New campaign gets budding gardeners off to healthy start


Every week, Flanders Today surveys the world of local cuisine to fill you in on the best recipes for authentic dishes, not-to-miss culinary events and special eateries

Robyn Boyle on backyard gardening

With a growing interest in sustainable living and healthy eating in Flanders comes a rise in the number of people keen on growing their own food. Some turn a corner of their garden into rows of beans and squash, while others choose to till a fertile plot in a community or urban garden. Backyard chicken runs are also growing in popularity.

It’s easy to see why gardening is a growing trend, as it’s economical and even healthy. Studies show that people who grow their own fruit and veg tend to eat more fruit and veg in general. Not to mention that rooting around in the soil is a meditative and low-impact form of exercise.

And yet there are more people, still, whose dream of growing their own food remains just that: a dream. What’s stopping these would-be farmers from planting a few seeds out back?

Because there’s more to it than that. For starters, is the soil optimal? Is the plot next to a busy road or other pollutant? Is there a patch of grass available for the chickens? What do the plants need to thrive?

To answer these questions, among others, and provide a wealth of information on the subject, the government of Flanders teamed up with several partners to launch the new campaign Gezond uit eigen grond (Healthy Homegrown).

Presented recently by Flemish environment and agriculture minister Joke Schauvliege, the initiative includes a new website and practical guide. The Gezond uit eigen grond site lists the most important rules of thumb for healthy gardening and raising happy, organic-egg-laying hens.

Start by filling out an online questionnaire to quickly determine the state of your soil and get advice on making it garden-ready. There are even instructions on how to take a sample of your soil and find out the results online. Should the soil turn out to be too contaminated, raised garden beds provide a great alternative.

Next, pick out the best possible location for your garden, taking into account sunlight, shelter from rain and wind and distance from buildings or traffic. When it’s time to start sowing seeds, learn why it’s important to plant lettuce next to carrots, for example, or tomatoes next to strawberries. The right combinations of plants are important, but so are correct watering schedules and disease prevention.

Gezond uit eigen grond might just be the impetus needed for those still hesitant to turn the dream of a backyard garden into reality. 

Flemish agriculture and horticulture

Flanders is an important global food exporter. The main agricultural activities differ from region to region – with pig, cow, vegetable and dairy-farming the most important. In recent years, the sector has been heavily affected by the economic downturn and falling global food prices.
Green - Organic farming accounts for just a fraction of Flemish agriculture, but the sector has slowly been growing in recent years.
Greenhouse - Flanders has been a trailblazer in mapping the carbon footprint of agriculture.
Forgotten - Flemish horticulture’s “Bel’Orta” label aims to promote lesser-known vegetables like parsnip, parsley root and kohlrabi.

percent of Belgium’s fruit harvest comes from Flanders

25 982

agriculture businesses in Flanders in 2011

51 530

people employed in Flemish agriculture and horticulture in 2011