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A brief guide to German garden colonies

May 30, 2018

They might look like slums or homes for garden gnomes. Those peculiar settlements of tiny little houses with allotment gardens, known as the "Schrebergarten," are a typically German phenomenon.

A couple in their garden in 1970s
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Brüchmann

While "urban gardening" recently turned into every hipster's pastime, Germany has a long-established culture of city gardens, dating back to the period of strong industrialization and urbanization in the 19th century. 

Today's gardeners are rediscovering the joys of digging the earth, making their statement against consumerism by growing their own vegetables. But when the allotment gardens were initially created, they aimed to combat urban families' extreme poverty and malnutrition.

First called "gardens of the poor," they are now known as "Schrebergärten," inspired by the "Schreber movement" launched in 1864, which drew on the ideas of German physician Moritz Schreber.

During World Wars I and II, the food produced in those gardens became essential for many families' survival. 

Today, for many foreigners, the fenced up garden colonies, with their tiny cottages lined up along railways or occupying former no-man's land, seem a little mysterious.

Click through the gallery above or watch the video below to learn more about these very German gardens, which become particularly busy this time of year. 

Why the Germans love their allotment gardens

You'll find more from Meet the Germans on YouTube or at dw.com/MeettheGermans.

Elizabeth Grenier Kommentarbild App PROVISORISCH
Elizabeth Grenier Culture reporter and editor based in Berlin.
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