In 2008, the City and Urban Community of Strasbourg began an irreversible program involving a blanket ban on the use of pesticides in the city's public spaces.
This was an important step forward in the effort to improve the city's quality of life and was designed to help protect public health, preserve water resources from pollution and prevent damage to groundwater.
The policy was implemented with the help of the Rhine Meuse water agency
Banning chemical products means better management of local plant life
The banning of pesticides in 2008 meant a significant upheaval in the way the City maintained its green spaces and involved the introduction of new gardening techniques, which although more natural, also took up more time. Plants previously considered as weeds were encouraged to grow, while more plants were introduced into the city centre and alternative methods of weed control tested. The advantages of these new methods far outweighed the drawbacks and the policy has proved to be a popular success.
Alternatives to chemical weed control
Several techniques are used, including brushing machines, gas burners and steam machines and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Weed control is also reduced to a minimum by other techniques and planting strategies, such as the choice of suitable plants, mulching and allowing meadows to grow.
A tailored approach to the upkeep of open spaces
A large city has many kinds of open spaces, including ornamental gardens, family gardens, squares and riverbanks, all of which need a different kind of upkeep, according to the way they are planted and how they used.
In Strasbourg, 6 types of green spaces have been identified:
- Flowered areas (plant containers, window boxes, hanging baskets),
- Horticultural green spaces (traditional gardens and parks, the areas around monuments, public buildings and churches, etc.),
- Urban green spaces forming district centres (busy squares),
- Interdistrict urban green spaces (promenades, riverbanks, etc),
- Extended green spaces (natural spaces or meadowland),
- Ecological natural spaces (conservation of flora and fauna).
Each space needs a different frequency and type of upkeep, they need watering at different times, the type of fertiliser required is different, they need trimming and cutting at different times and require different techniques, etc. Public flowerbeds, for example, need regular and meticulous weed control, while a dead tree will be left where it lies in an ecological space, to encourage the development of micro-fauna.
Over the CUS, 3 types of spaces have been defined:
- Roadside trees,
- Community thoroughfares,
- Certain sports facilities.
Brushing machines are now used on thoroughfares, while the bases of trees are covered with bark cuttings or grass is allowed to grow there.
You too, you can help!
If you keep plants on your balcony, on your terrace or in your garden, try to grow and care for them without chemicals. The techniques are perfectly simple and with a bit of common sense you can get nature onto your side.
To learn more, download the Petit manuel du jardinage au naturel (manual of natural gardening – in French only) and its help sheets from the "Useful documents" section
Below you will find a few tips to help you make the switch over to natural techniques:
- Pour boiling cooking water over unwanted plants on pathways,
- Use a hoe or a knife to dig weeds up from their roots,
- Cover de-weeded areas with natural products such as bark or straw...
- Use material such as gravel or sand to make pathways...
- Make your own compost,
- Grow local plants,
- Grow suitable combinations of plants,
- Attract pollen-gathering insects,
- Use beer and ash to discourage slugs,
- Attract hedgehogs, ladybirds and other creatures to eat greenfly and slugs,
- Place anti-insect nets over carrots and fruit bushes, etc
If you want to dispose of your old pesticides and chemical fertilisers, you can take them to the City's special waste disposal areas. These are dangerous products that need special treatment and must never be thrown away outside, down the sink or in household refuse.
Le retour des herbes folles (Wild grass makes a comeback)
The ban on the use of pesticides is changing the way the city looks and the exhibition Le retour des herbes folles offers a poetic and often humorous invitation to encourage tolerance of what many people regard as weeds, but which are now making a welcome comeback to our city streets.
The photographer, Vincent Bousserez, has placed his miniature figures throughout the city in settings that bring them up against "urban vegetation". A total of 16 diptychs describe scenarios which illustrate some of the beauty of these wild grasses. Ecological designer Philippe Riehling and project designer Julie Morgen have come up with a totally recyclable backdrop to showcase the photos and illustrate the power, irregularity and spontaneity of wild grasses.
The exhibition is available for loan to a commune, sociocultural centre, a museum or a company, etc.
For more details, download the brochure Le retour des herbes folles (in French only) from the Useful Documents section.