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Do Weeds Matter for Biodiversity?

Do Weeds Matter for Biodiversity?

Weeds. A very negative-sounding word for many. However, weeds might not exactly be what we used to think they are. Let me take you on a walk in the countryside, observing fields of barley as we pass them by. In the meanwhile, let’s explore who weeds really are. Let’s find out: do weeds matter for biodiversity? And how much?

I bet only few of you have ever seen a field as the one on the picture. Even as an attentive observer of the farmlands around me, I haven’t seen such a colourful cereal-field before, until I saw this one at my faculty of agricultural sciences. At this test plot, no herbicides have been applied, allowing the weeds to come to full bloom in summer. Maybe those from the older generation will remember such blooming fields from the time when they were young, but it has become a rare sight nowadays.

Barley field full of blooming weeds
Barley field full of blooming weeds. Photo by Naomi Bosch

While the flowers are exceptionally beautiful to look at, this is not an homage to the good old times, when “everything used to be better”. Neither does this text mean to condemn all the farmers of the world who do apply pesticides. In fact, its purpose is to strike up a debate about flowers, bread, bees and biodiversity. About who is and who isn’t paying the cost for the cornflowers and poppies we don’t see around us anymore.

Unwanted weeds

There is no doubt that the blue and red spots of flowers in the field of cereals on the picture are a pretty sight. But this doesn’t change the fact that those are weeds. Weeds are any plants that grow on the field along with a crop, that haven’t been sown there intentionally.

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Urban Gardening – The Food Revolution

Urban Gardening – The Food Revolution

the future of our food system?

Where does your food come from? If you live in a city, like me, you probably rely on farmers near and far to produce your food. But have you ever thought about what would happen if the food chain suddenly broke down? If, say, a natural disaster hit or transportation of food was unavailable for some time? Even with the current Corona-virus outbreak, some people are facing anxieties of food shortages. Are we, as urban inhabitants, able to supply ourselves, even if everything turns against us? It can be scary to think about it. But it doesn’t have to be like that! Even if we don’t have gardens of our own, there is an array of ways to grow food right in our cities! This concept is called urban gardening or urban farming. And it’s got a surprisingly rich & interesting history… Could urban gardening, along with community supported agriculture, be the next food revolution?

Where my inspirational trip started…

Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden and quite a lively place to explore, to live and to work in. From modern libraries to extravagant art galleries, from excellent cycling paths to an array of beautiful cafés and restaurants: there is something for everybody’s taste. Much to my delight, Malmö is quite a green city, too. Many parks, lawns and gardens provide space for sitting and reading, chatting or just relaxing in nature.

In the very heart of the city, on the fortress island behind the castle of Malmö, I spotted a vibrant oasis of life: Slottsträdgården. This is an urban gardening project that was established back in in 1997 by an association called “The Friend’s Association”. It operates entirely on organic principles.

Malmö's urban gardening area. Photo by Naomi Bosch
Malmö’s urban gardening area. Photo by Naomi Bosch

Green city

Here, members can rent one of the 60 small city allotments of around 6-8 sqm. One of the fields is solely for use as a school garden for Malmö’s schoolchildren.

Besides the gardening allotments, Slottsträdgården includes various educational allotments, like a perennial garden, a garden with plants adapted to dry climate, and one with plants that could become more relevant for food production with climate change.

Different educational gardens in Malmö. Photos by Naomi Bosch

Little paths lead to the allotments and create opportunity for exploring, admiring the lush plants and photographing. Furthermore, the air vibrating with these tiny, flying creatures, the garden is a true haven for insectsbirds and butterflies. This place is truly a treasure in the midst of a busy city.

But, as if things couldn’t get better, the Association also runs a lovely café. More precisely, it consists of a sunny terrace and tables in a secluded greenhouse beautifully decorated with colourful pillows, a grapevine and other plants hanging from the ceiling. As a relaxed end for a tiring workday or as a fresh start into a city-tour, this is just the perfect spot for sipping coffee and enjoying some freshly baked cake.

The Friends’ Associations’s garden style café. Photos by Naomi Bosch

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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