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Free trees and green garlands: How Antwerp is encouraging residents to be urban gardeners

The car running on line 1 had been transformed into a lush mobile garden for a day, with plants squeezed into every available space.
The car running on line 1 had been transformed into a lush mobile garden for a day, with plants squeezed into every available space. Copyright District Antwerpen
Copyright District Antwerpen
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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The free-tree scheme in Antwerp is part of an initiative by the local council called Neighbourhood in Bloom.

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Antwerp is encouraging citizens to go green by giving away free trees.

Until 30 September, the Belgian city is handing out 2,000 trees to residents with a garden or unpaved space available to plant them in.

For the project, 20 tree types that do well an urban environment have been selected. A short questionnaire covering the amount of space and sunlight available helps determine which type is most suitable.

It is hoped the initiative will help cool the city in the summertime, improve air quality, and create more breeding grounds for birds and other animals.

Many will already be familiar with the project, which was launched last summer with an eye-catching, foliage-filled tram.

The car running on line 1 was transformed into a lush mobile garden for a day, with plants squeezed into every available space to encourage residents to take up urban gardening.

Why is Antwerp encouraging urban gardening?

The free tree scheme in Antwerp is part of an initiative by the local council called Neighbourhood in Bloom (Buurt in Bloei).

The aim of the scheme is to encourage residents to get involved in gardening in order to transform their city into a greener and healthier place to live.

The foliage-filled tram in Antwerp was part of an initiative by the local council called Neighbourhood in Bloom.
The foliage-filled tram in Antwerp was part of an initiative by the local council called Neighbourhood in Bloom.District Antwerpen

As part of the initiative, Antwerp council is also offering any budding urban gardeners 'facade gardens' free of charge.

Those living in the central district of the city can request plants, garlands to hang between houses across streets, and trees from the council. The council will also offer financial assistance for those wanting to purchase a rainwater collection barrel to water their gardens.

The scheme is being repeated after great success in 2022, when residents of Antwerp were inspired to create over 200 facade gardens, 170 areas of trees and 100 garlands.

When it comes to installing the gardens, the district council is responsible for lifting pavement tiles, laying soil and planting while residents should then maintain the shrubs and greenery.

What are the benefits of urban gardens?

Adding more foliage to urban settings is not just aesthetically pleasing.

Plants and trees help lower the temperatures in cities and mitigate the so-called 'urban heat island' effect - where urban areas are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas as a result of human activities.

They also decrease pollution and help make the air cleaner. You might find your little patch of green attracts nesting birds, squirrels and lots of insects, too.

Plus even five minutes of pottering in an urban garden lifts your mood and improves mental wellbeing.

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