In his “Last Child in the Woods”, Richard Louv takes up the problem of children having less and less exposure to nature, which is most clearly visible in big cities. As a child, born and raised in Warsaw, the biggest city of Poland, I never really suffered from reduced exposure to nature and the present young generation probably still doesn’t, as Warsaw is actually quite a green city, far from being a concrete jungle. That’s one of the first impressions foreigners often have of Warsaw. There are a lot of green areas, forests, parks and even… allotment gardens.
Yes, in Poland we love these. Can you imagine that more than 2% of Warsaw’s area are allotment gardens and in Poland we have almost one million parcels to garden? What we’re talking about are plots of land subdivided into parcels and made available for individual gardening and non-commercial growing of food plants. When it comes to collective gardening, community gardens are emerging, but they are still quite a new phenomenon (we have about 20 functioning community gardens in Warsaw at the moment). The first allotment gardens in Poland came into existence in Grudziądz in 1897 and the oldest ones in Warsaw, at Odyńca Street, date back to 1902.
When I was a little kid, I remember my grandma taking me and my cousins to her allotment garden. We’d pick redcurrants and strawberries, apples and cherries. We’d plant, we’d weed, we’d fill watering cans and water the plants. We’d dig in the soil, watch worms and pick snails. Blissful childhood memories. How great it is to be able to garden even if you live in a grey, dull block of flats!
Nowadays still many people spend their free time in allotment gardens. They invite friends over for a barbecue at weekends. Children paddle in inflatable pools, their parents sunbathe on deckchairs.
People plant beautiful flowers and grow tomatoes, cucumbers, courgette, salad, strawberries, cherries, redcurrants, apples, pears, plums and many other delicious fruits and vegetables. They keep their tools in garden sheds. Some of the sheds take the proportions of an actual summer house, making the time spent in allotment gardens very comfortable. Isn’t it great to have such gardens within arm’s reach, in the middle of the city?