Urban Gardening in Athens

The Greek capital is changing. Slowly, but it’s changing. Marousi, where Vicky’s parents live, is the first municipality in Athens to introduce an official urban gardening scheme. The idea is simple: take a disused, vacant piece of land and divide it into sections. Then let local residents apply for a section on a first-come, first-served basis. The successful applicants can then use their section (about 20 square meters) to produce organic vegetables. They keep 80% of the produce and give 20% to a common foodbank which is divided amongst needy families in the area.

This video gives you an idea of what the area looked like back in April 2012, when the project began (it’s in Greek but the images are good). See if you can spot Vicky’s parents – it shouldn’t be difficult, they’re the ones that keep popping up in front of the camera!


A year and a half later, the disused lot has gone from being a bare patch of earth to a fertile vegetable garden. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

It’s great to see the land being used for such a practical purpose – and to help people who are suffering most during the crisis. It is quite impressive: it’s possible to grow everything from peppers,

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

to aubergines,

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme and lemon grass

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to tomatoes,

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

as well as all the herbs you need:

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

Part of the garden is covered, which provides the perfect place to grow seedlings

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

and for the cats to hang out:

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

They also have a composting site to help increase the soil fertility:

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

and a huge water tank to ensure that the vegetables don’t dry up during the scorching summer months:

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

The project has been a huge success in so many ways  – since the plots were assigned to people from the neighbouring blocks (the idea is to have one community garden per neighbourhood), it has created a great sense of community and brought the neighbours closer together, which is not a very easy thing in a city as big as Athens. And probably the most important thing is the way it has brought city people in contact with the land – it is amazing to see little city kids hang out and help out in the garden, decorate their little patch and  watch in fascination as their seedlings grow.

Vicky and I are currently contemplating where we’ll move to in Greece early next year. We still don’t have a specific site for our project so we’ll need a base from which to start searching, and Marousi, a relatively quiet and green(ish) area in the north of the city, seems like a good idea – and if we do that, we’ll have access to her parents’ little garden (they were the first of 35 families to be given a piece of land), which would be great to practice some of the techniques we’ve been learning on our balcony in Freiburg. If we can make tomatoes grow in the cold German summer, imagine what we can do under the Greek sun! We can’t wait to give it a try.

Athens Maroussi Organic Vegetable Urban Gardening Scheme

This is what the little plot looks like now – let’s see what happens in a few months!