Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Chinese, Japanese, German, Swedish, English Allotment Garden Reports

The ISHS Internationale Horticulture Congress in Brussel in 1998 had an Evening Symposia where a number of interesting papers were presented on Allotment Gardening. These are now available on-line at the Acta Horticulturae Home Page.

Each paper can be bought as a PDF for $5 each. I have included abstracts of the papers below and their URLs.

Reinventing Allotments For The Twenty-First Century: The UK Experience (D. Crouch)

Japanese Perspectives Of Allotment And Community Gardening (E. Matsuo)

Swedish Perspectives Of Allotment And Community Gardening (S. Sidblad)

Chinese Perspectives Of Allotment And Community Gardening (W.Z. Zhou)

Aspects Of Allotment Gardening Politics In Berlin, Germany, Between 1985 And 1995 (G. Groening)

ISHS Acta Horticulturae 523: XXV International Horticultural Congress, Part 13: New and Specialized Crops and Products, Botanic Gardens and Humon-Horticulture Relationship

Reinventing Allotments For The Twenty-First Century: The UK Experience
Author: D. Crouch
Abstract: Like many other European countries the UK has a long heritage of allotment holding. This dates back to the British Civil War in the 17th century, the enclosure of common land from the farming poor in the 18th, and the response to mass urbanisation in the 19th century.1 Allotments have traditionally been regarded as important for growing food, argued on the basis of income support and providing good quality food for people of lower income. In many areas of the UK, and across the world, this remains a profound reason for allotment holding. I use the expression allotment holding because this refers both to the active work that takes place on allotments and their tenurial status; indeed the British word 'allotments' indicates this, as small pieces of land 'allotted', and rented from a landowner/landlord.

Today most allotment sites are owned by, and rented from, local councils across Britain. Whilst allotments peaked in numbers in each world war in the twentieth century, plot numbers have remained at about one half million for much of this century. Now, however, the number has declined to one third of a million.2 This arises largely from sites being developed for housing and other uses. This has happened largely because allotments provide readily 'available' land (largely non-toxic, no ground clearance of old structures involved). Moreover, there has been a tendency to regard allotments as an easy 'soft touch' politically, and allotments have through the middle of this century suffered an image of being anachronistic, the old man in a cloth cap, struggling to gather a few crops. Whereas countryside areas have strong political lobbies to defend their areas from development, for much of this century allotments have not. This situation has been changing over the past twenty-five years, borne on the wave of renewed interest in environmental issues and also an awareness of the community-building value of allotments. Cultivation is therefore healthy, aesthetic, cultural, provides food and is of social benefit. It is around this aggregate of issues that recent arguments for safeguarding and extending allotment holding have developed.

This article only very briefly touches on the significant conceptual and theoretical issues and concerns raised by contemporary allotment holding. These include sociological, anthropological, economic, environmental, and especially for me cultural geographical concerns.

Japanese Perspectives Of Allotment And Community Gardening Author: E. Matsuo
Abstract: In Japan allotment and community gardening have been paid striking attention to during the last two decades. For example, the number of allotment sites has increased and allotment gardens were given a legal basis. After World War II the primary objective of allotment gardens was to obtain food. This changed to recreation and to improvement of urban environments later on. Also allotment gardens were expected to serve as places which would enhance the chances for mutual communication between urban people and those in rural areas. This paper will give an overview of the historical development, the present status, and people's expectations of allotment gardens in Japan.

Swedish Perspectives Of Allotment And Community Gardening
Author: S. Sidblad
Abstract: Sweden is situated in the very north of Europe. Topographically it is a long and narrow country. Some parts lie even north of the polar circle and experience midnight sun in the summer and lasting darkness in the winter. Due to the geographical latitude it should be cold and unpleasant. But the warm Golf Stream originating from the Caribbean Sea provides the peninsula with a relatively mild climate. Despite the northern latitude which makes the growing season fairly short the midnight sun and long daylight hours help to speed up plant growth in the far north. Conditions vary a lot from south to north in Sweden. The period for vegetation growth varies between 100 and 200 days.

Chinese Perspectives Of Allotment And Community Gardening
Author: W.Z. Zhou
Abstract: The famous Chinese scholar Yutang Lin said "The American is a known and great worker, the Chinese, however, is a known and great person who pursues a leisurely life". I do not dare to assert whether the American is a great worker or pursues a leisurely life. There are many interweaved reasons for the Chinese love of leisure. The temperament of the Chinese people has been nurtured by culture and thus accepted philosophy. The interest in leisure was generated by an ardent love of life, then surged by romantic literature in a powerful flow of successive dynasties, and eventually became recognized as a reasonable manner by a kind of life philosophy which in general may be called the Taoist school of philosophy. Therefore the Chinese culture of leisure was highly developed. In ancient China the residential environment was the main place where literati and officials practiced cultural and artistic activities. From here follows that the garden was the most basic carrier for the Chines culture of leisure. The Chinese people grew flowers and trees, took pleasure in potted landscapes (bonsai) and built gardens. All of that accumulated a rich, generous, and age-old culture of gardening. It finally gained China a good reputation as the "mother of gardens".

Aspects Of Allotment Gardening Politics In Berlin, Germany, Between 1985 And 1995
Author: G. Groening
Abstract: Berlin, the largest city in Germany, was politically and physically divided into East-Berlin and West-Berlin from 1949, respectively 1961 when the Berlin wall was built, until 1989/90 when the wall came down, and the city reunited as part of the unification process in Germany.

With a long-standing research interest in allotment gardening of the 19th and 20th centuries in Germany myself,1 I will focus today on the decade from 1985 to 1995 in Berlin. At first I will briefly report a few statistical and organizational data about allotment gardening in Berlin. Then I will address some aspects of the political realities and their meaning for garden permanence in Berlin. Ultimately I want to communicate to you that as peaceful as gardening as a leisurely pursuit may be, gardening as an activity in a large and dynamic city is political fight, fight, and fight again.

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Revised Tuesday, May 2, 2002

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture