The story of Sara Standaert's garden allotment

Part of the gent plant people
Details at http://www.volkstuinen-sint-amandsberg.be

Sara Standaert grew up in the countryside, surrounded by land and farm animals. She used to help her grandfather look after his flower garden and grow corn for his pigeons. When Sara was 12 or 13 she drifted away from gardening.

Then about 4 or 5 years ago Sara moved into a house in Gent with very noisy neighbours. On one side she could hear her neighbours talking loudly, on the other side someone liked to test the strength of his amplifiers. It wasn’t good for her nerves. She took a container gardening workshop and suddenly rediscovered her love for gardening. It became a hobby and a passion and a way to cope with the distractions of the city. In the garden Sara doesn’t think, she just ‘does’… From planting seeds to growing to harvesting and cooking, she loves the whole process of caring for plants. And when winter comes, it's a time to plan and re-assess and start all over again.

Sara got involved with Velt in Damvallei and realised the potential of having her own allotment. She searched online and found the Volkstuinen Sloterkouter allotment in Sint-Amandsberg about 3 minutes walk from her house! She was on a waiting list for a long time, but it was worth it. She was given a beautiful plot with lots of sunshine. It was her dream come true. She even has her own little shed where she can store her equipment.

The allotment has 94 plots. It is rented from the City of Ghent and works out very cheaply for each individual. Members administrate and manage the area and Sara says that the current members are asking the younger generation to help lead the group and take responsibility for the area. They have had some problems with theft. Recently Sara lost three quarters of her sweetcorn. She says she just hopes that whoever took it was hungry and really needed it. All they had to do was ask and she would have given them some. She thinks that maybe the solution is a giving system for the local community to try to stop the stealing. She wishes that at least whoever steals her vegetables could maybe do some weeding aswell!

Sara took over the plot from a man who had been there since 1992 called Kameal. She was also given a lot of his tools, so she feels very proud to help continue what he started. Sara loves her plot. It’s her little piece of paradise within a larger community of all ages. Sara grows a huge range of vegetables and herbs. She has done a course in ecological gardening through Velt learning about rotating crops and composting. She puts a lot of time into her soil and she had a great harvest this year (she calls it beginners luck but it’s definitely the results of her hard work!). Sara wants to develop more methods of organic gardening, she says that some plot owners use artificial fertilisers and pesticides but she prefers to recycle the nutrients back into the soil naturally. She wants to start mulching but is worried what the other gardeners will think (some are a bit stuck in their ways and some even think that her soil is good because of Kameal not her!), but she says she needs to do it and will prove them wrong. A bit of friendly rivalry never goes astray when it comes to community gardening.

In the future Sara wants to learn more about permaculture and to keep gardening with love and care. She is also planning to study food, life and health consulting. She is clearly a passionate gardener very proud of her beautiful plot.