Metropole’s tips and tricks to the aspiring urban gardener
Between the big city bustle of busy pavements, tiny dogs, chic cafés, trotting horses and bicycle bells, we the urban dwellers often have difficulty connecting with our mostly agrarian beginnings and the calm and tranquility they offer. While Vienna in particular has green spaces that are well integrated, offering inhabitants cool shade in the summer, backdrops for picnics or shelter for the many city-dwelling birds and animals, it was never enough for me; how about you?
In 2010 the urban population surpassed the rural for the first time in history. While cities grow, the amount of those sticking by farm-life remains the same. So why not embrace your green thumb and go back to the roots, fighting back the concrete by trying your luck with a leafy hideaway of your very own?
The best way to start is small, with windowsill boxes or kitchen shelf herbs. Usually forgiving, they are low maintenance, not requiring much space or affection, but the payoff is nonetheless impressive! Imagine freshly picked thyme or rosemary garnishing your dinner plate every evening.
Make good use of the space and time that you have
If room is an issue, a space efficient idea would be cherry tomatoes and strawberries, available at Billa and your local farmer’s markets. For those interested in less popular varieties, reserve the 2nd weekend of April for the rare plants fair of the University of Vienna’s Institute for Botany.
When to start
Traditionally, the season begins in late spring. However, that’s an inconvenient time to begin your hobby: gardening’s rewards need time to germinate, and you will have nothing to look forward to on long winter nights and chilly mornings. So why not start now? If you begin planting this fall, you can welcome spring in style with blazing colors! Check your local Spar and Billa for bulbs and seeds in late summer.
Check out the MA48, the Viennese municipal waste authority for good quality, inexpensive composted soil and fertilizer. The locally sourced soil bags can be picked up from your local waste disposal site; €5 will get you 40L. The fertilizer is free, so bring your own bag and help yourself! Find your nearest location here:
Wine crates (ask at your nearest wine store for some) or up-cycled tin and wooden containers are great alternatives to conventional pots. IKEA can grant some inspiration: check out the Fintorp collection. Originally intended as storage, it can be easily repurposed to serve as your own kitchen herb rack. When you run out of ideas, take a trip to the horticultural superstore Dehner where you can find anything you could wish for and more.
At some point, you’ll likely outgrow your windowsill or balcony, Once you’re ready to move to a bigger league, go ahead and rent a plot of land for the whole season from the City of Vienna. Spaces ranging from 40m2 (€61) to 80m2 (€122) are available in the 22nd district. Other organizations offer similar services, such as Selbtsernte and Cityfarm and will even help you to plant and water your plants!
If you do fail miserably, do not despair; simply try, try again. In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant”.