5 Inspiring Ideas from German Urban Gardens
Since I'm the gardening contributor here on MomItForward, it probably comes as no surprise that I look for garden inspiration everywhere I go. This summer, I was lucky enough to travel to Germany for 10 days and you can bet that I was very interested in German agriculture and came away from my trip abroad with many inspiring ideas from the German urban gardens I saw.
One thing I noticed during the 10 days my husband and I drove around Germany, were little gardens called Schrebergarten, translated as allotment gardens, or similar to the community garden concept found occasionally in the US. Schrebergarten seem to be located on the outskirts of most German cities and towns and consist of rows of cute little garden houses and really well maintained garden plots. These little gardens really are everywhere and I was excited to browse inconspicuously around one one day. I came away really inspired for my own concept of gardening.
Germany is a little smaller than Montana, but with over 81,000,000 people it has more inhabitants than Texas and New York combined. Despite the relatively dense population, Germany seems to be pretty darn good at eating locally produced, and in season food, in large part thanks to the number of these little urban gardens. During the 10 days I spent in Germany in July and August, I took good notes of what I saw and came back with inspiring ideas for improving my own garden.
5 Inspiring Ideas from German Urban Gardens
1. A Compost Area Directly in the Garden Makes Tidying Easy
It's not that hard to throw together a quick little compost area in the garden. While I have a big compost bin not too far from my garden, I am going to add a compost area directly in my garden, too. It'll just make it that much easier to get my scraps and dead veggies taken care of to make my garden a tidier place.
2. A Garden Can be a Great Place to Play
German urban gardens seem to be great places to play! I loved seeing all the equipment for children in these gardens. What better way to learn to appreciate and love gardening than to make an enjoyable place for kids to gather - rather than a series of tasks to dread. Maybe if I made my garden more enjoyable for my kids they might help me more?!
3. A Garden Can be a Great Place to Eat
It seems to me that many Germans take great pride in their food and drink. Being about to enjoy the fruits of their labor in their very garden is awesome! The tables were always full of flowers picked from their gardens and food grown in the gardens as well. The idea of a garden as also a place to eat is wonderful idea!
4. Variety is the Spice of Life
The German gardens I saw didn't just grow tomatoes and peppers. They also include fruit trees like apple and cherry trees and berry bushes - currants, blueberries, gooseberries, and raspberries - and flowers too. Growing a variety of food is key to eating locally and enjoying it, as far as I am concerned.
And having flowers in the garden just makes everything that much prettier. Not only do freshly picked flowers look great on any table or counter, they are also fantastic companion plants good for encouraging beneficial insects and keeping harmful insects at bay. I've worked hard this year to make my garden a prettier place by incorporating more flowers and I'm convinced that a prettier garden is a more motivational place for me to be.
5. A Garden Should be About More Than Food
The most important takeaway from my observation of German gardens, is that a garden can be about more than just producing food. Germans take the concept of free time very seriously. While the idea of gardening sounds like a lot of work to many people, Germans use their gardens for more than work. I love that the German Schrebegarten is also a place to relax and play - and not just a place to get sweaty and work. I can't tell you how many times we drove past this very garden I photographed and saw it full of people. Old people, young people, middle aged people. People in the pool, on the play ground equipment, and eating at the table. I loved seeing all of these people enjoying themselves and their community!
I wish I could have snapped a picture of all the people in their gardens - but honestly, I felt a little voyeuristic poking around their garden in the first place and didn't want to get yelled at. Trust me when I tell you I could feel the sense of community radiating from these German urban gardens and it was really a wonderful sight to behold! And these inspirations can inspire us with ways to increase our enjoyment of our own gardens.
What does gardening mean to you? Do you think it's possible to make gardening a more positive concept in the US?