The vegetable garden at Meilong Sancun where plants were placed in dozens of "square foot gardens" which some residents asked to take home and grow them on their balconies. Inset: Children trim the leaves of rice crops at the vegetable garden at the Knowledge and Innovation Community in an event held at the end of October last year. (Ti Gong)
A one-time garbage disposal area at the Knowledge and Innovation Community in Yangpu District was the site of happy reapers last autumn after the strip of land between two housing complexes was turned into a 2,000 square-meter vegetable garden.
"After my daughter was born, I wanted to do something to bring urban life closer to nature," said Wei Min, an architect and council member at Clover Nature School that designed the garden. "I wanted a place where she could have fun and learn to share nice things with others."
At the end of October, children in the community came together in the veggie patch to share an outdoor experience. They harvested and threshed rice — half the crop went into steamed rice balls, half to the birds.
Then the 20-square-meter rice paddy was planted with broad beans for early spring harvest.
In addition to rice, the community gardeners planted numerous other plants including cauliflower, white radishes, asparagus, rosemary, sage and mint last year.
The garden is organic, with community kitchen waste recycled for fertilizer. The result is an enclave of biodiversity where more than 30 kinds of insects have been identified.
Residents and visitors alike enjoy and admire the garden.
"When you no longer see red dragonflies in the pond of fleur-de-lis, you start to lament that summer is gone," Wei said of the changing seasons that a garden reflects.
She and her team have created about 30 "edible gardens" like this one around Shanghai, mostly in residential communities.
More than just a boost to the environment, the gardens provide an elixir of community spirit.
Another Yangpu garden called Baicaoyuan, or literally "herbal garden," is a 200-square-meter green strip in the neighborhood's central square.
Over 20 volunteers from the community plant cucumbers, pumpkins, aubergines, peppers and other vegetables in the springtime. They hold activities to attract residents, young and old, to the project.
One of the volunteers, 72-year-old He Yuwen, said two volunteers are on duty every day to water and weed the rows of vegetables.
"We are all plant enthusiasts, but previously we did that only at home," he said. "Taking care of a public garden is more complicated because it involves collaboration."