“Homegrown – There’s nothing like a homegarden!” Agro-biodiversity in farmers’ homegardens

We are pleased to participate again in the Sparkling Science research programme of the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy to foster the promotion of young scientists education.

Press & Media

Our project is covered by the local media in the district of Lienz. All these reports are in german language. If you want to have a look please visit or German Project Web Page.

Under the guidance of the film maker Peter Werlberger, the pupils provided ideas for the scenes and were also responsible for direction, camera, sound and props (a participative video) of this trailer on our gaden "garden scene investigation".

If you like this project, you might be interested in this paper:

Vogl-Lukasser, B; Vogl, CR (2018) The changing face of farmers' home gardens: a diachronic analysis from Sillian (Eastern Tyrol, Austria). J ETHNOBIOL ETHNOMED. 2018; 14:63

Project summary

Farmers’ home gardens (fenced, manually managed small areas for the cultivation of useful plants, mainly for self-sufficiency purposes) are a characteristic element of the alpine cultural landscape in East Tyrol (Lienz, Austria).

In 1998, a study of 196 such gardens was undertaken to investigate, among other things, species diversity, species use and management practices, as well as the motivations behind maintaining these gardens. Also that year, data was collected from older gardeners about farmers’ home gardens between 1930 and 1960.

From 2017 to 2019, as part of the Sparkling Science project “Homegrown – There’s nothing like a home garden! Agro-biodiversity in rural home gardens in East Tyrol”, a random sample of 72 gardens from the original 196 gardens in the study (depending on the year and theme, either n= 62 or 58) were re-examined.

Topics in the research conducted between 2017 and 2019 included the appearance of farmers’ home gardens, the spectrum of plant species and their use, the occurrence and use of medicinal and aromatic plants, the horticultural measures applied, management techniques related to weather extremes, the reasons for maintaining home gardens, and the perceptions of ecosystem services among the students, as well as the gardeners themselves and their neighbours. Where data was available both for the period 1930 to 1960 and 1998, the results for the above-mentioned topics between 2017 and 2019 were compared with those of the earlier years and the changes presented.

Students and professors of the BG / BRG Lienz were involved in the project work in the course of various activities such as workshops, project days, a project week and an excursion to Vienna to the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences and to urban gardens in the city. During these activities, run by the project team and in part by partners, the project’s technical aspects (e.g. the botany of cultivated and wild species, soil biology, agrobiodiversity and ecosystem services) and methodical aspects (examples of data collection techniques and analysis) were presented, support was given with workshops on photography and filming, a video was produced, writing techniques were practised, teaching materials were created, and current social debates related to the project (e.g. urban agriculture and organic gardening) were discussed.

In selected gardens, a specially developed survey module was tested, which also enabled Citizen Science researchers (gardeners) to document data on their perceptions and the gardening work itself.

Specific activities (e.g. writing workshops) were run for BG/BRG Lienz students to prepare and support them with their prescientific work. Within the scope of the project, seven students completed their prescientific work and six students from three universities completed their master theses.

The project has been presented nationally and internationally, e.g. in lectures at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna and at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Two students took part in the Science Slam at the Citizen Science Conference in Obergurgl and were joint winners with a third participant. A part of the project involved writing essays about it in cooperation with the online magazine dolomitenstadt.at

The study revealed that farmers’ home gardens are still managed manually by women, but over time some aspects have changed. In the 1960s, the gardens were small and only contained a few plant species. In 1998, they were much larger and more species-rich, since crops no longer grown in the field were now being grown in the gardens.

In 2018, the gardens were similar to how they were in 1998, but there had been changes to some of their structural elements: in some gardens, fences had been removed and the gardens turned into landscaped gardens. Play areas, seating areas or raised beds had been established in the gardens.

The reasons gardeners gave for still managing farmers’ home gardens were an appreciation of their own products and the preservation of traditions. Gardeners, as well as their neighbours, acknowledged the cultural, supplying and regulatory services of gardens, but assessed the relevance of each differently. The students were also able to list a large number of characteristics and ecosystem services provided by the gardens.