Example Switzerland: Plant Health Network Switzerland
On 18th February 2021 the founding event of the “Plant Health Network Switzerland” took place; this in accordance with the prevailing circumstances as video-conference.
It had already become apparent during last year’s cooperation between authorities and federations for the “International Year of Plant Health 2020” that the work had to continue.
Luckily, all the previous main partners of the Federal Plant Protection Service are also involved in the “Network” including of course the Swiss allotment federation SFGV/FSJF.
Other institutions and federations will certainly join soon. The cantonal experts from Ticino will play here a special role, as this continues to be the main gateway for pests.
Due to the nationwide spreading of our garden areas, our plant diversity and the intensive cultivation of grounds with fruit, berries and vegetables, we have a special responsibility to support the authorities and scientific bodies in the identification, reduction and control of pests.
President of the Swiss allotment federation
...to become a master! Therefore: Nobody is too young to love gardens! Take your children and grandchildren with you into the garden and introduce them to the secrets of nature.
Text: Christina Bösiger (Gartenfreund/Jardin familial 03/2020 Switzerland)
Exactly 180 years ago the first “Kindergarten” (children’s garden) opened its doors in 1840. The name already underlined the programme of the “Kindergarten” inventor Friedrich Fröbel, because the garden and nature seemed to him to be the most important environment to do justice to the importance of early childhood education. Thus, he believed that young people should spend a large part of their free time in nature and in the garden in order to develop ideally. And this is still true today: Children should play in green areas instead of looking at screens! They should move, climb and be active. They should discover and explore nature that the little ones do not only learn about life cycles, but also discover how and where healthy food grows. By tending and caring for plants, they learn to take on responsibility, to make decisions and to understand the ecological relationships.
Immersion into the realm of the senses!
Digging, playing in the mud, shaping, smelling and tasting – sensual discovering is easy in the garden. While the parents poke the soil, the offspring can feel with their feet what is inside it. They run over freshly germinated lawn, hop over hard clods of earth and dig in the soil with their bare fingers. That feels good! Not only for the development of their personality, but also because they are in motion and in the fresh air. Give your children their own plot or a corner with large pots from the very beginning, where they can sow, plant, cut and later also nibble to their heart’s content. The amount of work involved in preparing the ground depends, among other factors, on where you place the children’s plot. If a small corner in the vegetable garden is left free for this purpose, then the soil is usually optimally prepared. If, however, the plot is to be laid out where lawn used to grow, the grass must be cut off and the soil loosened up in depth. The easiest way to do this is to buy ready-to-use garden soil from a specialist retailer without peat – of course –and then you can sow or plant. Get inspired together and go shopping for seeds, flower bulbs, tuber or seedlings. Special seed bands make sowing a child’s play. Tip: For planting and digging, weeding and watering, the little ones naturally want gardening tools that look just like the big ones. There are plenty of true-to-original mini spades, rakes and watering cans suitable for children and – very important – small garden gloves.
Sweet scents galore
A garden bed that smells as sweet as a candy bag – every child would like to stick its nose into it. It is hard to believe, which sugar-free smells, nature has to offer with which a beguiling child bed can be laid out. Also Rosa Wolf has described some of them in her book “Kinder im Garten, mehr Garten leben” published by BLV Buchverlag:
Lemon balm (melissa officinalis)
When you rub your hands over the leaves, you immediately breathe the intense lemon scent. The plant, which comes from southern Europe is completely undemanding and grows to 80 cm high. However, it should be cut back immediately after flowering, otherwise it will conquer the whole garden with its seedlings. Did you know? Lemon balm put on the heart is said to help with heart sickness.
Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanuineus)
From the dark, burgundy red blossoms a delicious bittersweet fragrance flows. In a sunny place it blooms from June to the end of October. It grows to a height of 60 cm. Like the dahlias, its tubers are placed every year after the ice saints in pots or in a bed and are taken out again to store them frost-free before the frosts in autumn.
Chewing gum plant (Chrysanthemum balsamita)
Its leaf smells as fresh as Original Wrighley’s Spearmint. In sunny corners the 60 cm high perennial plant grows without any problems. From August it opens small yellow flowers. When dried, the leaves are nice smelling bookmarks. Already in the Middle Ages the fresh fragrance was appreciated for hymn books. It is therefore also called Mary’s leaves.
Mint (mentha species)
Depending on the variety, the leaves smell of bananas or oranges, chewing gum or After-Eight chocolate.
Gummy bear flower (Cephalophora aromatica)
The little summer flower smells as sweet as gummy bears in all its parts. You sow it in April. It grows to a height of 50 cm. Indians use it to dye wool yellow.
Edible fruit harvested in the garden in the middle of winter? This is what you do with the medlar, a fruit that was widespread centuries ago but which is almost unknown today. You can rediscover it in your garden.
I'd never heard of the medlar until the municipality planted this small tree in the park opposite to my house. At planting in March, the young tree was only about three meters high and was still bare, but had a protruding, highly branched crown. In spring, the tree put out relatively large, dark green leaves, which had a lighter, hairy, felt-like underside. From May to June, large white flowers proliferated on the Medlar that attracted many insects to a feast of pollen and nectar. A small, apple-like, green-yellow fruit with recognizable sepals at the top sprouted from the flowers over the course of summer. In autumn, an enchanting orange-yellow to red-brown colouring transformed the leaves of the tree. The furry brown fruit was very hard and I did not believe it was edible. Apparently, it got softer due to the effects of frost, because I saw blackbirds and Turkish pigeons pecking at it more frequently in winter. My observations initially led me to think of exotic species, but a friend in my local nursery explained to me that this tree was a medlar Mespilus germanica, which produced a very popular fruit in former times.
A popular fruit tree a hundred years ago
I could tell from the five-petal flowers of the common or real medlar that, like apple and pear, it belongs to the extensive rose family (Rosaceae). It probably originates in the region extending from the Near East to Southern Europe. Like many other fruit trees, it was brought over the Alps by the Romans and quickly achieved wide popularity. The Emperor Charlemagne ordered the cultivation of the medlar on his country estates via the Capitulare de villis. The fruit was very popular in medieval monastery and farmer gardens, because the fruit's high tannin content softened the cloudiness of wine, apple cider and perry and improved their shelf life. To process for jam or stewed fruit, however, medlar fruit has to go through a few frosty nights before it turns into soft, aromatic fruit. When fully ripe, the fruit has a very limited shelf life and quickly loses its valuable constituent substances.
Medlars in the garden
In spring, when there are no longer heavy night frosts, medlar fruit trees can be planted in a sunny location in normal garden soil. The medlar is self-pollinating, very robust and requires little care. Occasional pruning of dead wood is sufficient. Its fruit may be harvested as soon as a few frosty nights have completely coloured the fruity pulp brown. You can eat the fruit raw or convert it into stewed fruit or jam. The fruit has very high vitamin C content.
Varieties of medlar suitable to gardens
There are many different types of medlar that go well in gardens. Follows a small selection:
Large fruited, highly productive, English variety. The small tree bears large, spherical fruit, 4 cm in diameter with a sweet and sour aroma.
Highly productive, old, Dutch variety with large fruit 5 cm in diameter. Robust growing variety with laurel-like leaves.
Discovered in Germany in the sixties, with medium-sized fruit low in tannin content, but featuring a strong dose of fructose.
Delice de Vannes Medlar
This is grown in the Vannes botanical garden in France. It bears regular and abundant round, medium-sized fruit with an excellent taste.
This variety is very rare and has small, seedless fruit that is considered the most flavourful. The yield is lower than that of other varieties, but processing is easier due to the lack of seeds.
Evreinoff's Monstrous Medlar
The botanist V. A. Evreinoff discovered the mother tree in France in 1941. The medlar is a very luxuriant plant that can reach 3 to 4 meters in height. Since it is only mildly self-fertile, it needs a second variety in the near vicinity. It has the largest diameter fruit, attaining 7 to 8 cm, pink to brownish pulp and a slightly flattened fruit shape. The taste of the fruit is very pleasant.
Gartenfreund, Official magazine of the Swiss allotment federation 01/2020