From isolated balcony gardeners and Laubpiepern has become a movement: in the cities of the world is dug in all sorts of impossible and impossible places, planted and harvested. On fallow land, roofs, walls, and green strips, flowers are grown and carrots are pulled out of the ground. With each bed, a piece of nature is brought back into the city.
The gardens are places where healthy food is grown and nature is made tangible again. And they are experimental fields for future topics: how can new prosperity models look like and intercultural encounters are promoted, what do participation and meaningful employment in the post-growth society mean, how can nutrition look in the future?
The boom of the gardens in the urban area can no longer be overlooked. The Intercultural Foundation, for example, operates intercultural gardens in which Germans and people from elsewhere sow sowed zucchini and harvest peas. In 2003, there were five projects, and in 2012, more than 100 of them – and the trend is still rising.
From New York to the World: Roots of Urban Gardening
The urban garden movement, which has been growing steadily since the mid-1990s, seems to have its roots elsewhere: in the New York community gardens of the 1970s. The community gardens were – and are – green oases on inner-city wastelands with flowerbeds and vegetable cultivation for self-sufficiency. New to these gardens was that they combined horticultural, nutritional, economic, social, artistic, and urban design issues and counteracted common (life) models with other practices. The idea quickly spread throughout North America.
From these early community gardens have different concepts Non-Commercial Collective Gardening Projects Developed and Raised: Intercultural Gardens, City Farms, Neighborhood Gardens, Children’s Farms, School Gardens, Guerrilla Gardening.
A wealth of gardening practices and ideas for the future of urban agriculture is also Cuba, for example for the Berlin Prinzessinnengärten. With the Eastern bloc, the economy collapsed in Cuba and forced the country to an ecological change. The state-supported urban agriculture should mitigate the impact of the economic and food crisis. With the simplest methods and a lot of ingenuity, thanks to the “Revolución Verde”, more than two-thirds of the fruits and vegetables consumed in Havana grow within the city limits.
What is it all about? The different concepts
The different garden models in Germany, America and other European cities do not focus on an actual subsistence economy, but on the beautification and enrichment of life in the city and the creation of new communities. Above all, it is a young urban avant-garde that reacts with new models to global challenges and urban deficits: food crises and environmental problems, isolation, isolation or lack of freedom. Important are flexibility and improvisation. If you want to find space for flowers and plants in dense city structures, you have to be creative.
Some city gardeners, such as the Prinzessinnengärten or Rosa Rose eV They make their garden completely mobile and plant their vegetables in flower tubs, sacks or old bathtubs so they can move at any time. Recycling instead of high-tech, creativity instead of professionalism is the motto.
Collaborative learning, the teaching of knowledge and the creation of consciousness are other central aspects of the gardens. In addition to the common field work, many gardens also offer a cultural program and various workshops.
Community Gardens or community gardens is actually the generic term for collectively operated gardens that are mostly in the city. The areas of these gardens are mainly used as a group, some of the gardens are open to the public. In community gardens, neighbors, political groups, churches, schools, etc. are active.
Intercultural gardens are community gardens where people of different origins grow fruit and vegetables. They provide educational opportunities, promote international exchange, are therapeutic sites and sanctuaries. Especially the foundation Interkultur is active here.
Neighborhood gardens are run by a local community and are located in courtyards, in front of or between the houses.
City Farms and Children Farms are a mixed form. Here livestock are kept (horses, sheep, goats, chickens, etc.) and mostly a garden operated. Especially children with hands-on activities such as riding, gardening, and classical farm work are addressed. There are many such farms in Berlin: Kinderbauernhöfe in Berlin
Guerilla Gardening is the subversive variant of urban greening. As a form of political protest, the guerrilla gardeners are creative and with limited equipment on the way to intervene in the cityscape. These may be vegetables in front of the London House of Parliament, planted tree disks, cannabis plants in Tübingen’s flower boxes, or seeds and onions that are stuck in green strips as they pass by. The term goes back to the New York artist and activist group Green Guerillas greenguerillas.org. Tips can be found here: Guerrilla Gardening
Even though the number of city dwellers worldwide is growing and two-thirds of all people will soon be living in cities, many small and medium-sized cities are shrinking. With the relocation of companies and workshops and the loss of jobs, many people are drawn to the big cities. With them, businesses and businesses move. Many buildings and the land become useless and abandoned. But the resulting open space also holds new opportunities in itself.
For example, in Detroit: in the past, it was the factories that gave people hope, today it’s the gardens. Where cars were built until the 1990s, carrots are now being pulled out of the ground after the factories have closed down and around one million people have left. At Earthworks Urban Farm, For example, 8,000 square meters of volunteers grow organic fruit and vegetables. As many as 1,234 private and community gardens thrive in Detroit– and more and more are growing.
The shrinking city Dessau wants their numbers dwindling the number of inhabitants by urban Grüngürte l keep the land for urban agriculture and community gardens provide.
Agricultural land in shrinking cities offers employment and food, where it scarcely exists anymore. Wherever there is room again, new city models can develop in which the boundaries between consumption and production, nature and city become more fluid.
Urban agriculture in the cities of the south
In Germany, they pop up recently everywhere, in Havana, Caracas or Singapore, the urban mini-makers exist for a long time: in the midst of the favelas and slums of the South, fruits, vegetables, and herbs are grown. The gardens are a survival strategy in areas of great poverty, securing food and income for people. Buenos Aires has more than 2,000 community gardens – home and family gardens, neighborhood gardens and unemployment initiatives. Even in townships in South Africa, small agricultural areas are widespread. Many have emerged on their own initiative, others are managed by the state, NGOs or private companies, such as the Itsoseng Women’s Project in Orange farm.
Welthungerhilfe (DWHH) has been relying on urban fields for several years now. She supports various projects in Cuba, but also in Liberia and North Korea. Urban gardens are not as easy to implement in all cities as they are in Cuba, according to Jürgen Roth from the DWHH. In many countries, the pressure on urban brownfields is much greater because of the free real estate market. But many examples show that self-sufficient poor areas are no longer a utopia. The gardens mitigate the need for money and food, and cultural knowledge can be preserved in them. Social networks are created with and around them, in many places the gardens awaken political and social utopias in often hopeless areas.
The redefinition of the city? On the importance of city gardens
The gardens in the cities are doing good – on many levels. From an ecological point of view, they are used for recycling organic waste, they moisturize the air and catch rainwater that would otherwise flow into the sewers without being used. “Large, coherent, green roofs can even positively influence the city climate and compensate for extreme temperatures,” says Wigbert Riehl of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Kassel. Insects and other city dwellers also have something of the gardens, as the cultivation of local food contributes to the preservation of variety and biodiversity.
From a socio-political point of view, especially shared gardens liven up public space and create new places of encounter and exchange. Neighbors get to know each other while digging together, people of different cultures exchange their horticultural knowledge and experiences. In the best case, the communities grow with the flowers and plants, new impulses for cultures of participation are given. City districts are gaining in quality of life through civic engagement by connecting and beautifying their kits. By the way and also purposefully developed practical learning places for children and young people. The use of previously unused areas is also an active engagement and interference in the design of the city.
“Sowing, harvesting, cooking, and processing for the winter sensitize not only to nature but also to a reality check of the conditions we live in. The garden places us in a wider context than the consumer society. “ (Christa Müller in an interview)
Last but not least, urban gardens are also mini-models for the cities of the future, in which food cultivation and city life are increasingly interwoven again. Urban agriculture protects the environment and resources by conserving transport routes for food, and concrete deserts broken up by green areas contribute to improving the quality of life and air. However, for a future of gardens and liveable cities, land for cultivation should not be given away temporarily or fought for, but should become an integral part of sustainable urban development.