Green fingers while studying

A young gardener next to his flower bed

Bright red strawberries nestle in the beds alongside deep-green rocket, tender heritage carrots grow in harmony with bushy zucchini plants, the buzzing bees land on flowering yellow-purple pansies. The sun is shining and the beer is chilling for the evening barbeque – sounds like a summer paradise in a typical German allotment community. But wait! This oasis is not tended by allotment gardeners, it has been set up by students on the Wilhelminenhof campus.

The beginning
The idea for an urban garden on the uncultivated land beside building H directly by the Spree came from Zeki, a student on the Renewable Energies degree programme. Through word of mouth, a group of interested students got together to form a team. After receiving permission from the university management, the first raised beds were built in winter 2015. The team built the grow beds on their own initiative and with support from the supplementary module “Urban Gardening”. In spring 2016 four bee colonies with around 40,000 bees were introduced. Students can currently learn the fundamentals of beekeeping in the supplementary module “Bee Management”.

Watching the plants grow
“I find it fascinating to see how something grows from nothing,” says Ben, a student on the Applied Computer Science degree programme, explaining why he enjoys gardening at HTW Berlin. He is not alone. The community garden now has 20 grow beds that are cared for by approximately 50 people. In addition to students of HTW Berlin, residents from the local neighbourhood are also involved. There is still space for additional grow beds. Free building materials are provided by a trade fair construction company and a local club, the tools and earth are paid for by the university’s Student Parliament. The urban gardeners procure the seeds themselves. However, before anyone can start a new grow bed, they need the go-ahead from the organisational team.

From a place of learning to a place of living
Many friendships have developed from caring for the grow beds. “You have to water the plants and you get chatting with other people. At some point you wind up having a barbeque together and talking about the plants,” explains Camilla, a Communications Design student. The Urban Garden has also changed the atmosphere on the Wilhelminenhof campus. “We only used to come here to study. Now the campus is evolving from a place of learning into a place of living,” observes Camilla.

A temporary garden
At the moment it is not yet clear how long the urban gardeners will be able to use the area and try out new ideas. Although parking spaces and a beach volleyball field are soon to be built in neighbouring areas, there are currently no construction plans that would present a threat to the community garden.