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Allotment gardens bring community spirit

Spring brings many citydwellers to community gardens – including growing numbers of immigrants.

Eeva Prokkonen
Eeva Prokkonen Image: Satu Haapanen / Yle

“In a five-by-five metre plot, you can plant potatoes, carrots, lettuce and flowers – and still have room for some deck chairs," says Tarja Kauppinen, head of the 4H organisation that runs an allotment garden in the eastern town of Mikkeli.

Sunny hours in paradise

Eeva Prokkonen has had her own small garden here for a decade. All winter long she drinks juice made from her own currant and gooseberry plants, and in summer eats strawberries, rhubarb and garlic from her own mini-farm.

“It doesn’t matter if it sometimes seems like work. Gardening is good exercise; it’s really good for your back. And don’t forget that community gardening gives you a really good feeling,” says the pensioner.

“Sometimes on Sunday mornings, when it’s really beautiful, warm weather, I just relax in my chaise longue for many hours and enjoy this paradise,” muses Prokkonen. She adds that her fellow gardeners have become good friends.

“Even in the winter, when we see each other at the shopping centre, we have a hug and a chat,” she says. “We gardeners are a breed of our own -- a bit nutty, but in a good way!”

New arrivals with green thumbs

About one third of the gardeners at the Jokipuisto allotment garden in central Mikkeli are immigrants.

“There are some from Russian Karelia, a lot from Myanmar and now some from Congo as well,” says Kauppinen.

“They’re used to growing in their own home countries. I’ve noticed, particularly among the Burmese, that the whole family takes part in the work. They keep their plots in good shape, so they get good harvests,” adds the 4H official.

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