Back to the roots
Growing your own fruits and vegetables and being self-sufficient – that is what a growing number of passionate hobby gardeners want. Harvests can be increased with greenhouses, such as those made from PLEXIGLAS®.
“This place shall be dedicated to the honorable pleasure of pleasing the eye, refreshing the nose and reviving the spirit.” What was voiced by the theologian and philosopher Erasmus of Rotterdam nearly 500 years ago is perhaps more relevant than ever before in this fast-paced, digital world. No vegetables can be as fresh and tasty as the ones you plant yourself.
An increasing number of people have come to realize this and are spending much of their leisure time in their garden and sowing, planting, watering, digging and harvesting everything from beans and carrots to radishes. The COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding restrictions have reinforced this development. As people are no longer able to spend their free time with friends, many have taken a closer look at their immediate surroundings and natural sustainability.
“Your own piece of greenery,” says Sandra von Rekowski, scientific staff member of the Bundesverband Deutscher Gartenfreunde (BDG) in Berlin (the national association of allotment gardens), “is a safe haven in which you pursue your imagination, establish a relationship with nature and simply relax and recuperate.” This is exactly what Erasmus of Rotterdam had in mind.
Study: People with their own garden are happier
As the Hochschule Geisenheim University discovered in its survey “Garten und öffentliches Grün in Zeiten des Corona-Lockdowns” (Importance of gardens and green spaces during the first corona lockdown, in German only), the importance of having an own garden has increased with a majority of the surveyed garden owners; on average, more time was spent in the garden than in the previous year.
Moreover, people who have their own garden are, on average, happier and more content with their lives than those people without their own garden. “In the survey conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, we discovered that having your own garden primarily means having a piece of freedom,” says Dr. Mira Lehberger, scientific staff member at Hochschule Geisenheim University who headed the survey together with Professor Dr. Kai Sparke.
“Having your own garden means having a piece of freedom.”
One-quarter of the surveyed garden owners also stated that the garden was relatively important to very important for their quality of life. On average, all survey participants spend about 10 hours per week outdoors for relaxation and sports. Garden owners spend almost twice that time outdoors: this is in addition to the nearly eight hours of gardening work in their own garden plot.
– Of garden owners say that the garden is relatively important, important or very important to them.
The lively activities with hoes and spades during coronavirus times are also reflected by the turnover figures for the German gardening market. According to the annual report of the Industrieverband Garten (the gardening industry’s trade association, in German only), the industry recorded a growth rate of more than nine percent in 2020, which equals a “record turnover of 20.7 billion euros, which will presumably be unmatched over the long term.”
Kai Sparke, Professor for Horticultural Economics at Hochschule Geisenheim University, refers to this as “corona productivity”: “New plantings, facilities and care and maintenance measures not only have an economic value, but also an ecological significance, meaning that gardening in COVID-19 times could also represent an increase in sustainability.”
Spending time in the garden is becoming a lifestyle
Even when setting COVID-19 aside, planting vegetables, fruits and herbs for self-sufficiency has steadily increased over the past years – and has even turned into a contemporary lifestyle trend. There are many reasons for this: Complementing freshness and taste is the fact that salad and tomatoes from the own garden do not require any packaging or long transport routes. And those who use seeds with an organic label and fertilize and maintain without using chemical additives, can cultivate 100%-organic vegetables and fruit, thus contributing to sustainability.
“And gardening as a hobby is simply a lot of fun,” says von Rekowski from the Bundesverband Deutscher Gartenfreunde. “It’s perfect for unwinding. After all, you have to be patient. It simply takes a while until you can harvest what you sow.” Thus, many people spend time in the garden to unwind and actively relax. In addition, many have the desire to create and develop something on their own. After harvesting comes the processing of berries, apples and cabbage into jams, juices, smoothies or other specialties: home-made instead of industrially made products.
Self-sufficiency as a goal
The appreciation of fresh foods is growing, as the Ernährungsreport 2020 (Nutrition Report, in German only) published by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture shows. According to the report, 90 percent of those surveyed said that the food must be healthy. 70 percent eat vegetables and fruit daily, while consumption of meat is declining and currently is at 26 percent. “One of the objectives for cultivation in the own garden is producing healthy and tasty vegetables and fruit yourself,” confirms Dr. Mira Lehberger from Hochschule Geisenheim University.
Greenhouses for ambitious hobby gardeners
Thus, harvest yields certainly also play a role in gardening. And yields can be increased with a greenhouse. Even a basic model without heating protects plants from the cold, so that sowing and planting can begin even earlier and harvesting can go on longer.
It is possible to have fruit trees in tubs spend the winter months inside a greenhouse; cultivate young plants, supplement domestic fruits with citrus and other exotic fruits such as figs, mangoes, pineapples or avocados and extend the growing season for vegetables. The yield improves because the greenhouse protects sensitive plants from too much rain and other weather influences. And lastly, the gardener has greater control and influence over the growing environment.
PLEXIGLAS® for optimum growth conditions
The range of plant-protection devices includes everything from simple roofs for raised planting beds and cold frames to professional greenhouses with heating and ventilation systems.
One option for the glazing of hobby greenhouses is PLEXIGLAS® Alltop multi-skin sheets – for several reasons: Their transparency allows for high light and UV transmission. This provides the plants with the full spectrum of sun rays, thereby promoting their growth. A special NO-DROP coating prevents water droplets from forming on the surface of the sheet surface and impeding the light transmittance.
PLEXIGLAS® multi-skin sheets also provide very good insulation because their parallel designed sheets are connected via crosspieces, thus forming closed air chambers. The enclosed air in the air chambers is a poor heat conductor compared to solid material, thus creating an effective insulation layer.
Another advantage of the characteristic design is the low weight of the sheets with a high load capacity. The robust and weather-resistant brand acrylic glass from Röhm withstands hail and other weather influences without any damage. And for many decades: PLEXIGLAS® remains transparent and does not turn yellow even after being in use for a long time. Thus, it not only provides plants with an optimum protection and has a high-quality appearance. A greenhouse made from durable material protects the environment and is therefore also a suitable addition to a sustainable, self-sufficient garden.
Biodiversity and creative experimentation
Whether in the greenhouse or under the skies: Allotment gardens provide more space for cultivation of fruits and vegetables than the garden right behind the house. For a long time, allotment gardens were considered somewhat “bourgeois”.
However, demand for them has started to increase again in recent years and has jumped significantly since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, nearly 900,000 hobby gardeners are organized under the roof of the BDG; if you include their families, the number reaches about five million people. Especially families with children are discovering their interest in high-yield, self-sufficient vegetable gardens, much like their grandmothers and grandfathers had many years ago. “You plant what you like to eat,” says von Rekowski, who has noticed a trend towards biodiversity and planting rare fruits and vegetable.
According to a survey by the association, 58 percent of its members want to create an ecological garden, while 40 percent stated that healthy nutrition was the driving force behind their own cultivation.
And there is a new willingness for creative experimentation among the dedicated hobby gardeners: “A growing number of allotment gardeners are trying out different things. For example, they are cultivating bananas in tubs,” von Rekowski states. The younger generation is learning about older and rarely cultivated herbs, such as salad burnet, mugwort or garden sage, from the older generation. Garden neighbors swap young plants across the garden fence, thereby expanding their own assortment, just as farmers have been doing for generations – back to the roots!
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