Veranstalter / Organizers:
Messe Berlin Website
Datum der Veranstaltung:
17-26 Jan 2025
International Green Week
17-26 Jan 2025

When the zucchini with the tomato

Gardening professional Sven Hildebrand explains how self-sufficiency through one's own garden succeeds, what role soil quality plays in this and how plant partnerships help to improve it.

Conscious nutrition, connection with nature and a sustainable life - self-sufficiency through one's own garden fulfills many wishes. But at the beginning of cultivation there are important questions: What defines good soil? How can you improve soil quality? Which plants go well together? Gardening professional Sven Hildebrand provides answers.

In the beginning is the soil

Successful garden management starts with the soil. "Then there are light, water and wind conditions - it all has to fit together well," Hildebrand explains. The best way to determine soil quality is to take a soil sample. However, garden owners are often already aware of their growing problems. "I often hear, "I have it so loamy, nothing grows at all." Is the dream of having your own harvest on your plate already over then? "The opposite is true," reassures Hildebrand, who farms 1,200 square meters of vegetable garden himself with his wife. "Loamy, heavy soil ensures that the soil is still moist in the summer. In a sandy soil, water seeps away too quickly and the plants can't absorb enough."

Humus is a must

It's important to know: Whether it's sandy or loamy soil, the base condition is not a dead end. Clever techniques can be used to achieve a good humus content in the soil - the ideal one for vegetable crops is six to seven percent. "A sandy soil, for example, can be rebuilt with green waste compost. In parallel, you can start planting," encourages the trained mechanical engineer. The grass and. Leaf pruning reduces drying out and improves the soil environment. "Earthworms and other small organisms eat down the mulch layer and make new soil. That increases the humus content." With each vegetable season, the soil becomes a bit more nutrient-rich. Another benefit of mulching: The soil stays weed-free because light-germinating weeds can't get through the soil in the first place. The plants remain intact.

What to do with clayey soils?

"The problem with clayey soils is often that the clay washes away the air and water channels in the soil too quickly. This almost seals soil," says Hildebrand, who has been self-sufficient for himself and his family for more than a decade. The idea here, he says, is to loosen up and aerate the top 20 to 30 centimeters of soil. One idea is to add sand. "The microorganisms can then create channels that facilitate air and water transport in the soil."

When zucchini partners with tomato - successful plant partnerships

For successful self-sufficiency, many rely on plant partnerships, combining well-harmonizing vegetables such as tomato and zucchini. "As high as a tomato grows upward, it also roots downward. So they're deep rooters, and they're pulling water up there." Zucchinis, which are low-growing and shallow-rooting vegetables, benefit from this. "In return, the zucchini leaves cover the soil lushly," Hildebrand explains. "This protects the soil from drying out and better shields the tomatoes from late blight - a fungus that's everywhere in the soil." By growing at different heights, the garden can be planted even more densely because the tomato and zucchini won't get in each other's way.

Another strong vegetable team is the onion and carrot. They keep the carrot and onion flies at bay, respectively. Both pest species are each irritated by the opposing vegetable and therefore occur less. "A win-win situation," Hildebrand smiles. The examples show: If you harbor the desire of self-sufficiency, you have many ways to fulfill it. "The most important thing is just the will to start, the rest will find itself," sums up Hildebrand.

On the "Garden, House & Yard" theme world page of the Green Week, interested visitors will find lots of other helpful information on everything to do with their own four walls, including gardens, terraces or balconies.

Personal details: Sven Hildebrand works as an honorary AckerCoach for Acker e. V. The non-profit social enterprise aims to increase the appreciation of food in society. The monthly newsletter "Ran ans Gemüse!" provides readers with practical tips on growing vegetables and interesting facts about nature, sustainability and healthy eating.

Sven Hildebrand in his own vegetable garden

Always in action - Sven Hildebrand spends almost every day in his own vegetable garden. Photo: Kim Bohlender

Author:Daniela Breitschaft

Nature & Plants, Green Up Your Life

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