By Corinna Bienger on Email

If you want happiness for a day,
drink a glass of good wine.
If you want happiness for a year,
build yourself a house.
If you want happiness for a lifetime,
plant yourself a garden.

(Chinese Proverb)

Kleingärten, or allotment gardens, are fenced in parcels of land, which are managed by a club or association and leased  to their members at a very low price. Long gone is the image of the Gartenzwerg paradise! Instead, the Schrebergärten are being used by families and young people as a reasonably priced retreat from the urban concrete wastelands.

Like so many things, Schrebergarten colonies are regimented by a storm of laws. The size of the important arbor is minimal, and it may not be used for permanent living. The size of the garden itself is restricted too. Also, issues of environmentalism, preservation of nature and landscape conservancy must be observed at all times. Most Kleingarten associations demand the growing of fruits, vegetables, flowerbeds and grass fields in a differing ratio.

Kleingärten are not only known in Germany. 14 national Kleingarten organisations are organized in the European association “Office International du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux.” The installation of the so-called poor-gardens was one of many measures in the beginning of the 19th century, in order to get the poverty under control. After WWII, even more of the Kleingarten associations were founded to enable a better supply of fresh produce for the population.

Today, even though there are still many folks over the age of 65 in the Kleingärten, more and more families re-discover the value of a small piece of nature to enable their small children to play outside. Because of the living situation in the cities, where there are no single-family homes, and with everyone living in large apartment complexes with no access to any gardens or lawns, owning such a tiny parcel of land in the outskirts is invaluable. We have barbeques with friends there in summer and in the fall we can harvest our own vegetables and fruits. It is an important part of how we want to raise our children and to install into them a sense of how priceless and indispensable nature is.

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Corinna Bienger