Five years ago, the head of the cemetery administration and trained gardener, Walter Pois, had the idea of reusing abandoned graves. Since then, around 20 of them have been planted and instead of flowers, zucchini, strawberries and tomatoes are now taking root here.
Some of these grave beds are rented out, but most are looked after by the cemetery’s own employees. They use the opportunity to plant vegetables here, also to have an “additional snack”, Pois told “Vienna Today” on Friday.
Photo series with 13 pictures
There is no need to worry about unwanted contact, Pois dispels concerns: the deceased lie so deep that the roots of the plants do not come into contact with them. There is at least a meter of earth between the surface and the deceased below.
Pesticides not allowed
The idea came to him and his team when they were wondering how to deal with abandoned graves in order to protect them from neglect, says the former gardener from Lower Austria. In his view, the planting is a good solution for the dignified maintenance of the burial sites.
The cultivation on the graves is varied. “We have the opportunity to grow zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, chives, parsley, strawberries,” a hobby gardener tells ORF Vienna. Almost anything is allowed, but pesticides are not one of them.
“A little something new”
The initial skepticism has given way to enthusiasm among most of the cemetery visitors, reports the cemetery director: “We had to explain a lot.” But today there are only a few critical voices. “Now it’s actually the case that it’s been accepted quite well and that people are also happy that we’re a bit more modern and that something new is happening.”
Urban Gardening am Friedhof
The Evangelische Friedhof Matzleinsdorf in Vienna offers vegetable growing and harvesting on abandoned graves. The somewhat unusual way of gardening can be found on Triester Straße.
Tombstones become bookstones
There are also several open book stones in the cemetery on Triester Straße. For Pois, a cemetery is much more than just a place of remembrance. Especially during the pandemic, he observed that people used the burial ground for walks and recreation – hence his idea of the book stones.
“The point is that old tombstones that are historical and abandoned are not simply disposed of, but that their use changes. Some of the stones have niches. And books are placed there that anyone can borrow or, if they have books, they can put them in – so that everyone can borrow them.”
Bee trail is to come
There are also beehives in the cemetery, the honey is sold. A bee trail through the cemetery is currently being planned and may come this year, says Pois. Without a doubt, however, the cemetery remains primarily a final resting place for the deceased. The 20 graves currently planted are only a fraction of the Matzleinsdorf cemetery, which has a total of 8,600 graves.
Around 1,500 of them have been released, the free newspaper “Heute” reported this week. Hobby gardeners can rent the free grave areas – for the price of a grave rent. A request can be made to the cemetery administration.