I have happiness and pleasure here. I love earth. Having been born in the countryside. During warm months I spend four hours per day here. Fresh air. I gain health here. In these gardens I prolong life. Ona – Zita, senior from Šilainiai.
Šilainiai senior urban gardens at Kaunas Fort no. 8 in May 2018.
Š I L A I N I A I
Construction of Šilainiai neighbourhood started in 1984. It is the newest and the biggest housing estate in the city of Kaunas. This area is dominated by apartment buildings and is home to 50 thousand people. Area is characterised as a sleeping neighbourhood because there is a lack of high quality public spaces and other services needed to have a multifunctional outer city centre. At the moment estate is receiving more attention from the city municipality and some of these issues are being addressed, however the the only non-commercial local community gathering space is a public library.
Gardens in Šilainiai, 2018.
G A R D E N I N G I N Š I L A I N I A I
Majority of the people who moved in to the new estate came from small towns or villages where gardening has always been an inseparable part of life. Living in an apartment building made people recognise how much they were missing this activity that they left behind.
Newcomers noticed the nearby Kaunas Fort no. 8 territory and even though it was abandoned, run down and full off bushes and Sosnowsky’s hogweed they started to prepare it for gardening. People were continuously cleaning the territory, planting trees and establishing community gardens. Around year 1999 gardens were quite well established with active community and community events.
During the years a lot of original gardeners retired and gardening became one of the most important activities during the warm seasons. Unfortunately at the same time there started to appear more robberies and random destructions. This led to reduced feeling of safety and combined with old age some gardeners stopped their activities. In the spring of 2018 there was a try to forbid gardening in general. During the summer some greenhouses were burned. Gardening community is feeling frightened but the wish to work the land stays strong even though the vision of the fort is unclear.
In the autumn of 2018 different stakeholders, groups and community representatives started the work on clarifying the vision of Kaunas 8th Fortress and Gardening in the area. Meetings are being held, gardening history is being written down and plans to save and support gardening are being drafted.
Šilainiai senior urban gardens at Kaunas Fort no. 8 in May 2018.
People, who grew up in the balconies [of the housing estate] don’t know how to do gardening. We, however, grew up in the countryside, it is natural for us. Those, who are not lazy, work. About thirty five years ago I brought some oak trees and planted them here. I didn’t water them, but still, they grew, beautiful trees now. Aleksandra, 87 year old Šilainiai resident.
I am gardening only because this is my main occupation during summer, what else there is for a pensioner to do? Vyautas, 70 year old Šilainiai resident.
I like that I can go out of my apartment to the gardens and to be in nature for a little while, to work a little and this is how I recover. Birutė, 55 years old Šilainiai resident.
It is a pleasure to grow your own vegetables and to communicate with nature and the earth. There is a need for space and tranquility. Alvyra, 66 years old Šilainiai resident.
Šilainiai senior urban gardens at Kaunas Fort no. 8 in August 2018.
Your own grown vegetables tastes better. Those who don’t have gardens out of the city, this is their garden. People want to work. Algirdas, pensioner from Šilainiai.
I loved working the land since I was young. I grow all sorts of vegetables. We grow flowers too. Living in a block of flats, it is really nice to be in fresh air. It is a real pleasure to admire the fruits of your work. Regina, 67 years old Šilainiai resident.
I cut grass myself, made my own scythe to do it. Not many people know how to use it nowadays. This place is something to do at this age. You can still find raspberries in October. Antanas, pensioner from Šilainiai.
I do gardening, because it brings me health and exercise. If I don’t move, it will be over. Even the balconies of the flats we live in are glazed, so this is an opportunity to be in the fresh air. Teresė, 67 years old Šilainiai resident.
I have been gardening here for about thirteen years. Others have been doing it for more than twenty. There are some younger people, but mainly pensioners. I live in a block of flats across the street, so it is convenient for me to come here. As long as I can climb those stairs, I would like to continue gardening. Elena-Vanda, 84 years old Šilainiai resident.
Šilainiai senior urban gardens at Kaunas Fort no. 8 in October 2018.
ŠILAINIAI GARDENS – MILITARY LAND RECLAIMING PROCESS THROUGH COMMUNAL GARDENING – VISION. (PDF Lietuviškai) / (PDF English version) Project „Šilainiai Gardens“ Team: Evelina Šimkutė, Gintarė Marozaitė, Rūta Lukošiūnaitė and 17 Gardeners (2018).
2018 December – Vision and plans for community gardens at Kaunas Fort no. 8 presented to Public Institution ‘Kaunas Fortress Park’ director and Kaunas city municipality.
2019 April – Local urban gardening community have reached an agreement with Public Institution ‘Kaunas Fortress Park’ to work together in the development of urban gardens, part of the joint efforts to adopt the area for community needs, encouraging healthy living, physical exercise and meaningful activities for local community members.
2019 May – Start of a pilot urban gardening education programme “Edukacinė lysvė” (educational bed) promoting exchange of knowledge between different generations.
2019 work timetable* (times are subject to change)
January – group-work with stakeholders, creating project website.
February 9 – gardeners meeting
March 16 – gardeners meeting
April 6 – Gardeners general meeting with main stakeholders
April tbc – Clean-up day (DAROM akcija) – public, all welcome.
May 4-5 – preparing raised beds/ sowing seeds – public workshop, all welcome.
May 11 – sowing seeds/ planting seedlings – public workshop, all welcome.
June 9 – gardening workshop – public workshop, all welcome.
July 13-14 – outdoor furniture workshop – public workshop, all welcome.
August 11 gardening workshop – public workshop, all welcome.
September 15 – autumn celebration – public, all welcome.
For all up to date public events, please follow Šilainių sodai Facebook page.
2018 work has been made possible by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture artist stipend. Thank you.