Pattern No.177 Vegetable Garden; inspiration from eight countries.

"In a healthy town every family can grow vegetables for itself. The time is past to think of this as a hobby for enthusiasts; it is a fundamental part of human life." So said Alexander the author of 'A Pattern Language', 253 patterns that define how we live.

In pattern No.177 he recommends that you, "Set aside one piece of land either in the private garden or on common land as a vegetable garden. About one-tenth of an acre is needed for each family of four. Make sure the vegetable garden is in a sunny place and central to all the households it serves. Fence it in and build a small storage shed for gardening tools beside it."


Yuanyang, China ...

The Chinese have been cultivating rice for at least 8,000 years. These hill slopes of Yuanyang County plunge nearly 2,000m (6,500ft) to the valley floor. Each contains thousands of stacked terraces carved out by hand using basic digging tools (see video).


The rice terraces of China. Select the video button above.






Terraced paddies like these are found across much of southern China. A vast landscape dominated by rice cultivation. The people that live here, the Miao, have developed a remarkable rice culture, with every inch of fertile land used to cultivate rice. Their wooden houses are built on stilts on the steepest and least productive hillsides [Pattern No.104]. Planting the rice at the right time is critical to the success of the crop. The ideal date isn't easy to predict. Most Miao homes look out over the rice terraces and from early spring a window is left open to let the red-rumped swallows nest on the ceiling of the house. Each year elders note the exact day the swallows return and use the birds' arrival to predict the best time to plant the rice.








Image by Timothy Allen


Djenné, Mali ...

During the dry season the Bani River at Djenné shrinks back and exposes a mass of litter and debris thrown away by its 33,000 inhabitants. The town's population use mud from the river to build and maintain their adobe homes and Mosque. Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries, where 44% of the population has no access to clean water with widespread food shortages in the country, particularly in the north.

Around 80% of Malians rely on agriculture for survival. The farmer pictured right created a little paradise taking advantage of the damp Bani riverbed and nearby water to grow his crops. It's likely he's growing herbs and cassava. Cassava can be used as a starch to bind clay.









Image courtesy of The Municipality of Ljubljana


Ljubljana, Slovenia ...

You might have seen this beautiful picture of the Krakovo gardens. Like the allotment gardens of Geneva below, they are right in the middle of a major city, in this case Ljubljana in Slovenia. If you have seen the picture it's probably as an example of permaculture practices or on a travel website showing the sights of Ljubljana.

the picture was taken over 30 years ago and sadly, in later years, the 1.8ha (4.5 acres) of gardens became almost entirely abandoned. Around twenty years ago the Krakovo gardens were an important source of fresh vegetable for people of Ljubljana. Shopping in Ljubljana's green market on a Saturday morning was a community experience where people bought fresh organic food grown within a stone's throw of where they lived. It was so called 'economic prosperity' that brought the demise of the gardens which you can see here on Google Maps. It is likely that there are many food producing plots or gardens in urban areas that are facing the same challenge.







Food production always leaves behind a cultural footprint that should be cherished and preserved. Luckily the Krakovo gardens are protected by law as a cultural heritage site since their creation around 1774 and a local community gardening project is working to bring them back in to productive use. Now local, fresh, organic food is available once more in the city.






Geneva, Switzerland ...



Pictured right are the allotment gardens of Av. de Crozet about 2km from the centre of Geneva, Switzerland. The founder of these types of gardens in Europe was a 19th century German physician called Moritz Schreber. In the German speaking countries these allotment gardens are still called Schrebergarten [Schreber gardens].

The idea of organised allotment gardening reached a first peak after 1864, when Schreber started the 'Schreber Movement' in Leipzig where areas within the city were made available for children to play in a healthy environment in harmony with nature. Later on these areas included gardens for children, but soon adults began to cultivate them. This kind of gardening later became popular in other European countries such as Austria and Switzerland.

You can see the urban life around the picture (right) when you zoom out here in Google Maps. The gardens are not, as many websites would have you believe, a community of homes devoted to natural living.



Russia ...



In some countries the right to grow your own food is protected by the law. In 2003, the Russian government signed the Private Garden Plot Act into law, entitling citizens to private plots of land for free. These plots range from 0.89 hectares to 2.75 hectares.

Russians have something built into their DNA that creates the desire to grow their own food. It's not just a hobby but a massive contribution to Russia's agriculture.

Read about the dacha gardeners of Russia where In 2011, 51% of Russia's food was grown either by dacha communities (40%) or peasant farmers (11%) leaving the rest (49%) of production to the large agricultural enterprises.

More living garden homes ...


Russia's dacha and gardens. Select the video button above.


Havana, Cuba ...

Food sovereignty puts the people who produce, distribute and eat food at the centre of decisions about food production and policy rather than corporations and market institutions that have come to dominate the global food system. In Havana, Cuba 90% of the city's fresh produce comes from local urban farms and gardens called Organopónicos.

Find out more about Havana's Organopónicos in the video right [in Cuban Spanish with English subtitles].

The Cuban model of sustainable agriculture is looked upon as a leading example of how to grow food without fossil fuels. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Cuba experienced a artificial peak oil crisis. Some of the agricultural changes involved using more manual labour and animals instead of machinery. Organic farming methods eliminated oil based fertilizers and pesticides.


The allotments of central Havana, Cuba. Select the video button above.


Idaho, USA ...

This is Diane and Thom's garden in their small two acre farm. It's filled with bush beans, pole beans, winter squash, sweet corn, tomatoes and sunflowers.

In the USA most of the food eaten comes from many miles away and the connection between the farmer and the consumer is disappearing. In the USA between 2002 and 2007 over 4 million acres of farm land were lost to urban developments, an area nearly the size of Massachusetts.

Diane and Thom educate people and about small scale organic food production to encourage and help others to do the same. Their garden is a hands-on classroom providing opportunities for all ages to get involved with food production.


Certified organic gardening. Select the video button above.


Belo Horizonte, Brazil ...

Brazil’s fourth largest city, Belo Horizonte, declared that food was a right of citizenship and started working to make good food available to everyone. One of its programs puts local farm produce into all school meals.

Their food security programme was first implemented in 1993. In 2004 the programme became a role model for Brazil's national strategy in the fight against hunger.

In 2006 Belo Horizonte issued a law that requires schools to use at least 30% of their fresh food from local growers.

The city invests about 2% of its budget in community food sovereignty programmes that address health, social equality, job creation, diversified agriculture, and local food production.


Groundbreaking food policy: Belo Horizonte. Select the video button above.


England ...

Recently it was thought that the allotment gardens of England were under threat. The Government's Communities Secretary was thought to be examining plans to free local authorities from a 106 year old obligation to provide plots of public land for cultivation by gardeners. An official government petition was launched for resident in the UK [see protect the allotments of England] but happily signatories of the petition have been assured that allotments in the UK are still protected by law with a reference to these minutes of meeting at the House of Commons.