Garden mania has gripped Russia, with some 70 million people owning green space in the countryside and thousands keen on urban gardening.
Sophia Kulikova’s love affair with her garden began 10 years ago, when she and her husband bought a plot of land some 100 kilometers from Moscow, built a country house there and turned their summer retreat into their key food supplier.
“The garden’s been a great help,” Sophia said. “I can’t imagine how we’d have coped without it. Even when times were tough, we always had plenty of vegetables, plenty of supplies for the winter.”
Indeed, in times of crises, country houses, or dachas, have kept many Russians fed. For Sophia, however, it is no longer about survival. Her garden has become her passion.
“It takes up all my time! This garden is like a small child that needs constant care! Of course, now we can buy everything we need. But it’s such a joy growing things yourself! I get so bored in winters when I don’t have anything to do here,” Sophia said.
While toiling all summer may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, it all seems to pay off when it is time to gather in the harvest. Every year Sophia’s family enjoys freshly squeezed apple juice, a supply of pickled vegetables, and even tea which is made of herbs from the garden.
“It’s so much better than vegetables from a store. These ones were raised with love! And we know for sure that they’re organic!” Sophia told RT.
Sophia is not alone. The country’s Union of Gardeners says about 70 million Russians own some sort of space where they grow things.
Those who do not have a house in the country and still want an outlet for their gardening impulses can have a go at planting, weeding and watering without leaving the city. In the very heart of Moscow, for a thousand rubles (some $30) a month you can rent a vegetable patch to raise your own radish, lettuce or tomatoes.
“We were inspired by urban vegetable gardens in Europe and wanted Moscow to have something similar,” Lilya Dzhebisashvili, coordinator of the Lavka Ogorod project, told RT. “And we’re planning to expand our project to have more gardens like this in the city, in people’s yards or on balconies. It’s fun and it’s good for the environment.”
Still, whatever it is that drives Russia’s rural and urban gardeners – a bit of fun or a desire to go organic – the country’s garden mania looks set to last.
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