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Start small, GROW BIG!

An organic plant protection series and participatory research project has been launched for hobby gardeners - anyone can get involved!

The latest series of videos and articles by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) now addresses hobby gardeners with plant protection advice. In the videos, Márk McMenemy guides viewers through the practices of organic plant protection and, together with specialists from ÖMKi, shows how it is worth getting into chemical-free gardening. In order to map the biological diversity of domestic gardens, a voluntary, community-based research project called Pók-Háló (Spider's Web) has been launched, in which participants can, by observing spiders, actively contribute to raising awareness about our closeness to nature in our living spaces.

With a view to increasing food prices, and for the sake of our food security and health, there has been increasing interest in the role growing fruit and vegetables in our own small gardens could play, together with reimagining our gardening practices to take more account of ecological issues. Collectively, small gardens add up to a significant area, and could do much more than just increase our food supply security. With soil-friendly cultivation and other agroecological methods – for instance, bird- and pollinator-friendly solutions, as well as the cultivation of landrace and heirloom varieties displaced from large-scale cultivation – small gardens can significantly contribute to the preservation of suburban and agrarian wildlife. Halting the decline in biodiversity, and hopefully even reversing it, is key to our own quality of life and health, and small gardens cultivated in an ecological way can make a significant contribution. It is in this spirit that ÖMKi is developing and expanding its latest knowledge resource for hobby gardeners, and has announced the launch of Pók-Háló (Spider's Web), a community research project examining the biological diversity of gardens.

The video series covers organic gardening topics, such as plant protection tips, the importance of soil health and biodiversity, as well as the planning and managing of an organic hobby garden

What works in organic farming also benefits hobby gardeners

Since 2020, ÖMKi's plant protection appeals have been supporting organic gardeners and farmers practicing organic arable cultivation. From the spring of 2023, thanks to the support of the drugstore chain DM, the transfer of useful knowledge to hobby gardeners with small gardens could be renewed. At the beginning of each month, ÖMKi now sends an up-to-date plant protection newsletter to subscribers, in which applicable plant protection techniques are summarised for readers. In order to time pest control for the most important harmful invertebrates and maximise the effectiveness of interventions, from spring to autumn, swarming data is also published on their website. Plant protection agents and techniques approved for organic farming and available for hobby gardeners are also listed.

Recently, an exciting ten-part series was launched, in which the topics of plant protection in organic gardens are covered in short films and detailed written background material, with the help of experts. In addition to plant protection for pome fruit, stone fruit, nuts (walnut, hazelnut) and vegetables, the series also discusses organic garden planning, seed harvesting, the role of weeds, soil health and the Spider’s Web citizen science participatory research programme.

Dr Dóra Drexler, the director of ÖMKi, highlighted the importance of this new plant protection series: ‘For more than a decade now, we have been providing organic farmers with practical knowledge through our research, which has already been providing a rich informational resource for hobby gardeners to draw on. With our new plant protection series, we now mostly want to support their work, trusting that with the help of this knowledge source, more and more people will move towards chemical-free gardening.

In our latest videos and articles, we are encouraging hobby gardeners to take the plunge and try organic gardening methods. Although organic growing is a method that requires attention and a systematic approach, the fruits of what you learn are worth it!’

Spider's Web - ÖMKi's new citizen science research program

Let yourself be snared: join the Spider's Web!

It is essential for organic gardeners to focus on supporting and preserving biological diversity. The basic principle of the organic approach is that while we provide ourselves with food, our environment should not be harmed by our activities. Indeed, we should support and enrich natural ecosystems.

Spiders are excellent indicators of the state of a habitat, as a large number of spider species indicates a high level of biodiversity. There are more than 800 species of spiders in Hungary, and dozens of species can be present in a single garden. The Spider's Web research project launched by ÖMKi examines the biological diversity of gardens with the help of volunteer participants. Anyone can join the community research and actively contribute to the expansion of the domestic knowledge base through observations and photos from their garden.

Dr Dóra Drexler, the director of ÖMKi, referred to the project’s success: ‘It was great to see how many people registered their gardens in the first few days, when the project was launched. We are very happy, as we would like to be able to familiarise as many people as possible with these indispensable and intriguing creatures. Our researchers also want to introduce garden owners to unusual species and rare specimens. It is no secret that we are trying to make spiders, which are such useful creatures, more popular with the wider public.

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