Germany’s Leisure Gardens
A "Perfect" Way to Integrate into the Local Culture
For the last two years of our stay in Frankfurt, Germany, we leased a “Kleingarten,” literally “small garden,” although it’s usually translated as “leisure” or “allotment” garden. And our two years as gardeners provided us with more and more personal contacts with the local culture than our previous four years here combined. If you are planning to be in Germany for at least two years, and you enjoy active gardening, then leasing a leisure garden from one of the many associations here may be the perfect way to make new friends and integrate into the local culture.
Leisure gardens are a very specific entity in Germany. They grew out of a reaction to the industrial revolution in the mid-19th century, and since 1921 they have been recognized and regulated by federal law. They consist of tracts of land set aside within cities and suburbs and managed by an association (Verein) that divides them into smaller plots, usually no larger than 400 meters. The small plots, most with tiny summerhouses, are leased out to individuals who maintain them as gardens under the protective and administrative umbrella of the association.
In fact, enhancing community life and providing contact between immigrants (or long-term residents) and Germans on a personal level is an important function of the leisure gardens. Foreigners breathe fresh life into the system by introducing new plants and cultivation methods and by providing a bridge between cultures. On the whole, Germans are eager to welcome those who are eager to be welcomed.
The following web addresses provide an excellent starting place for finding a garden near your location. Unfortunately, there is very little information on specific associations available in English and unless otherwise noted all websites are in German. If you are not familiar with the language, Google’s language tools, available through www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en, are very useful.
www.kleingarten-bund.de: The home page for the Federation of German Gardening Friends (BDG).
www.kleingartenweb.de: Contains lists of individual gardening association websites within each state. Also contains links for associations in Austria, Switzerland, and German-speaking Luxembourg.
www.kleingartenvereine.de: Provides extensive search capabilities for the various gardening association websites throughout Germany. If you’re unable to find the information you need from the above websites, try a search on “Kleingartenverein” and the name of the city or state of interest. Example: “Kleingartenverein Hessen” or “Kleingartenverein Frankfurt.” I have tried various searches in English (“leisure garden association Frankfurt”) with limited success.
www.jardins-familiaux.org (in English): This site provides contact information for national-level gardening organizations in 14 European countries.
www.germany-tourism.co.uk (in English): Excellent background on leisure gardens in Germany (also known as “schreber gardens”), and street addresses for some of the larger
en.wikipedia.org (in English): Wikipedia article on
allotment gardening in general, including a section on gardens in Germany. Provides
links to and information on this worldwide phenomenon.