Thursday, April 13, 2006

German Gardening: Alles in Ordnung?

Today's Der Spiegel has an interesting piece on the Germanic passion for gardening on the rururban fringe.

Large numbers of folks from the cities can rent a small plot for a small fee, put up a garden shed, and proceed to organize a small corner of the world to their liking.
The Schrebergarten movement is not a new one, and such affairs are seen on the outskirts of cities all over Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

What's interesting for the Germans is that this is a matter of nine, count 'em, nine pages of comprehensive legislation that makes absoultely sure that public gardens are managed with an attention to detail that is classic anal retentive as only the Germans can do anal retentive. Untidy and disorganized gardening is not, as you may have guessed, well received.

Public gardening isn't nearly as common in the U.S., although it does exist here and there, and where it does, it is a pleasant pursuit. Of course, it brings with it the problems that gardening in one spot over an extended period of time does, such as pests and plant diseases.

It's hard to be a meaningful organic gardener in such circumstances, as my experiences having a plot in the Long Beach public gardens demonstrated. The tobacco mosaic virus that was rampant there killed off most of my melons-the only thing of such construction that prospered were the spaghetti squashes, which grew pretty fast before the virus fixed its death grip on my little plot. The other pest, which caused me to be evicted, was the infestation of fig beetles.

I arrived one day to minister to my charges and was astounded to see that a neighboring plot had been completely overrun with large iridescent beetles about the size of a quarter, who were busy devouring everything in sight. They were in the process of making short work of my plants, and you could actually see the surface of the corncobs wiggling ans the hungry bugs rooted around underneath to find something to eat.

After several emergency phone calls to the managers went unanswered, I took matters into my own hands and bought some Sevin, which is a fast acting insecticide that dissipates in about 7 days. I sprayed my plot and the adjoining offenders, and stopped the fig beetles in their tracks.
Two days later I got a nastygram from the people who hadn't bothered to answer my phone calls, telling me I'd officially been booted out of the garden.

Of such is the kingdom, as they say. I'm not sorry I did it.,1518,410799,00.html


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