With its “Eatable City” project, Andernach is fetching nature back into town. Not only is this city on the Rhine creating more quality in public spaces, but with useful plants and extensive greening measures, it is providing a healthy town climate and promoting crop plant diversity while providing a welcome change in the menu for its citizens into the bargain.
The project, which is unique in Germany, was already launched in 2010 and has since continuously developed. It centres on an approach to the long-term and sustainable management of green spaces in order to make the city more lively, environment-friendly and differentiated. Here, sustainability and biodiversity form the basis for promoting urban agriculture and rouse the interest of the city’s inhabitants in more conscious and healthier eating habits. In this context, the integration of urban agriculture aspects in the city’s green spaces is a crucial element. By planting public vegetable beds that are not only accessible to everyone but can also be harvested by all citizens, Andernach has embarked on a new course. This peri-urban permaculture garden area enables the city to promote urban diversity in public spaces as well as socialising among its citizens.
The “Eatable City” of Andernach pursues the goal of making urban green spaces more attractive while simultaneously equally supporting ecological, economic and aesthetic functions in the sense of a multifunctional approach. Vegetable beds that are freely accessible for citizens and other useful plant areas are to promote social engagement and contribute to filling the city with life again.
Each year, a particular useful plant is given a special focus. For example, along the wall in the Schlossgarten, 101 tomato varieties were planted in 2010 as well as 100 varieties of beans in 2011 and 20 varieties of onions in 2012, while 2013 was the year of the cabbage. A small vineyard with grape varieties for direct consumption is located in the immediate vicinity. An enormous amount of new options have been created to use plants for design purposes. Here, one aim is to demonstrate biodiversity temporarily and make it comprehensible in smaller areas.
On a wall exposed to the South, the “Eatable City Wall” was installed in 2012. Here, sub-Mediterranean fruit trees such as kaki, almonds in shells, fig, bitter orange or common pawpaw can be found. The re-establishment of plants and fruit trees that used to be indigenous but have become rare, such as quince, medlar and Cornelian cherry is also part of the project. The ecological and economic refurbishment of the green spaces has been continued with a transformation of the cost-intensive alternating beds into sustainable beds for herbaceous perennials. Whereas small-area alternating beds are to be kept in the Rhine green spaces, the alternating beds in the city and its districts have been turned into areas planted with a high level of variety, diversity in design and aesthetic appeal.
With its project, Andernach has succeeded in addressing and developing a wide range of ecological, urban climate and social aspects. The “Eatable City” has had a positive impact on:
Together with Perspektive gGmbH, a company qualifying long-term unemployed people, Andernach has developed an extensive vocational qualification service that also belongs to the project. The long-term unemployed finding an occupation via this service are doing valuable work and taking part in managing and looking after the green areas. The “Eatable City” is also based on an educational motive. School gardens have been started at primary schools, and the children and youths are familiarised with the topics of sustainability, permaculture and healthy diets. In addition, the fruit and vegetables are consistently organically grown – and care is taken that no herbicides or mineral fertilisers are used. Instead, Andernach works with intermediate crops in mixed crop cultivation and with an extensive range of mulches. In this manner, the beds are kept sustainable, and in the long term, they can remain suitable for cultivation and maintain their biodiversity.
With its “Eatable City” project, Andernach has succeeded in combining ideas coming from sustainable urban development with concepts from the field of biodiversity and nutrition. Experience has shown that many synergy effects have developed through this approach. Together with the wildflower meadows, the high-quality useful plant areas are a genuine alternative to the usual cost-intensive and elaborately maintained utility lawns and other urban green spaces. The example of Andernach has demonstrated that incidents of vandalism that had initially been feared have not occurred, and the permacultures have also gone down well with the population.