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Climate protection begins in the garden

  • Switzerland
  • 20.1.2022

Our gardens are changing - hot summers, mild winters, heavy rains and long dry periods: All this presents gardeners with new challenges. It is time to make your own garden climate-proof!

Reto Knutti is considered one of the world's leading climate researchers. As a professor of climate physics at ETH Zurich, he is one of the main authors of the last major report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Recently, he said in an interview that without immediate action, a global average temperature increase of five degrees - in Switzerland probably even six or seven degrees - should be expected. Climate change presents us all with new challenges, which of course do not stop at us gardeners. When gardening, the following applies: "The right plant in the right place" and "gardening in the cycle of nature". Those who remain true to this principle should actually be able to continue to achieve a good harvest or enjoy their lush blooms in the future. However, we will have to take into account a few gardening facts that climate change brings with it. These include longer dry periods and heavy rainfall events as well as a longer growing season and milder winters.

Climate change and climate protection
"Everyone who actively gardens, whether in their own garden or on the balcony, is a climate protector," says book author Verena Schubert (see book tip). Trees, shrubs and perennials process carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce oxygen. On the one hand, every plant helps to break down carbon dioxide. And on the other hand, home-grown fruit and vegetables also reduce transport and thus carbon dioxide emissions. Climate protection and recreational fun in one's own garden thus form - in the truest sense of the word - a fruitful combination.

Climate-friendly gardening
The path to a climate-friendly garden begins with the soil, whose fertility depends on the nutrient cycle. A plant returns the nutrients it extracts from the soil for its growth when it dies. Harvesting interrupts this cycle - with the harvest, nutrients are withdrawn from the soil, which - as fertiliser - have to be returned if a permanent harvest is to be made. But which fertiliser is the right one? "Synthetic chemical fertilisers and pesticides cause CO2 emissions in production and can also become environmental toxins," says Verena Schubert. She therefore consistently relies on natural fertilisers and plant fortification: "A good supply helps plants, animals and people to be robust and have good defences." Preventive plant fortification with extracts of field horsetail and comfrey and stinging nettle are, for example, the best plant protection! They increase the resistance of fruit, vegetable and ornamental plants, drive away pests with their smell and help the seeds to grow well. A few, such as tansy and garlic, can also fight fungal diseases. According to Verena Schubert, regular use ensures strong, robust and vital flora that can better withstand frost, heat and drought. In addition, these broths enrich the soil life, which makes nutrients available to the plants, and they also contain nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and minerals themselves. "The best and cheapest fertiliser is your own compost!" the expert knows: "All garden waste is recycled in the compost and turned into valuable humus." By the way: compost is the ideal substitute for peat, which is unfortunately still used in large quantities. But peat cutting in the peatlands, which store large amounts of carbon dioxide, not only releases the carbon that has been stored since time immemorial in the form of CO2, thereby accelerating climate change, but also causes the creatures that live there to lose their habitat forever. Compost instead of peat is therefore the climate-friendly motto!

Diversity instead of monoculture
Many different plant species, mixed in a colourful way, ensure that the soil is not depleted one-sidedly and basically needs less nutrient supply. Certain plants are good neighbours and can strengthen and protect each other. "This plays a role especially in the vegetable garden," says Verena Schubert. "Onions and leeks planted next to carrots, for example, keep the carrot fly away. Savory protects against aphids, and nasturtiums in turn attract cabbage whitefly caterpillars, aphids and other pests. Cabbage plants and celery also help each other in this way. Celery rust and the caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly will then be a thing of the past. Lettuce, on the other hand, keeps the infestation of ground fleas on radishes at bay.
"With effective and simple measures, we can make our green oasis fit and at the same time positively influence the climate," Verena Schubert is convinced. Try it out?!

The pillars of the climate protection garden - tips from Verena Schubert

• If you garden with climate protection in mind, you do so with nature and not against it.
• Garden without the use of pesticides, synthetic chemical fertilisers and peat.
• Go for preventive plant strengthening, the right plant in the right location, plant diversity and compost management.
• Less is more: allowing and waiting are gardening virtues that make a natural garden possible in the first place.

Christina Bösiger - Hyphen no. 77

Allotment gardener’s responsibility to support the authorities and scientific bodies

  • Switzerland
  • 18.6.2021

Example Switzerland: Plant Health Network Switzerland

On 18th February 2021 the founding event of the “Plant Health Network Switzerland” took place; this in accordance with the prevailing circumstances as video-conference.

It had already become apparent during last year’s cooperation between authorities and federations for the “International Year of Plant Health 2020” that the work had to continue.

Luckily, all the previous main partners of the Federal Plant Protection Service are also involved in the “Network” including of course the Swiss allotment federation SFGV/FSJF.

Other institutions and federations will certainly join soon. The cantonal experts from Ticino will play here a special role, as this continues to be the main gateway for pests.

Due to the nationwide spreading of our garden areas, our plant diversity and the intensive cultivation of grounds with fruit, berries and vegetables, we have a special responsibility to support the authorities and scientific bodies in the identification, reduction and control of pests.

Additional information:

Otmar Halfmann
President of the Swiss allotment federation

Start early...

  • Switzerland
  • 24.4.2020 become a master! Therefore: Nobody is too young to love gardens! Take your children and grandchildren with you into the garden and introduce them to the secrets of nature.

Text: Christina Bösiger (Gartenfreund/Jardin familial 03/2020 Switzerland)

Kinder1Exactly 180 years ago the first “Kindergarten” (children’s garden) opened its doors in 1840. The name already underlined the programme of the “Kindergarten” inventor Friedrich Fröbel, because the garden and nature seemed to him to be the most important environment to do justice to the importance of early childhood education. Thus, he believed that young people should spend a large part of their free time in nature and in the garden in order to develop ideally. And this is still true today: Children should play in green areas instead of looking at screens! They should move, climb and be active. They should discover and explore nature that the little ones do not only learn about life cycles, but also discover how and where healthy food grows. By tending and caring for plants, they learn to take on responsibility, to make decisions and to understand the ecological relationships.

Immersion into the realm of the senses!
Kinder2Digging, playing in the mud, shaping, smelling and tasting – sensual discovering is easy in the garden. While the parents poke the soil, the offspring can feel with their feet what is inside it. They run over freshly germinated lawn, hop over hard clods of earth and dig in the soil with their bare fingers. That feels good! Not only for the development of their personality, but also because they are in motion and in the fresh air. Give your children their own plot or a corner with large pots from the very beginning, where they can sow, plant, cut and later also nibble to their heart’s content. The amount of work involved in preparing the ground depends, among other factors, on where you place the children’s plot. If a small corner in the vegetable garden is left free for this purpose, then the soil is usually optimally prepared. If, however, the plot is to be laid out where lawn used to grow, the grass must be cut off and the soil loosened up in depth. The easiest way to do this is to buy ready-to-use garden soil from a specialist retailer without peat – of course –and then you can sow or plant. Get inspired together and go shopping for seeds, flower bulbs, tuber or seedlings. Special seed bands make sowing a child’s play. Tip: For planting and digging, weeding and watering, the little ones naturally want gardening tools that look just like the big ones. There are plenty of true-to-original mini spades, rakes and watering cans suitable for children and – very important – small garden gloves.     

Sweet scents galore
A garden bed that smells as sweet as a candy bag – every child would like to stick its nose into it. It is hard to believe, which sugar-free smells, nature has to offer with which a beguiling child bed can be laid out. Also Rosa Wolf has described some of them in her book “Kinder im Garten, mehr Garten leben” published by BLV Buchverlag:

Lemon balm (melissa officinalis)
When you rub your hands over the leaves, you immediately breathe the intense lemon scent. The plant, which comes from southern Europe is completely undemanding and grows to 80 cm high. However, it should be cut back immediately after flowering, otherwise it will conquer the whole garden with its seedlings. Did you know? Lemon balm put on the heart is said to help with heart sickness.

Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanuineus)
From the dark, burgundy red blossoms a delicious bittersweet fragrance flows. In a sunny place it blooms from June to the end of October. It grows to a height of 60 cm. Like the dahlias, its tubers are placed every year after the ice saints in pots or in a bed and are taken out again to store them frost-free before the frosts in autumn.

Chewing gum plant (Chrysanthemum balsamita)
Its leaf smells as fresh as Original Wrighley’s Spearmint. In sunny corners the 60 cm high perennial plant grows without any problems. From August it opens small yellow flowers. When dried, the leaves are nice smelling bookmarks. Already in the Middle Ages the fresh fragrance was appreciated for hymn books. It is therefore also called Mary’s leaves.

Mint (mentha species)
Depending on the variety, the leaves smell of bananas or oranges, chewing gum or After-Eight chocolate.

Gummy bear flower (Cephalophora aromatica)
The little summer flower smells as sweet as gummy bears in all its parts. You sow it in April. It grows to a height of 50 cm. Indians use it to dye wool yellow.


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