Vertical salad – klimareporter°

A Berlin-based research project calculated how many people could be fed from urban gardens. It was also tested how the number could be increased. But this is not an argument for sacrificing backyards for construction projects.

“Urban gardening” at Tempelhofer Feld, the former municipal airport in Berlin. (Photo: Onnola/​Flickr)

The corona has also been a turning point here: the desire for gardens and gardening has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic, especially in big cities. Residents of the city want more greenery, many of them their own harvest.

We all know that green areas raise the mood, reduce aggression and violence and contribute to the microclimate. And also: “Urban agriculture”, whether it is in the garden near the house, whether it is on the homestead, or on modern leased fields, contributes to the provision of food.

In general, it is good and nice to know this. But when push comes to shove, such as when gardens need to make way for construction projects, it often does little.

Therefore, it is good that now the research group in its project “Garden services” has calculated how much they cost in euros – using the example of Berlin. And specifically also on the food that the citizens produce there.

According to the study, Berlin’s gardens account for 3.3 percent of the city’s area, with a net area under cultivation of 140 hectares. Taking into account small and medium crops, 7,600 tons of vegetables, potatoes and herbs are produced here during the gardening season.

According to the Institute of Ecological and Economic Research (IÖW), which is responsible for the project, this would be enough for the annual needs of 50,000 people. According to the Berlin Institute, these products would be worth about ten million euros on the market.

On two square meters

Supplying all of Berlin with local produce is, of course, illusive: the city is home to over 3.7 million people. But there are ways to increase the share, research shows.

In the “real laboratory” of the garden service project, the Technical University of Berlin has built so-called vertical gardens, where, for example, lettuce plants grow on top of each other and are supplied with purified rainwater or greywater.

It turned out that such a system covers the salad needs of 28 people per season on only two square meters.

Joachim Wille is the editor-in-chief of the online magazine Klimareporter°.

With vertical gardens, urban gardening still has room for improvement. But this should not be an excuse for the city government to sacrifice land in the face of settlement pressure, because more can be grown on the rest.

Vice versa. More, not less, space is needed for gardens.

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