De Tuinen van Mergen Metz are organic gardens created in 2005 by Norbert Mergen and Marijke Metz, as a place to promote the knowledge and use of edible plants for humans.
The design of the gardens was thought by Buro Harro, the first selection of plants and the planting scheme by Anthonetta van Bergenhenegouwen and the herb garden is managed by the Dutch Herbalists Guild.
To date, the team is composed of the two founders, Gerhard Bathoren, Maartje van den Berg and three volunteers.
“What could be nicer than a garden where everything that grows can be eaten?” reads the Facebook page of the Mergen Metz’s gardens.
Well, you’ll also find there some useful plants that humans are not used to eat but which are related to the ecological management of a garden.
In 2004, the founders started to grow heirloom vegetables as a hobby, writing about their gardening and cooking experiences, and their discoveries around plant heritage.
Finally, the hobby became the field to which they decided to dedicate their time to.
Their objective is to create and maintain a model-garden, a source of inspiration for families, municipalities, businesses, and to demonstrate that there is much more diversity of healthy products to eat in a garden than there is in a supermarket.
They decided to grow old and rare organic varieties of plants to contribute to the preservation of cultivated biodiversity.
Their work became to be known for that in the Netherlands and Flanders region and to date, the association gathers a great community of 6000 subscribers to its monthly magazine.
The founders are currently working on a new profound book on the history of Dutch vegetables, in cooperation with a well-known former organic seed grower.
Seed multiplication is also done at the gardens.
The association used to work with the Heritage Seed Library (England) as a seed guardian, sending and exchanging seed varieties. After the Brexit, that collaboration has stopped, and the association now multiplies the seeds on its own.
Managers of the gardens participate to fairs across the Netherlands and are regularly involved in events about sustainable agriculture and gardening, such as the Reclaim the Seeds event.
They also organize every year, around the 25th of June, their own event, the so-called Sint Jan-Evenement, a small-scale event for enthusiasts with around ten market stands, garden, and forest tours (forage harvesting), cooking and presentation.
De Tuinen van Mergen Metz welcome any kind of plant varieties.
Among the seed collection some special varieties are found: sweet corn like Stowell’s Evergreen or Rainbow Sweet Inca, very rare citre varieties, runner beans and broad beans, certain lettuces, galapagos tomatoes and much more, like seeds of garlic mustard or bladder camion.
In storage, the association may have and save around 100 varieties in total.
The association's gardens are organic as no chemical products are used to grow plants. But the seeds are not certified, for financial reasons mainly.
As hobbies can be expensive, the association started to sell the seeds and plants it cultivates through its website.
Closely related to the chosen language on the website, De Tuinen van MergenMetz mainly sells in the Netherlands and Belgium. But there are always exceptions and anyone who's interested to get its varieties can contact the association.
Around 41 different vegetable varieties are available on the webshop.
The average price of a seed packet is around 2,50 EUR.
De Tuinen van MergenMetz are open to visit on Saturdays between 11am and 4pm, from April to October.
Visitors can benefit from guided tours to discover the amazing collection of edible and useful plants preserved in the gardens.
There is no membership policy yet, but the association is currently developing a “Friend of…” program, thanks to which it will be possible to have certain benefits like receiving some packages of rare seeds a year.
Last but not least, the association is always happy to welcome volunteers to help in the gardens! Feel free to contact Norbert about it!