I live in Berlin since 6 months, where I am doing my EVS in the non-governmental organization “Kulturlabor Trial&Error”. My project is called „Urban gardening – green practice in urban communities”. I am working in a completely different environment than before and have an opportunity to explore the secrets of gardening, exchange knowledge about plants from all over the world and see how community gardens (Gemeinschaftsgärten) exist in Berlin. During my project I meet young people for whom gardening is a way of life. They have an extremely big knowledge about different types of plants, tress or compost and can spend whole weekends in the garden. I can easily observe a boom of urban gardening initiatives led by young people.
Why is it like this? Is nature getting more important for young people in the last years? Maybe it is a way to slow down in our urban stress life? I'll try to answer that questions and also show you my garden experiences from the very beginning.
Before I started gardening my experiences were not very advanced. Two years ago I felt I was bitten by “the gardening bug” and started rummaging in the soil on the allotment garden with my mom and grandma. Slowly I was deeper and deeper engaged in gardening topics and more interested in the gardening movement.
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents on our allotment garden outside the city. But did I like it? I do not really know. I think I preferred spending time with my friends in the backyard than to be the full, warm sun, dig the soil and water the tomatoes. Sometimes there was simply no way out and I had to be in the garden. In the summer, before my parents went to work, they just dropped me to my grandparents' garden. I remember my favorite activity was chewing cherries – simple and mechanical work - perfect for 10-years-old kids. When I look at my cousins´ 7-years-old daughter, who is running around with small shovel and planting seeds everywhere, I am impressed. Maybe everyone has to ripe for the gardening? I catch this moment quite late. In the end, the earth has insisted on me in rather strange way. I started spending more time on the allotment with my family and friends and I began to come to the countryside eagerly – which is not surprising at all. It may seem strange that as a degree in cultural studies and beginner cultural practitioner, I start to choose gardening as a practice for social animation and integration.
During my first gardening activities I also realized that lots of my friends are doing gardening and already have some experience with planting. It was not a big problem to do something together in the garden, discuss and debate about compost worms, exchange seeds and books.
When I am asking my garden friends why they are doing gardening, some of them say that it gives them independence and freedom. Community gardens, seeds exchanges, urban bee keeping, guerilla gardening actions, reclaiming areas for gardens – these things connect all those examples – alternative way of living which is always important for young people.
In a world where we can buy everything in the shop without thinking about the place where tomatoes come from, the gardening gives us opportunities of exploring the healthy lifestyle, learning the origins of food and understanding nature. I think we all together start to believe in a sustainable future after years of consumerism in our societies. Urban gardening can also be seen as one of the most powerful tool for building an alternative way of living and promote environmental awareness in young people.
In my reports I will try to show you how young people do urban gardening in Berlin and how you can join to this beautiful movement. I would also like to introduce a few interesting young gardeners who I met in Berlin. I hope after that you will no doubt why urban gardening and sustainability are so cool!