You certainly read the article "trade mark: fruit and vegetables: why an allotment relieves the family budget". Allotments, however, offer much more. A journey through the colourful world of allotments proves this without any doubt.
20 allotment garden associations, 15 federal states, 12 days, 7 jury members, one bus: The jury trip for the federal competition gardens in urban development 2018 is done. The next step is: the evaluation – and distribution of medals and price money. How important the inspection is for the competition, was also again clearly proved in 2018. As the colourful gardens can only show and impress the visitors on site by the exemplary commitment of the gardeners and the special interaction between gardens and local communities.
Allotments are quality of life
Gardening is stuffy? Are you kidding? You find people gardening all over Germany, across generational and cultural boundaries. Especially for town dwellers allotments are an oasis that offers recreation, contacts with nature and nature experiences. The great value of the small gardens is fortunately recognized by many municipalities and so they promote them as part of the green infrastructure.
The garden is buzzing
Perfectly trimmed and sterile allotments have alreary been a cliché for a long time. Instead, it is humming and buzzing everywhere. Thus, bees are kept in 19 of the 20 associations visited. This helps the gardeners to a better harvest and provides the people with rich fruit all season long. With the variety of pollen and nectar donators in the allotment, the typical agricultural land can no more compete. It is a win-win situation for gardeners and bees, because there is honey for both.
Nature instead of an enormous use of chemicals
The younger gardeners have learned again that gardens are part of nature. The times of determined wars against cabbage white, Colorado beetles and co. are over. Instead the gardeners rely on a peaceful coexistence. Herbicides, antifungal agents and chemical synthetic means against pests are no longer used. Gardeners prefer a season without apples or cabbage – next year the harvest will be better.
New gardeners –new values
However, the new gardening has little to do with "Laisez-Faire". In the gardens the simple life is sought – and humility rediscovered. Respect towards nature and patience are the most important skills. For all the other questions gardening advisers help the newcomers on site. Even if the gardeners look for recreation in the garden, the new generations do no more shut themselves off, but on the contrary the new generation comes with a lot of will to self-organisation and responsibility and so adapts easily to the associative life. Thus, the allotment garden is slowly handed over to a new generation – and its survival is so secured.
Thomas Wagner, scientific staff member of the BDG
Already 200 years ago allotments fulfilled the dream, even of those less privileged, to get their own piece of green: often modest, but always of an inestimable value. Since its creation the allotment is characterized above all by the cultivation of fruit and vegetables; rest and stay in the fresh air were always inclusive.
Whereas in the past maximum yields were the goal of the allotment gardeners, today the focus is on the quality of the food produced. Home grown fruit and vegetables have the aura of something special in our consumer and scandal society, because those who really want to harvest healthy food have to work ecologically and sustainably. For modern young city dwellers the allotment has meanwhile become an element of urban lifestyle. For low income households, it makes organic quality food affordable. Therefore a well managed allotment still in the 21st century contributes to the self-sufficiency of food and continues to comply with its definition: it serves the cultivation of fruit and vegetables for the allotment gardener's own use. As allotments are almost exclusively cultivated in an organic way, cultivation inevitably leads to seasonal and regional enjoyment of products home grown and supports sustainable consumption. Cleverly planed, it relieves every household budget in a noticeable way.
The BDG working group on specialist gardening advice took stock for the first time in a concept study. The harvest of fruit, vegetables and herbs was examined on a 321 square meters large organically managed allotment plot in Leverkusen. The virtual financial return was more than 1,120 Euro. After deduction of the management expenses, the allotment garden achieved a result of 710 Euro. For a family on a tight budget, this amount can make a big difference while finding out how much social participation is possible.
In this calculation the recreational use remained explicitly unconsidered, because the recreational use is considered by the German allotment garden law as part of the gardening use. A financial assessment of this recreational use would significantly increase the yield of an allotment.
The positive contribution of an allotment to the household budget is even clearer when you consider celebrations, which could often not be organised by a family in his small apartment: just by organising a single enrolment party with about 20 guests in an allotment you easily save a few hundred Euro compared to this organisation in a restaurant or coffee house. Even without food and drinks the recreation in the green is not free of costs: In Berlin the annual ticket of the State owned "Grün Berlin GmbH" for a family with three children costs 105 Euro. This is the only way to gain access to all well kept gardens and parks in Berlin. In the allotment association, however, everything is inclusive: parties and events, good advice from the associative specialist gardening adviser and above all the stay in the green. Allotments offer recreation in a green area to all citizens and at the same time make a positive contribution to the family budget. More data and information under:
Thomas Wagner, scientific member of the German allotment garden federation
PS The positive contribution of an allotment to the family budget was already acknowledged at the occasion of the congress of the International Office du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux in Brussels in 1999 on basis of a comparison made and confirmed by several analyses in other countries. The recent analysis by the BDG confirms these data once more.
In Germany the towns are getting bigger and bigger. The allotment gardens are a means so that we do not need to live in deserts of concrete, but that the green areas can still increase. “The person, who wishes that our towns, with an increasing population, remain nice to live in, cannot omit allotments” explains Peter Paschke, president of the German allotment federation (BDG) the central federation of the German allotment gardeners. Allotments are still part of all our towns and communes in Germany, but this is changing in rural areas. In the larger towns, however, their development is steadily increasing. In fact they do not only save money, but they also bring people together, stimulate a healthy diet and offer recreation from the stressful daily life. They even have an additional value because they constitute compensation grounds for the urban climate, are a place to breath for the citizens, biotopes of biodiversity and a centre of knowledge for gardening aptitudes. Allotment gardeners have always spread their knowledge further than the boarders of their sites – and that is a fact the day of the garden wants to make people aware of.
Many of the nearly 15,000 allotment associations, which exist throughout Germany, encourage everyone to have a look at these green oases on this day and to discover the nature in town. Nature in town? Yes, of course. Nature friendly gardening has been a priority of the allotment gardeners for a long time. Instead of trying to get the greatest possible harvest, the gardeners want to get quality: Many associations renounce on a voluntary basis to use pesticides, cultivate old species and kinds of plants and so contribute to safeguarding biodiversity. Well trained gardening advisers in the associations help the garden newcomers to learn everything that is worth to be known about a nature friendly gardening. The central federation works hard to reach that the allotment gardens, especially in towns, are considered as an essential part of the green infrastructure – and are not considered as potential building grounds. Because extending towns where nothing is allowed to grow anymore, will not for a long time remain towns that are worth to be lived in.
That’s why we always celebrate the day of the garden on the second Sunday in June. This day should make people become aware of the importance of the allotments for the well-being of people and nature in urban and in rural areas.
With the celebration of this day of the garden, the allotment gardeners want to sensitise the population for the joy of urban gardening and try to get new supporters for the allotment idea.
This year the Day of the Garden was organised on 10th June. The official opening took place in Munich.
Author Thomas Wagner, scientific member of the central German allotment federation