The sun is high in the sky above a small plot of land on Grünstraße in the Berlin district of Mitte. Looking around, prefab GDR-era architecture, residential buildings from the post-unification years, expensive apartment complexes for city newcomers and functional budget hotels can be seen in every direction. However, right in the middle of this, on the site of a former substation, a small garden oasis provides refuge.
Children carrying small watering cans are going around industriously watering plants growing in buckets, tubs, pots and big wooden boxes. Kitchen herbs are being picked in one corner, while teenagers are planting redcurrants in another. Neighbours sit together beneath a sunshade with coffee they have brought from home, watching the colourful, horticultural activities. Flowers blossom, bees buzz, children laugh – it sounds and smells like summer.
The owner of the plot of land, Vattenfall Wärme AG, established the urban garden as part of the “Pflanz was!” [Plant something!] project, with which the company is turning brownfield sites green and establishing urban gardens.
Ina Vögele and Sarah Geiger from Vattenfall’s communications department have been supervising the project since it began and have reported nothing but positive feedback so far.
“Everyone thinks this is a great idea, even though people were initially wondering what an energy company has to do with urban gardening,” says Geiger.
They then both go on to explain how Vattenfall considers itself a part of the city and is committed to sustainability and environmental protection, not only in the area of energy generation. As Vögele explains, “the interest in growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs in the city demonstrates the need for sustainability. But available space for gardens is decreasing. As a company, we have lots of free space which we are more than happy to share with the people of Berlin.”
Lutz Lüders, a Vattenfall employee, is the heart and soul of the garden. He works at the Reuter West power station, but previously trained as a landscape gardener. He now brings this knowledge to the Vattenfall city garden and provides assistance and tips.
“Do you need help,” he asks the kids planting the redcurrant plants, and advises them to keep the soil moist at all times, “otherwise the redcurrant plants will shed their blossom.”
GARDENING FOR EVERYONE
The communal aspect is central to the concept of urban gardening. Neighbours from different backgrounds get together for communal watering, planting and harvesting. This promotes the social climate in the neighbourhood. It is free to visit the Vattenfall garden and do some gardening there during opening hours. Everyone can take part – whether they have a green thumb or not, whenever they like.
Everything planted in the garden can be used by the community, and at the end of the gardening season everything is harvested and consumed.