In honor of Dodo’s 10-year-old Turntable in 2022, the urban garden was being awakened to its ever more handsome bloom. 14 new useful plants with woody stems have been planted in the greenhouse and its surroundings, some rarer cases, such as sweet blue honeysuckle and rose quince, some old acquaintances, such as apple tree and gooseberry. The number of flowering plants is huge this year, and pollinators along with the festival crowd can enjoy the opening flower buds throughout the growing season.

The farm’s communal and volunteer-involving concept has been refined this year by extending its public dimension. The oasis located in the heart of the ever-growing Pasila also invites passers-by to take a closer look at the exhibition garden, which presents different groups of plants and tips for both urban farming and environmental impact.

Kaisa Viitämäki from the Hörbs garden company is behind the glowing new garden and exhibition concept. Kaisa, an organic gardener and student of social work who derives her well-being from the nature of the countryside in Loviisa, wants to share what she gets from nature with the townspeople. A group of lively Dodos and a happily growing group of volunteers have been seen participating in workshops.

The exhibition garden has been sponsored by the City of Helsinki, Suomen Niittysiemen Oy, Labby cattle manure compost, Labby catering and Hörbs.

The roots of the plants are in direct contact with soil and thus interact with each other. Not only the plant itself is benefiting from the interaction but so does the soil and the microorganisms living in the ground. The root of different lengths shape and manipulate the soil structure at different levels. This bio-tillage is beneficial for microorganism activity and also increases the amount of its organic matter, humus

Good soil fixers are those that grow the roots as deep, wide or densely as possible. Perennials often have time to grow their roots longer than annual plants. Some annuals such as alfalfa, canola and oats are effective tillers too. Some plants also affect the soil by binding atmospheric nitrogen to the soil. For example, red clover, peas and field beans are great nitrogen scavenger plants, from which the soil is enriched with nitrogen the following year. They are also often used in the crop rotation, you can find more info in the Crop rotation table!

– Johanna, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

Farming started in Finland 3500 years ago. First crops were barley, buckwheat and hemp. All three plants can be found on our fields today: barley for human and animal consumption and buckwheat for a nice substitute for a gluten free diet. 

Hemp is an important plant for its diversity. Farming hemp doesn’t require much resources, yet it works as a soil fixer and a great carbon fixer. First clothes were made out of hemp fiber and hemp seed oil is a great source of omega fatty acids. The latest research reveals an endocannabinoid system which helps us to understand better all the health benefits of hemp. Industry still keeps finding new ways of using the plant.

Still hemp raises disagreement for some of its varieties’ intoxicating features. This Finola variety here is legal and not intoxicating.

– Kaisa & Mikko, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

Some lawns are actively used for sports and sunbathing, but many others are not. These latter, which we like to call useless lawns, would serve both nature and even us humans much better if they were turned into meadows.

The benefits are many: with less maintance needed there is an immediate reduction in carbon emissions from the area, which helps protect the climate. Over time it is likely that even a carbon sink will form in the soil underneath. A meadow offers endangered pollinating insects new habitats and food. For us humans, it means more beautiful sights and nature to enjoy, and much less work in maintenance.

Old lawns may already have many species of flowers, so sometimes turning a useless lawn into a beautiful meadow is as easy as to just stop mowing and let the flowers bloom. All that is needed is to mow just once every summer. 

Anyone can take the initiative and propose turning useless lawns into meadows in the city or in their own housing association. Dodo has been successful in the Helsinki OmaStadi citizens’ budgeting, where we have twice proposed turning useless lawns into meadows. The first of these are now all ready and done in ten different locations in Helsinki, and the second round is just beginning.

– Suvi, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

When starting gardening it’s important to pay attention to the origin of the plants and seeds. The safest way to go is with plants that are known to survive in the north: root vegetables, cabbages and leafy greens. Rare plant species and varieties of short season also exist like watermelon ‘Sweet Siberian’ from Russia. It’s wise to ask for seeds and seedlings that make it well in northern growing zones.

You can also make sure you are growing strong plants by saving the seeds from your garden plants that did best this season. Let one of your lettuce plants grow tall and produce flowers and seeds. If your kale made it through winter it will produce seeds the next summer. With beans and peas it’s fun to leave a few pods attached to their stem and let them dry to be planted next year. Other easy seed veggies and herbs are tomato, pepper, squash, dill, cilantro and basil. Dry your seeds well before storing them in paper bags.

– Kaisa, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

Colorful tulips, zinnias, roses and snapdragons. Different shades of green from eucalyptus, oregon grape and conifers. Strawflowers, everlasting daisies and statice to bring beauty over winter. And that’s just a start from the great range of cut flowers we can cultivate in Finland in addition to the ones that are available straight from the nature.

Looking at flowers have been proved to affect both our mind and body in healing ways. No wonder why people buy bouquets to brighten their homes time after time. But in the shadows of the flower industry lies more than just beauty. Soil is getting polluted by the pesticides used in flower farming and the chemicals also affect farmers, gardeners and floral designers as well as other living beings. Flowers are daily being transported from continent to another which doesn’t do any good for the environment.

Luckily flowers can also be grown in sustainable ways and more and more gardeners are joining the local flower business. Ask from your closest flower shop if they already sell local flowers and make an impact.

– Kaisa, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

Nuts and fruits hanging from trees that enjoy the company of fruity vines. Variety of berry bushes and under them perennial leafy greens, herbs and plants that make nutritious fertilizer. This kind of three layer garden can be called a forest garden and its purpose is to imitate nature as well as to save soil and people from annual tilling and weeding. City is not an excuse to not start forest gardening as long as hardy plant species are used and big enough containers are provided if there’s no access to land. 

Common woody edibles in Finland are apple tree and currants, but ornamental hybrid rugosas roses, flowering quince, chokeberries and cultivated common hazel, saskatoon serviceberry and kamchatka honeysuckle can also be found. Useful vines that grow here are hops, grapevine and hardy kiwi. Hardy herbs and leafy greens include mint, thyme, chives, caucasian spinach and redvein dock. Nettles and common comfrey are great for making fertilizer.

– Kaisa, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

The soil adapts to the crops grown and it can be used as a method of crop rotation. Also, the disadvantages of monoculture, such as unwanted weeds, pests and plant diseases, are prevented.

The idea of the method is to vary the annual plants to be cultivated each year and to select the species according to how much nutrients they need. The easiest way to do it is to divide the cultivated land into year-based blocks. Some flowering plants should be added to the plan to attract pollinators. Crop rotation can also be done in cultivation boxes, as we do here at the Turntable!

Example of the rotation:

1st year: Nitrogen scavengers: sugar peas and various beans

2nd year: A lot of nitrogen has been stored in the soil due to the previous year: cabbages, corn, leeks, celery and zucchini

3 rd year: species that need moderate nutrients and nitrogen: potatoes, beetroot and carrots

4 th year: There are no much nutrients left in the soil: annual onions and herbs and arugula

After the whole cycle the soil has no longer much nitrogen left and it can be started again from step one.

– Johanna, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

Here you see soybean, maize and potato which are all ancient crops, potato believed to have been domesticated as long as 10 000 years ago. We are not used to finding maize and soy in more than one or two different shapes and colors even though there are a lot of different varieties still farmed especially in their native areas. We are happy to see around 40 different varieties of potatoes in Finland but worldwide 4000 varieties are grown!

It is lots of fun to experiment with the rare varieties and see the difference in their outlook and taste. What’s good to keep in mind in northern climates is that some varieties are more cold resistant than others.

Biodiversity is something to be mindful about when choosing seeds to sow. By keeping our farmlands as diverse as possible by choosing heirloom varieties, we are helping all the living beings of nature to survive. We can also contribute by demanding seed retailers to sell seeds of old, native cultivars.

Heirloom seeds can be bought from conscious retailers like SiementarhaMaatiainen ry and Hyötykasviyhdistys.

– Kaisa, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

Every culture has holy plants, often nutritious or medicinal ones. In Finland yarrow has been respected by its powers from healing wounds to boosting immunity. Dodo’s volunteer Giu from Brazil shares their wisdom about holy plants:

‘Cacao beans from cacao tree regulate the immune, circulatory, nervous and digestive systems as well as care for our skin. They were used as currency in Central and South-Americas. Still for native people around the area it’s a plant sent by gods and is used in rituals to open the heart and improve vitality and consciousness.

Tobacco plant works as a stimulant that increases heart rate and focus and is used as a wound medicine. Native people around America use tobacco in rituals by chewing, smoking, inhaling, drinking or eating it. Sharing a pipe with guests is a sign of welcome. A shaman can also blow tobacco smoke to drive away evil spirits.’

Yarrow has been smoked like tobacco and it even had a nickname akantupakki – crone’s tobacco.

– Giu, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

Did you know that Dodo has a project in Gambia?

In Tesito project, 90 women farmers start vegetable gardening in the community garden of Jiffarong. 

In Gambia, there are two seasons: a long dry season during the winter, and rainy season from June to October. Winter time, it is good to plant cucumber, eggplant, hot pepper, sweet pepper, tomato and cabbage. During the summer, it is common to farm rice, peanuts, millet, sorghum, bean, wonjo and maize.The main cash crop in Gambia is groundnut, which is also the main product exported from Gambia.

Groundnuts are also used in traditional Gambian dish named domoda, which is a peanut sauce served with meat and rice

Although in Gambia at least 80% of the people depend of agriculture as their livelihood, only approximately 3% of the farmland has irrigation. Therefore, farming in Gambia depends on the rains, which is why it is important to use climate smart agriculture methods to maintain food security year round.

– Sanni, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

The garden and kitchen are often combined through vegetables and other useful plants, but flowers can be also considered as part of cooking. 

Many species in the garden are edible, such as violet, calendula, marigold, cress, cornflower, lilac and rose. It is important to make sure that the edible flowers are grown without pesticides or other chemicals. The best way to do it is to grow the flowers from the seeds or to collect natural wild herbs from clean places. The collected flowers should be rinsed before use. Wild herbs can be picked in Finland referred to everyman’s rights. You only need the landowner’s permission with woody plants. 

Wild herb flowers such as fireweed, wild violets, wood sorrel and dandelion have edible flowers. They should only be picked up from clean areas, far enough from driveways. The flowers are best kept fresh combined with cool foods such as pastry decorations or cold drinks. The nutrients in the flowers are often lower than in the other parts of the plant. The use of flowers should be avoided if you suffer from hay fever.

– Johanna, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo

Beekeeping increases the biodiversity of urban nature and the increased pollination is a promise for bigger harvest on vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. Urban environment can even do good for a bee since it’s often designed to have a large variety of trees and flowers. That way it can be more versatile than rural areas where often only a few different crops cover large areas – monoculture. When bees have access to all kinds of plants, the honey tastes particularly rich in nuances. 

To get started in beekeeping you should get in touch with local beekeepers’ associations that run courses and provide help with all the paperwork beekeeping requires. You can also let us know at Dodo you’d be interested to join our city honey harvesting!

– Lasse, Dodo ry // NGO Dodo