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Norwegian allotment gardens — A study of motives and benefits

Summary


Urban allotment gardens are highly valued as safe outdoor places for children, as places to cultivate, and for providing access to nature

Thirty-three adults with urban allotment gardens (AG) were interviewed to explore their reasons for engaging in an AG and the perceived benefits they received as a plot holder in a Norwegian context. An AG in Oslo is a plot of land with a small cottage one can live in during the summer season. The property is owned by the Municipality of Oslo but rented and managed by an AG association. Allotment gardens were established in Norway around the beginning of the twentieth century as a way to engage working class families in gardening activities and to provide a healthier life style.

People interviewed for this study were recruited from two different AGs in Norway – one with 88 plots, the other with 206 plots. Each AG has a waiting list of over 1000 families. The semi-structured interviews were conducted at the AGs, were audio-taped, and were approximately 30 minutes in length. Initial background questions collected information about age, gender, distance the interviewee lived from the AG, how long the interviewee had the AG and how long they had to wait to get the plot. Other more open-ended questions asked about reasons for having a plot and the benefits of being a plot holder.

Almost all of the interviewees lived in the AG during the summer, while others visited the garden regularly and lived there mainly on weekends. There was considerable variation in how long the interviewees had their plots — ranging from 3 to 41 years. The primary reason for having a plot was to provide a safe place where their children had easy access to outdoors. They talked about wanting a safe place where their children could play outdoors and move around without constant adult supervision. The second most frequently mentioned reason for having a plot was to have a garden where one could grow their own vegetables and flowers. Some interviewees linked their interest in cultivation to experiences from their own childhood and traditions in their family. The third reason offered was to have contact with nature or with the outdoors. Many of the plot holders referred to their AG as a second home giving them access to the outdoors even when they lived in the city.

In response to questions about how they used the garden and what it meant to them, interviewees cited meaningful activities, social interactions, and the garden as a respite from city life. Some of them referred to their AG as a place to relax. They also talked about enjoying such sensory experiences as feeling the temperature, walking barefoot in the grass, and looking at flowers.

These findings are consistent with other studies focusing on motivations for and benefits of nature-related experiences which indicate that frequent positive interactions with nature play an important role in one’s quality of life.

Citation

Nordh, H., Wiklund, K.T., Koppang, K.E., (2016). Norwegian allotment gardens — A study of motives and benefits. Landscape Research, 41(8), 853-868.

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