ILS), presented the overall project.

How efficient and sustainable is urban farming?
How much is harvested over the year?
How much water and energy is used?
Questions upon questions, to which the researchers want to find reliable answers.

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

In cooperation with the research partner ILS (Institute for Regional and Urban Development Research) and the regional association, allotment gardeners from Bochum, Dortmund, Münster and Lünen will record their harvested products in 2019 and 2020 and document their horticultural and ecological activities. They are supported and advised on site by our gardening expert and assistent at our regional school in Münster, Stephan Grote.

Under the leadership of Wilhelm Spieß, chairman of the regional federation, a constructive exchange of views with the members of parliament, the scientific assistant of the parliamentary group, Leonard Wessel, the project manager Runrid Fox-Kämper and the project experts Stephan Grote and Werner Heidemann followed. We would like to see more politicians and decision-makers support "healthy nutrition, fairer trade, regional cultivation, self-sufficiency and allotment gardens". That was an encouraging kick-off.

More information on the project:

Allotments to the Fore

In the UK this awful pandemic has brought the benefits of allotment gardening to the fore with a huge increase in demand for allotments (500% increase in one city).
People have seen first-hand the multitude of benefits that can be had from an allotment plot even when isolated or on lockdown.
It has been the ideal safe-haven offering all the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, fresh vegetables and more importantly communication with our fellow plot-holders for our mental wellbeing (albeit at a safe distance and abiding by contact precautions).
It is no wonder people are clamouring for an allotment plot.

And People realise allotment benefits throughout Europe also and there is an enormous increase of demands.

Some examples:

Throughout Germany the demands have at least doubled; in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich... the demands have been quadrupled

In Oslo the waiting list for allotment gardens increased from 4000 -6000 persons just after our lockdown.

Throughout France an increase of demands has been noticed. Explosion of demands in Colmar (F): nearly 200 people downloaded the form to apply for a plot.

Quick increase of the demands for allotments and report in the media in Switzerland and Sweden

Here in Leeds my site in NW Leeds has had a 600% increase in demand for a plot.

A spokes person from the Council has stated that the waiting lists are still lower than they were in 2010. In 2010 the waiting lists were astronomical? It would be interesting to see figures.

Now all we have to do is enlighten our politicians and planners who have seemed blinkered to the community benefits of allotments.

In an attempt to enlighten our politicians and planners I am running a FB campaign, picking up statements made by our Prime Minister ‘BUILD BUILD BUILD’ and turning it into ‘SAVE SAVE SAVE our allotments and ‘Waging war on Obesity’ and using these statements to show how allotments and allotment gardening can help to achieve many healthy aims and be of real benefit to the our communities.

The FB campaign so far.

Prime Minister says ‘Build Build Build’
I say ‘Save Save Save’ our Allotments.
One of the few safe havens during this pandemic.

Prime Minister to wage 'War against Obesity'
Perhaps our healthy allotments will get more protection

Allotments have saved the sanity of many during this pandemic.
There is nothing better than allotments for your Health & Wellbeing.

Give added protection to our allotments, register as an 'Asset of Community Value' now.
For further info

Allotments have been a real blessing to 1000's during this pandemic, giving exercise, fresh air, fresh veg and comradery (albeit at a safe distance) which is good for the state of one's mind.
Now 1000's more have seen the multitude of benefit's to be derived from an allotment and are queuing up for a place.
See how to go about getting a plot

Prime Minister says General Practitioners should prescribe cycling to beat obesity. Cycling is good but he didn't mention the one thing that really would improve the nations health and wellbeing 'Growing Your Own' and Allotment Gardening?

Phil Gomersall, Präsident des Englischen Kleingärtnerverbandes, Vereinigtes Königreich

Diplomas 2020 - part 2

More diplomas were awarded.

Have a look at the realisations in Finland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.


The allotment associaition “Kupittaan ryhmäpuutarhayhdistys”, in Turku (FI) received the diploma for social activities

This allotment site with a unique vegetation, a built heritage of several decades and a particularly active community is, despite all this, threatened to disappear.

Cooperation partnership in the ’Multaa ja mukuloita’ –project

The Kupittaa Allotment Garden Association is the cooperation partner in the project ‘Multaa ja mukuloita’. The Finnish name of the project has a dual meaning: ‘multaa’ = soil and ‘mukuloita’ = both tubers and kids (‘ja’ = and). The project started in June 2019 and continues until summer 2021. The owner of the project is the association Sateenkaari Koto ry. and it has been funded by the Finnish National Agency for Education.

The project has created a scientific, mathematical and technological learning environment in the Kupittaa allotment garden. Within the project the principles of child-oriented phenomenon learning are used to inspire the children (aged 1-6 years) to explore the life of the urban nature. The activity promotes broad-based learning as part of the children's overall well-being. The aim is to support the principles of a sustainable lifestyle by strengthening the relationship between nature, circular economy, knowledge and appreciation of nature and the origins of food. The project creates meaningful new local networks to share cultural knowledge, promote children's social skills, exchange diverse knowledge and prevent exclusion of older people and immigrants.

Kupittaan Ryhmäpuutarhayhdistys ry.

Kupittaa allotment garden is the oldest in Turku – founded in 1934. The allotment garden was set up for the recreation and well-being of the city's working population and for the security of food supply for families. Although the primary function of the plots is no longer to feed the gardeners, there are still about 300 apple trees that were planted in the area in the early days. In addition, on the plots there grow a large number of old ornamental and useful plants, the value of which is immeasurable from the point of view of plant genetics.

Sateenkaari Koto ry.

Sateenkaari Koto ry. is a non-profit association. The association owns the company Sateenkaari Koto Oy, which provides early childhood education and home care for families with children. In addition, the association's activities also include Educational Homes supporting social integration.

Background of the project

The cooperation between Kupittaa allotment garden and the association Sateenkaari Koto ry. began with apples. The children picked up surplus apples in the garden and baked pies.

That aroused a mutual enthusiasm for the opportunities offered by the allotment garden for children.


During the summer of 2019, children from six different Sateenkaari Koto’s kindergartens frequently visited Kupittaa allotment garden. Every day one kindergarten group spent a full day in the garden – eating outside and relaxing in the hanging swings under the apple trees. The children diligently took care of the plot assigned to them.

The life in the garden is monitored throughout the project throughout the year. During the first summer the children worked diligently on their own rented garden plot. They studied garden phenomena and organisms, played and brainstormed their own research projects creatively using the allotment garden.

The cooperation between Sateenkari Koto and the Kupittaa Alloment Garden Association creates new innovative interactions between generations. Daily encounters between the children and gardeners, working together and learning, and joint events create meaningful moments for both parties.



The section “Amis de la Fleur Belvaux” (L) received the diploma for innovative projects

This association has created a community garden called “Matgesfeld” in Belvaux

• a unique concept of sustainable gardening and horticulture,
• dry toilets,
• a garden patch with a robot,
• 6 gardening plots for school children,
• an aviary and
• an apiary


Since the 2017 gardening season, the „Amis de la fleur Belvaux“ have been able to make garden plots available to their members following a new concept for Luxembourg.

In opposition to traditional allotment gardens, the 28 square garden plots (7x7 metres) are only used for cultivation. For the common use and relaxation, you find a surrounding green space with a picnic bench, a sunbathing bench, a barbecue area and, new for this garden season, a greenhouse with automatic irrigation. The background of this concept is that all elements in the garden fulfil a functional and ecological purpose. Thus, the two tool sheds have extensively green roof areas.

Solar cells on both roofs supply electricity for the lighting in the shed. The barrier-free public dry toilet also fulfils its ecological functioning by saving water.

Another innovative element is the garden robot. Here, the focus is less on bed preparation, than on programming. If everything is set, the robot can sow, water, pick weeds and loosen the soil independently. The aim is to demonstrate on a small scale that horticulture can be innovative and “high-tech”.

As 6 plots are reserved for school structures, the garden also takes on an educational role.

The multi-nationality of the tenants additionally makes the garden an intercultural place. From young families, singles, elderly single people to circles of friends; all household forms and age structures are present.



“De Doordouwers” in Utrecht (NL) received the diploma for ecological gardening

Natural gardening

The allotment association De Doordouwers (the Sustainers) started on the site of the current garden park in 2006. In 2013, a group of members enthusiastically started with the project Quality Mark Natural Gardening. In 2015 the association was awarded with a Quality Mark Shield which contained a ladybug (symbol of natural gardening) with 3 dots. In 2019 the fourth dot (highest possible) was added.

Various facilities for nature development have been realised at the garden park. For animals, for example: dry stone walls, branch fencing, heaps for grass snakes, bird groves, apiaries, insect hotels, hedgehog houses, a kingfisher wall, all kinds of bird nest boxes, like a wood owl box. For plants, for example: amongst others flower meadows, constructed riparian zones, and a flower bulb field.

Since a few years the association has been managing the paths and ditches in an ecological way.

Organisation and Communication

In addition to a Facebook group, the association also has a newsletter. In this, attention is given to, for example, information about composting, reuse of material and alternatives to pesticides. Photographs are also published of the gardens of members with special flora and fauna. A topic about natural gardening is regularly discussed at member meetings.

Various activities have been organised for members, from a nature treasure hunt for children to building hedgehog houses, from a tour at the beekeeper to pruning fruit trees.

Gardeners getting started

The association has 115 members. Among other things, members are involved in the Natural Gardening Project by letting them help with the construction and management of natural facilities. Information is also given at that time. In the Facebook group photos, experiences and tips are exchanged. Pesticides are not used. A few dozen gardeners also make room for nature in their own garden. The individual gardens are reviewed annually and, if necessary, members receive tips or an explanation about maintenance or planting.

Project garden for women

There is one garden in use to give (single, non-Western) women who live in the neighbourhood the opportunity to gardening. Under the guidance of members, they can learn here how to work in a vegetable garden in the Netherlands. This assistance takes 2 years. If all goes well the women can get their own garden if they like. This participation project creates more contacts between other cultures within the association. It also has the advantage that the children of the women in question also spend more time outside, by helping in the garden.



Tuinpark Onderlingen (OTV) in Leiden (NL) received the diploma for ecological gardening.

The natural garden park

In November 2019, the allotment association OTV in Leiden was awarded the National Quality Mark for Natural Gardening. The ladybug (symbol of natural gardening) on the Quality Mark Shield received 4 dots. This is the highest possible. In the garden park of OTV there are many natural elements in the common green space. At the entrance there is an insect hotel made of wicker and there are frames used to dry the cut grass. Then one walks past the picking garden where flowers and vegetables are grown, which can be purchased by members and non-members. Last year, part of the income from the vegetables was donated to the food bank. The bird grove is located next to the picking garden. There are native trees and shrubs with food and shelter for birds.

In the garden at the clubhouse there are, among other things, a Zeeland (natural) hedge and beehives. A number of hedgehog houses can be found. There is also a garden with plants that are attractive for bees and butterflies, a pond and a large insect hotel that was built during a workshop with volunteers.

A garden with lots of shade plants and stinzen plants was created and a dry stone wall was built. There are so called “bee camp sites”, hedgehog houses, piles of wood and branches, roof tiles around the pond, different nest boxes and space for different animals.

Organisation, communication

The natural gardening committee deals with the redesign and maintenance of common green spaces and provides information about natural gardening to the gardeners by organising activities and writing articles for the newsletter. The committee organises several workshops and other activities throughout the year to provide gardeners with information about natural gardening.

Members are kept informed of the progress of all the projects via a newsletter and the website. In addition, the park shop committee regularly issues its own flyers in which natural gardening is promoted. The garden shop sells and promotes things such as organic cultivation and garden soil, as well as special and mostly native plants and shrubs.


The technical committee helps with the preparation and/or making of various architectural artworks with added value for insects and other animals. A “walking garden tour” was held to ensure that the members inspire each other.


A detailed description will follow in the next Hyphens.

Diplomas 2020 - part 1

In 2020 the International Office awarded again diplomas for associations active in the ecological or social area or having undertaken innovative activities.

During its statutory meeting in Luxembourg in March, it was decided to respond positively to the requests for five ecological diplomas, three innovative diplomas and one social diploma.
These diplomas should have been remitted during the study session in Helsinki, which had, however, to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Now the diplomas will be remitted on national level at an appropriate occasion. You find below a first short description of the Swedish projects. A more detailed information will follow in the next Hyphens.


The allotment association Falan in Falun received the diploma for ecological gardening

The programme started about 20 years ago and so far only 5 associations have managed to reach gold level.

Falan was awarded gold in the Swedish Allotment Federation’s environmental programme in May 2018. Some examples of what they do and have created
• They practise ecological gardening. In their newsletter they inform their members continually about sustainable and environmentally smart ways to garden and how to promote biodiversity.
• They cooperate with other non-profit organisations.
• A meadow that they cut by scythe on the association’s common land.
• Hotels for insects and beehives.
• Water for irrigation is collected from a nearby pond and members are only allowed to water their gardens in the mornings and evenings to minimise the waste of water.


The allotment association Linnea in Stockholm received the diploma for ecological gardening

The Swedish Allotment Federation’s environment diploma programme started about 20 years ago and so far only 5 associations have managed to reach gold level.

The allotment association Linnea have been working for many years with many different activities/actions to finally reach gold level in 2019.

As well as gardening in an ecological way, Linnea has for many years put a lot of effort and work into increasing the biodiversity on their land:
• They so have created a bee group.
• A meadow was recently created on their common land.
• The association made an inventory of ”historical” plants.
• They have arranged workshops for members to build various types of homes for insects.
• A bee-friendly border has been planted.

In spring the association makes an organised purchase of manure, soil, sand and gravel for the association and its members.


Långholmen Allotment Association in Stockholm received the Office diploma for ecological gardening

The Swedish Allotment Federation’s environment diploma programme started about 20 years ago.

Långholmen’s Allotment Association was awarded gold in the Swedish Allotment Federation’s environmental programme in May 2017. Among the things they have done you find:
• A border for growing and keeping ”historical” plants
• Several beehives and birdhouses
• Seawater is used for all irrigation
• All members have their own composts. Education about composting is available to all members. They also have a common latrine compost.
• Coarser materials, like branches and sticks, are shredded on site.
• The association makes a yearly organised purchase of manure and soil.


The association Älvtomta allotment association in Örebro received the Office diploma for innovative projects

Älvtomta has always worked to keep the original houses, plants, values etc, but has also kept an eye towards the future and all its challenges, such as the environment, accessibility etc.

Between 2006 and 2013 they made the association accessible for the elderly and people in wheelchairs. The first thing they did was to dig out and remove all the loose, coarse gravel on all the paths, and replacing it with rock flour. When this was done, they built ramps making club house, dance-floor and all areas within the association accessible to all. Finally, they built a new service building with a toilet and a shower adapted to accommodate wheelchairs. As an extra plus they prepared the new service building so they can switch to using solar panels for energy in the future.

In 1917, when the Älvtomta allotment association was created, the city of Örebro donated an apple tree, a cherry tree and a pear tree to each plot. In 2011 a group started to make an inventory of the trees that still remained of these original trees. The main goal was to keep the trees and to make sure none of these trees were removed without informing the board.

Finally, with their centennial birthday coming up in 2017, they turned the old, no longer used service building into an allotment museum.


The association Orten odlar in Stockholm received the diploma for innovative projects

These allotment gardeners focus on the importance of allotments
• as meeting places and places for social exchange
• as a place for relaxation
• as a source of inspiration for gardeners
• as a place for biodiversity
• as an added value for society

and put forward following requests:
• Creation of more allotment areas
• Protection of the existing allotment areas (by law)
• Financial support from cities for allotment areas.

The project resulted from a collaboration between the network Pepper & Pumpkin, the art hall in Tensta, the Studiefrämjandet (organisation for adult education) and 12 allotment associations in Järva.

Some of their activities:
• A seed exchange in spring
• Participation in the political week in Järva (a big event where all political parties and their leaders participate)
• A garden festival located in the centre of Järva, open allotment areas, market and stage with short lectures etc.

During the festival day, the visitors could listen to short lectures about soil, compost and could also get advice from experts in organic gardening. The whole day shuttle buses took the festival visitors to three allotment associations in Järva.

They had the opportunity to meet Zita, our master gardener, who every week reports how much she has harvested on her allotment having a size of 100 square metres.

The result of her project: From April 1st – November 24th 2019 she harvested 870 kilo vegetables on her organic plot (100 square metres). It shows the potential of an allotment. It must be the most productive kitchen garden in Sweden.


A detailed description will follow in the next Hyphens.

The four other projects from Finland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands will be presented later.


The Swedish Federation started a tree-planting-campaign in March, to highlighten the contribution that allotments make to biodiversity. As allotments often are in urban areas this contribution is very important. The campaign is also part of our 100 year anniversary in 2021. The goal is to plant more than 1000 trees and shrubs/bushes before the end of August 2021.

One purpose of the campaign is to get allotment holders to see the value of trees (and shrubs). Research has shown that planting a tree is the best you can to to increase biodiversity in your garden.

But another important purpose is showing politicians and city planners how allotments contribute to biodiversity and the global goals of Agenda 2030. A way to convince them of how wonderful and important alloment areas are.  This is done not only by planting new trees, but showing them all the trees and shrubs that are already there.

A 100 years ago when many allotment areas were created in Sweden, several cities donated apple trees to the associations. Some of these trees are still there, but now we plant for the next 100 years.

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