November 10, 2016 / 2:03 PM / 4 years ago

Digging in the city - urban Swedes get back to their roots

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - They are doing it on the rooftops, on tower block balconies and even on a disused railway: Swedes have discovered a passion for urban gardening as a way of growing fresh food and getting back in touch with nature.

Daniel Jager waters the plants on the balcony of his apartment in Stockholm, Sweden, September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Part of a global movement, an increasing number of Swedish city-dwellers are growing their own in window boxes and allotments or are visiting public gardens built in or on industrial or office spaces.

“Up on the roofs we are able to create more bio-diverse cities,” said John Block, who leads guided tours of Malmo’s Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden.

Stretching over 9,500 square meters on top of local government office blocks, the garden is more than just a pretty space, he said.

“With the help of these new green areas, we’re making a better urban environment with their cooling capacity and reduction of air pollutants.”

Inspired by New York’s Highline, a garden built on an elevated railroad, and Berlin’s Prinzessinnengarten, a reclaimed wasteland, a Stockholm neighborhood has turned a disused railway into a communal space for hundreds of amateur gardeners.

Five years ago, local man Philipp Olsmeyer wanted to make his Sodermalm area greener and contacted local authorities with his idea for the Tradgard pa Sparet - Swedish for “Garden on track”.

“Now there are about 200 (planter) boxes here. Some of them belong to the association and some belong to schools”, he said.

A few miles away, Rosendals’ Garden is a city farm popular with Stockholm’s foodies who enjoy its vegetables, fruits and herbs in the greenhouse café.

Pelle Mattsson combines his job as an illustrator and graphic designer with gardening at Rosendals, something that helps keeps the city-dweller in touch with the changing seasons.

“Gardening in Sweden is season-based so I think it’s a good combination,” he said. “To sit in the studio and draw and spend a few days in the garden.”

Additional reporting by Maxim Shemetov; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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