For the first time the United Nations (UN) proclaimed May 20th 2018 world bee day. The bee day, which is organised this year for the second time is meant to remind people of how many plants around the world depend on pollination by bees and many other insects. This is not only important for good functioning eco-systems, but also much of the human diet worldwide depends on it. Allotment gardeners also benefit from bumble bees, bees, overflies and co. This is why they are doing something to prevent the disappearance of insects.
The world bee day goes back to the longstanding initiative of Slovenian beekeepers. Last year 115 of the 139 member states of the United Nations voted in favour, including all European Union member states and major global weights, such as the USA, Canada, China, Russia, India, Brazil and Australia.
Every year on May 20th numerous events and actions remind us now of how many plants worldwide depend on pollination by bees and other insects. This is not only important for good functioning eco-systems, but also much of the human diet depends on it. Many fruit products, especially fruit and seeds (both fruit and vegetables) only grow after a successful fertilisation – due to the pollination of the flowers by insects. Other plants, such as cereal grasses are pollinated by the wind. According to the world council of biological diversity, every year bees and other insects pollinate plants worldwide giving fruit worth up to approximately 500 billion Euros.
Bees in the garden
Already in 2011 was the call of the German allotment garden federation "Bring the bees back to the gardens". At that time, there was the first evidence that the bee populations in Germany were declining. Whether by putting up bee hives or through targeted aids for wild bees – it was necessary to support the endangered animals.
Since then a lot has happened: Beekeeping is actively supported in most allotment gardens both in Germany and all over Europe. Free plots are reserved for bee hives and beekeeper knowledge is passed on by the associations' expert gardening advisers. For the care of honey bees a little special knowledge is needed. The settlement of bumble bees and solitary bees, however, is easy and possible in any garden.
Allotments as insect oases
With special flowering gardens many associations today transform allotment sites into insect oases, supplemented by a very diverse offer of nesting aids. May is the best time to set up such insect hotels. Those who additionally provide a sufficient food supply with native flowering plants and fruit trees have already done a lot for the friends with six legs. Incidentally: honey and wild bees feel very comfortable in cities! Even on the balcony it is possible to support them with forage plants and a small bee hotel (available at the hardwear store or garden centre).
More knowledge and tips on wild and honey bees can be found on the website of the BDG under:
respectively on the websites of the other federations
Author Thomas Wagner, scientific member, BDG
The way to the "green new deal"
It is in fact a bitter irony – on one hand gardening on a plot is very much in vogue. On the other hand rising real estate prices and the continued influx into the cities mean that allotment sites are increasingly threatened of being overbuilt. The allotment gardeners seem to be helpless compared to the interest in profits of the real estate industry. What the allotment gardeners can do in order to react to that threat was explained by the sociologist Dr. Fritz Reusswig from the Potsdam institute for climate impact research during a meeting of various regional federations in Bremen.
Just how important the topic is was made clear by Reusswig right from the beginning: Since 2011 the number of allotment gardens has been dropping continuously and only 18% of all the sites are permanently protected by development plans. Especially in cities with increasing densification, the sites are threatened by overbuilding – according to the first results of the study, "allotments in transition" by the federal institute for building, urban and space planning (BBSR).
In this context it has to be mentioned that allotment gardening is changing: organic gardening is gaining in importance (according to the study 85% of all sites are laid out in a nature friendly way), there are increasingly new garden forms (community gardens) and new groups asking for allotments, such as families with children (85%), couples after the family phase (42%) and families with migration background (72%), said Reusswig.
How to act
Especially in the metropolitan areas the demand for allotments is increasing. In order to meet this demand and to react to the competition for available areas, the practical approaches used up to now are mainly the re-densification in the stock (the division of gardens), the allocation of unsaved grounds or the creation of other gardening forms on allotment sites and common use.
However, these approaches are not transferable to all allotment sites. It is, therefore, important to be actively involved in urban planning. In the medium term, allotment gardeners have to promote the fact that the negative ecological consequences of a building development have to be taken into account in the city budget so that in the end there will be no "black", but a "green zero".
Decisive for reaching this aim is that the federations cooperate in scientific studies. The sociologist also recommends to form alliances, especially with "urban gardening", projects that are an adequate offer for this.
Reusswig proposes at the end a "green new deal". The allotment gardeners will get a permanent protection of their sites and they will assume social and ecological services.
With regard to the eco-system services of the allotment gardens, climate change is an opportunity for the allotment gardeners. Climate change will increase the importance of greenery in the city. This is not only a question of ecological, but also of social justice, since it is precisely the socially weaker people who have the least access to urban greenery and its relief functions. And so the threat could become a path to salvation. Consequently, the allotment gardeners are not helpless – but up to a "green new deal" it is still a long way, which they have to approach in the most active way possible.
This is so for all the allotment gardeners in Germany and all over Europe
Verlag W. Wächter
Adapted and completed by M. WEIRICH, Office International du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux
Amidst a sea of flowers with tulips, daffodils and primroses, on the edge of an imitation of the Berlin metropolis made of wooden pallets, the allotment movement of Berlin, the German Schreberjugend and the federation of German allotment gardeners (BDG) presented themselves in the flower hall during this year's international Green Week 2019 with a concentrated horticultural knowledge.
The BDG cooperated with the German Schreberjugend. The visitors received useful information concerning raised beds, natural gardening and the stimulation of insect and plant diversity. And as it should be, knowledge transfer works best with a practical demonstration – hundreds of small insect hotels were built with drill, hammer and logs and they could be directly taken home by the builders.
Also high ranking visitors such as the federal minister of family affairs Franziska Giffey, State secretary Gunther Adler (BMI), and Parliamentary State secretary Marco Wanderwitz (BMI) did not miss a tour through the flower hall and thus received a foretaste of the coming spring. They were interested in the allotment gardener's exhibition stand. Finally, the BDG had the opportunity to address important issues such as the property tax reform during these discussions.
Sandra von Rekowski, research associate
Viola Kleinau (Board member of the BDG), Stefan Grundei (managing director of the BDG), Franziska Giffey (federal minister for family affairs), Guido Beneke (federal director of the German Schreberjugend)
In conversation: Guido Beneke (federal director of the German Schreberjugend), Stefan Grundei (managing director of the BDG), Viola Kleinau (BDG board member), Gunther Adler (State secretary BMI)
From left to right: Guido Beneke (managing director of the German Schreberjugend), Oliver Gellert (Branch manager Schreberjugend Landesverband Berlin), Stefan Grundei (BDG managing director), Marco Wanderwitz (Parliamentary State secretary in the BMI), Hardy Reckziegel (federal chairman of the German Schreberjugend), Jürgen Maßalsky (BDG board member)