Thursday, April 9, 2009

Have I lost the plot?! My Swiss Garden Plot

You know these places on the side of the road that look like shanty towns? Lots of little shacks all together in a row?
Well, did you know that they are actually gardens? In the UK they call these little gardens "allotments" and they became very popular during war times to promote self-sufficiency. But now, because most people live in apartments there is not a lot of land for gardening around the apartment complexes. So you can rent a bit of land to garden on... and this concept is also über popular in Switzerland. You see these garden plots all over once you know what you are looking at.

And, well, guess what? This one here... yes, this plot of dirt... it's MINE! ALL MINE. Don't laugh. I know you want one deep down, too. And see that ray of sun that is falling on it, highlighting my small piece of heaven? That is no mistake. That is due to the natural heavenly garden goodness, 100% made in Switzerland.

I actually signed up for one of these plots last year - goodness knows when. I think it was around June or July last year, and I figured I might never get one considering that I had to go onto a waiting list. I thought no one would ever leave (or I would have to wait for someone to kick it)! Thankfully, I got the notice in February and I started planning the space immediately despite the fact that I only just got the keys at the end of March. The plots are managed by the Gartenverein, or Gardening Club, locally and it really is quite an active, interesting community.

The plot is 16 meters by 6 meters or so. And to be honest, it feels absolutely HUGE! I thought it would be way smaller and I am a bit more ambitious now with all this space. I also get the shed that is on it and some tools that were left by the previous plot holder for the bargain price of 100 CHF. And let's face it - that rocks as I doubt I could get one tool for that price at Bauhaus.

Now, I am very aware of the fact that this is not a gardening blog, and rest assured that I am not going to be blogging about my gardening all day long (and let's face it, how uncool would that make me? I am already risking senior citizen status here...) - but considering that gardening is such a Swiss thing and these plots are utterly Swiss, I will be more than happy to give updates on my progress in the garden.

The weather has been so lovely and warm lately that I have thrown caution to the wind and started planting, hoping that the days of frost are long gone. I am planting in raised beds, and trying to take advantage of every bit of land.

On Sunday, I spent about four hours in the garden, making the beds and planting seeds. So far I have put in about 5 varieties of lettuce, two types of radish, marigolds, heaps of herbs, onions, peas, poppies and sunflowers. I have reserved a lot of seed in case I made the mistake of planting too early.
Here is where my herb garden will, fingers crossed, eventually be!

And these are the pavers that I moved around to make a nice path to my shed. I tried to keep the lines straight and organized - as especially in their gardens the Swiss are neat, tidy, and organized. I hope I don't let anyone down! And I have to make sure to weed as soon as the pesky weeds pop up, otherwise someone will weed for me and I will get FINED! Oh yes, there are lots of rules when it comes to the Swiss plots. But I am ready. I cannot wait for the bounty and along with that comes some hard work... and rule following, as with everything else in Switzerland.

Ah the plot... I am one step closer to being a bit more Swiss... ;)

Resources for my Swiss Gardening Plot to date:
  • I bought all my seeds so far at - they are really great quality and the packets are easy to read and follow. They also send a great catalog 3-4 times / year.
  • I have bought all the other goodies - tools, gloves, etc - at Bauhaus in Schlieren. It is the closest you can get to a huge home goods store like Bunnings (AUS) or Lowes (USA).
  • Familiengartenverein - or "family garden club"- if you want your own plot in Switzerland, this is what they are called. Ask for one of these at your local Gemeide. At mine you have to put down a deposite for the plot but this is a one time thing. I think it is about 80 CHF and 20 CHF per key for the compound. Then the annual fees are less than 100 CHF for the plot and all the water you need. It is a great deal really for a small bit of land to plant on.


Amanda said...

So excited for you! It's really too bad that have a black thumb, plus I wouldn't even know what to do with myself with all that land. Best wishes in your new garden!

Tina said...

That is so awesome!!! I am very jealous!

I just have window boxes with basil and mint growing out of control.

All that land - serious possibilities!

Z said...

Very cool! By the way, if you're interested about the history of these gardens look up Schrebergarten( or Allotment.

Good luck! May your harvests be plentiful!

Vanessa said...

I am impressed! Have fun with your garden! By the way, do you have any advice for inexperienced, small indoor herb gardening?

Jessica said...

Thanks everyone. I will definately look more into the history, Z.

Vanessa - I also keep a small herb garden indoors or on the balcony when the weather is nicer. It is just so much more convenient.

The key for me is a sunny spot and not to overwater. I tend to over water as opposed to under. As soon as I started to water when the pots were really dry or started to look a bit saggy, the better I have done. No overwatering is the key.

I also buy herb plants that are mature from the grocery store or hardware store. These seem to do better and you have immediate results. Seeds take awhile and need protection from the cold when they are small. Either way, an herb garden indoors is a great way to start to enjoy gardening! Good luck!

Expat Traveler said...

This does not bore me either! It is all so very exciting and I just giggle inside the first time I saw these plots. I actually thought poor people lived in them! lol - yes that was back the month or few days that I arrived in Switzerland and went across Europe...

I'd love to see the progress and the photos are so beautiful that I'm sure you will not bore your readers. Congrats!!!!

Expat Traveler said...

P.s. - I wish we had that here in Victoria too!

Expat Traveler said...

Oh and a question: How will you find the time to keep all of this up???

Habebi said...

That is really, really neat! Can't wait to see the progress.

Jessica said...

Thanks Expat Traveler and Habebi. I think you have probably noticed a bit of a delay in the posts already. I guess between the plot and work something has to give and I hope that it is not always blogging. ;) I am trying to get all the seeds in and done before May and then hopefully the rain will come and I will be able to just weed every few days. We'll see!

That and last year I was jogging all the time - this is replacement for that, too!

Suzer said...

I hope you put up a little swiss flag too. That is so cute!

Be sure to talk the walking path to Minuso. it begins at the end of the waterfront park (to the left when coming from the station)
There is also a cool castle that is speculated to be designed by Di Vinci, and a funicular (close to the station also) that will take you to the mt top for great views. My major recommondation is to have coffee at one of the shops on Piazza Grande at dusk, there seems to be something special in the air then. Oh, and everyone pretty much knows German here, so don't feel like you have to speak Italian.
If you see a Grotti , try it....I haven't yet, but they are supposed to be amazing!
I wish I was in town this weekend to show you around! Oh and also, the "LungoLago" restuarant is open 24/7....very helpful!
Have fun!!

edie said...

I completely thought it was a shanty town too! So excited that you get to play in the dirt. Not surprising that the Swiss are so steadfast in their rules that they will weed for you and then charge you for it. I can't wait to see your little green friends!

The Antiques Diva™ said...

Jessica - That's so fun that you're renting an allotment!! In Holland, allotments are also very popular but not just for gardening but for "summer houses"! Yep, those little shacks without electricity often are where people will go for the weekend getting "back to nature" sleeping in them, using kerosine lamps and cooking of small gas stoves. I was so shocked the first time I discovered that a friends "holiday home" was actually at their allotment!

juanitatortilla said...

THAT is one huge piece of Swiss land you've acquired. Am I growing jealous? My potted Peas and herbs aren't doing too well.

Ah, now I see why you don't need that trip to Brockiland for pots now.

Jessica said...

Juanita, you should simply apply for a plot near you!

I did want the pots to start seeds, but in the end I went to Bauhaus and got mini-greenhouses that are working out well... and they were CHEAP! CHF 8 per greenhouse. But it is nice out now and I can put things directly in the ground.

I did, however, start some pumpkins in the mini-greenhouse yesterday!

blogger tset said...

Hey, a couple of items that might interest you:

1. Tomaten-Setzlingsmarkt going on this weekend. 24th and 25th April at the Stadtgärtnerei Zürich.

2. The Pro Specie Rara Setzlingsmarkt at Schloss Wildegg. If you haven't been to the Schloss, it's worth a trip anyway IMHO. The seedlings at this market are those from the heirloom plants association (my translation, I make no claims to accuracy!). Dates: 2nd and 3rd May 2009, 9 to 17 Uhr.


Tanya said...

I'm so curious to see how your garden turns out. I keep wanting to get one of those plots but I'm afraid I'll never make the time to go water it every day and everything would die. Good luck!


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