Munich, Germany: Münchner Krautgärten – Garden plots for all

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Photo by Hans Ernstberger

Photo by Hans Ernstberger

Photo by Hans Ernstberger

Photo by Landeshauptstadt München

Photo by Hans Ernstberger

Photo by Hans Ernstberger

Photo by Landeshauptstadt München

Photo by Hans Ernstberger

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City: Munich
Country: Germany
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Initiative: Münchner Krautgärten – Garden plots for all

What are the Krautgärten? Many city dwellers around the world dream of having their own small vegetable garden. The Krautgärten (“vegetable gardens”) offer interested Munich residents the opportunity to produce and harvest their own fresh vegetables. Munich’s Department for Urban Planning and Building Regulation leads this initiative by identifying private or public agricultural land suitable for a Krautgarten. The citizen groups, who then take over, prepare the land (often with local farmers), and invite citizens to apply for plots. They also ensure water supply and often provide plants as well as advice on the best crop. Today, gardeners can grow their own organic vegetables on 25 sites across the city for the Krautgarten season (beginning of May to mid November). At the end of the season, the plots are returned to the farmer, who prepares the land for the next year. The seasonal fee depends on the size of the plot. With an average price of 2 EUR/m2 per year, it is a very inexpensive way of gardening and allows citizens from lower income households to participate as well. The demand for plots since their first creation in 1999 is ever growing and new areas are identified annually.

Why are the Krautgärten necessary? The City of Munich is growing and currently boasts around 1.5 million inhabitants. With a forecasted 1.81 million inhabitants by 2040, the top priority of the city administration is to create more, yet affordable housing. This could easily lead to public and private open space being built on. Yet despite this pressure, Munich tries to use its scarce land resources responsibly: the overarching open space concept outlines a narrative for improving existing and establishing new green public spaces in the urban area and in the city’s green belt. The upcoming open space strategy will also outline approaches for sustainable nature conservation and landscape management; promote biodiversity and climate adaptation measures; and set out strategies and opportunities for multi-functional open spaces. The Krautgärten are a steppingstone to strengthen Munich’s green belt despite the growth.

How are the Krautgärten making a difference? The City of Munich strategically identifies and establishes Krautgärten throughout its green belt to safeguard the land and promote local subsistence food growing. Making organic gardening a must not only promotes soil health as well as biodiversity; it also increases the quality of the produce. Gardeners make their own food supply more resilient and learn more about plant growing and the environment through the farmers’ advice, in exchange with other gardeners or just by experiencing the growing cycle during these months. The Krautgärten strengthen people’s identity with the place and bring the community together, which is particularly valuable in neighbourhoods which are highly fragmented in terms of household income and education levels or densely built up. One scientific study helped gain insight into motivations for gardening and outcomes thereof. The concept of the Krautgärten has been presented to other cities, some of which have made it their own.

Benefits of Urban Greening

Harnessing the Power of Plants

Plants and natural ecosystems can function as nature-based solutions and help tackle societal and environmental challenges through numerous co-benefits. In the case of Munich’s Krautgärten, the initiative offers mostly provisioning (e.g. subsistence food production) as well as cultural ecosystem services (e.g. recreational space, environmental education, social interaction). Supporting regulatory services (e.g. pollination) happens more by coincidence.

In an ever growing, denser city, preserving Munich’s green belt and local agriculture is a declared goal of its urban development. The Krautgärten contribute to the city’s efforts of having a strong, connected and biodiverse green belt in which sustainable and future-oriented peri-urban agriculture is integrated.

The Krautgärten are one of the of the most successful projects, which were developed by the Green Space Planning Unit of the Department for Urban Planning: the initiative started in 1999, when a farmer in Munich-Johanneskirchen leased out 13 plots of land to interested gardeners. In the following years, this pilot project developed into a movement, which was met with growing interest. Today, there are 25 sites with about 1,600 plots. The demand for plots is high, and nearly every year new sites are added.

Benefits of urban nature and its ecosystem services that are clearly felt in the Münchner Krautgärten include organic, cheap food production, improved physical health, and a stronger community cohesion and integration. As well as learning about plant growing and the environment by experiencing the seasonal growth cycle.

Delivering Multiple Benefits

The Munich Krautgärten are open to all interested citizens who want to grow vegetables, flowers and herbs and want to consume their produce themselves. Children can observe the development of plants, new acquaintances are made, and experiences exchanged – not only about gardening topics: communication and social ties between the gardeners are fostered through their joint experience of gardening in their neighbourhood.

The Green Space Planning Unit in the Department for Urban Planning is responsible for preserving, developing, and connecting green and open spaces throughout the urban agglomeration and outlining a vision for integrating built up and nature-based environments. The green belt comprises landscapes over a length of approximately 70 kilometres. Most of the areas are used for agriculture and forestry. In between, there are near-natural areas such as forests, peatland, flower-rich heath areas or the Isar river with its gravel banks and floodplains.

The coexistence of agriculture, recreation and nature conservation in the green belt needs planning and management. By turning the land from monocultural use to organic cultivation, it is enhanced ecologically as well as aesthetically. From a planning perspective, the Krautgärten are included in Munich’s open space concept, but they are brought to life locally. The landscape planners in the administration continuously work on identifying new spaces and enter into dialogue with private agricultural landowners as well as the municipal farms of Munich, who currently organise eight Krautgärten sites. Another 17 sites are situated on private agricultural land.

The City’s Bold and Innovative Vision

The planning department has created an initiative which sees a high rate of public acceptance, has reduced the pressure on more established urban gardening associations and has enabled more fruitful collaboration with farmers, thus strengthening the green belt. Aside from gardening, the general public’s benefits include more biodiverse landscapes, reduced use of pesticides and herbicides, and more opportunities for social interactions. Overall, the Krautgärten are a low cost, fairly unbureaucratic way of offering space for urban agriculture.

After having been prepared and let for rent, annual plants are cultivated during the growing season from mid April to mid November. Its time bound use, no built structures and subsistence gardening mean that the land continues to be designated as “agricultural land” in the zoning plan. This makes it easier to find new locations as this type of land does not compete with land zoned for housing.

There is hardly any budget necessary either, which makes it easy to set up, flexible and replicable. The city administration provides personnel to identify land, get the ball rolling with the respective farmer, and helps in setting up the citizen association. A contracted company supports the process around communication, organisation, legal advice and monitoring. The membership fees of about 2 EUR/ m2 per year for the citizen associations finance the gardening work.

The farmers also benefit as they have more secure financial returns at reduced risks (e.g. weather, price fluctuations), whilst remaining flexible in how they use their land.

Partnerships and Collaboration

The Krautgärten are a joint effort of many different stakeholders both within as well as beyond the city administration. The initiative is driven by the Green Space Planning Unit in the Department for Urban Planning and Building Regulations. Staff there in their function as landscape planners identify the land. They work together with the municipal farms on whose land there are some Krautgärten. Municipal as well as private farmers who lease land from municipal farms or have their own are vital in preparing the land for the Krautgärten.

This initiative would not run so smoothly without the citizen associations, who are responsible for the everyday management of each Krautgarten. Neighbours as well as interested citizens come together to decide on the set-up of the garden, the plot allocation, and most organisational and financial tasks. They, for example, organise buying plants from organic nurseries or growing seedlings, provide advice for less experienced gardeners throughout the season and help return the land to the farmer each year.

The associations are in turn supported – mainly on legal and communication matters by the company – contracted by the city. This company also helps in monitoring and strategic aspects. In some Krautgärten there are also young gardeners from surrounding schools and kindergartens. There are many families who garden there with their children as well. These opportunities are vital for bringing future generations closer to nature. Personal experiences can positively shape future awareness and behaviour towards our environment.

Addressing Urban Challenges

The Issue

Munich has been growing for years to currently 1.5 million inhabitants. The long-term forecast of 1.81 million inhabitants by 2040 and a population increase of around 223,000 people per year is putting extreme pressure on the city as well as the wider metropolitan region. Preserving Munich’s green belt and local agriculture is a declared goal of urban development. The green belt fulfils many functions by being an attractive space for local recreation, preserving and developing ecological potentials, maintaining climatic functions, producing food and crops, and enhancing the value of the cultural landscape whilst promoting nature-friendly cultivation and open space management.

The desire of many inhabitants to grow their own vegetables is high. Thus, in many cities, community gardens have sprung up on suitable land. Whether in allotment gardens, intercultural gardens or in tenants’ gardens, on or next to multi-storey housing, the desire to garden has taken on many forms. The Munich Krautgärten are a special way of fulfilling the dream of having one’s own vegetable garden.

The Impact of the Issue

The Krautgärten are mainly an opportunity for producing organically grown food. However, they also are an entry point for raising awareness and educating about sustainable, low-key gardening and the role of nature in adapting to climate change amongst interested citizens. Due to the low cost, citizens with low household incomes can also participate. Often enough these citizens are also the ones who do not have any private green space and so the Krautgarten plot is of even higher social value for them.

A Nature Orientated Future

Munich’s green belt surrounds the city over a length of about 70 kilometres. It is the first port of call for local recreation, important for the urban climate and home to rare animal and plant species. It is the seat of local agriculture, providing some of Munich’s food supply with reduced emissions due to the short distances between supply and demand.

A study by the Leibniz Institute for Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IÖR, 2020) of some Krautgärten showed that 27% – and thus the largest group of respondents – stated that they cover up to 100 % of their herb needs from their plot and 28% – also the largest group – cover up to 50% of their vegetable needs.

Once land has been identified, the planning department organises the basic set-up before the newly founded citizen associations take ownership of the process. The Krautgarten is embedded in and driven by the local community, making it more sustainable in the long run as it is can address local needs and opportunities. Each Krautgarten reflects the neighbourhood. For example, two Krautgärten in the north of Munich are in multi-ethnic, yet economically less prosperous districts and the initiative has helped the community grow together and support integration. In a Krautgarten in the northwest, the gardeners wanted a fence early on, fearing vandalism. But none occurred as the surrounding neighbourhood accepted the garden so well that to date no fence was erected.

Nature Positive Solutions


The Krautgärten are easy to implement, low cost, fit the local context and can – if necessary – be moved without much hassle. They should not generate more traffic in the neighbourhoods; hence they are near residential areas, especially multi-storey buildings without private green space. Experience shows that the closer gardeners live near their plot, the more likely they stick to gardening due to short distances. The land has to be arable, have at least one water supply source, the green light following soil samples and a neighbourhood, which accepts the Krautgarten.

Once these parameters are fulfilled, the city organises an information event for interested citizens, supports in setting up an association (usually a non-registered form) and concludes a contract with them. Then land is prepared by farmers in the spring and divided into plots (usually 30-60 m²). Anyone can apply for a plot. In some locations, the farmer or experienced gardeners first cultivate the vegetables, and then tenants take care of and harvest them. In other locations, tenants take over the uncultivated plot directly and plant what they wish. From mid November onwards the land is cleared and returned to the farmer, who prepares it for the next season.

The non-negotiable rules for running a Krautgarten are 1) no use of mineral fertilisers and chemical pesticides, 2) no built structures or fences, 3) only annual plants as well as 4) cultivation for one’s own use. The number of Krautgärten has risen from 13 to 1,603 plots (total: 6.65 ha) in 2023.


The Green Space Planning Unit in the Department for Urban Planning drives this initiative. The city provides mainly personnel resources as well as logistical support – directly or through a contracted company who accompanies and evaluates the process each year.

Dedicated staff actively identify suitable arable land through planning instruments (e.g. green ordinance, urban development plan, green belt project planning) and their own local knowledge. In some cases, private landowners also offer their land as Krautgarten locations. They contact and collaborate with farmers to bring them on board. Logistical support is provided both to the farmers as well as the associations who organise the Krautgarten in the different districts of Munich independently. Through this initiative the pressure on waiting lists for traditional allotment gardens is reduced, allowing citizens to garden or try if they like gardening without much hassle.

The Krautgärten have been so successful that they have been recognised and included in the open space planning concept of the City of Munich and will continue to play a role in future urban or (green) open space strategies and planning processes. They have also enabled the city administration to engage more with and support the regional farmers, thus improving relations and standing of farmers in the region and their role within the green belt.

Multi-Stakeholder Support

Once the land has been identified and agreed on, the Krautgärten sites are organised: 1) on land of municipal farms, the farmers take the lead, whilst 2) on private or municipal land let to farmers, the citizen associations set up the garden. The persons in charge take care of organisational tasks, carry out the allocation of plots and take care of finances, which are covered by member fees. The company contracted by the city supports administrative and logistical tasks. At the beginning of each year, the city invites the chairs of the citizen associations to come together and reflect on the past gardening year’s lessons learnt, ideas, needs and advice. This strengthens the community of gardeners and helps the city in further improving the Krautgarten strategy and implementation.

Interested users must keep in mind when applying that: the time required for gardening is 3-5 hours/week, they can only use the harvested vegetables for themselves and they have to organise the care and harvesting work during their absence. Gardeners with a plot can keep it, if they wish, whilst vacant plots are allocated to new gardeners, often through waiting lists. However, the benefits outweigh the obligations: gardening in the Krautgärten is comparatively very cheap (approx. 2 €/m²∙ per year), the gardeners build their skills and knowledge on organic gardening, families can grow vegetables together, gardening can turn into a new leisure activity, new networks and contacts are made by exchanging with others or integration and intercultural contacts are fostered.

Management and Maintenance

The Krautgärten are a very original form of gardening and serve to supply inexpensive, fresh vegetables. They therefore do not have any facilities for recreational stays or playgrounds as is the case in allotment gardens. As the gardens are agricultural land, no permanent structures can be erected. Built structures such as gazebos or tool sheds are not possible. The plots are therefore not permanent with fixed tenure rights.

But this is precisely what makes the Munich Krautgärten unique and easily replicable in other cities worldwide. Costs can be kept low and the return of the plots is possible without much effort as there are no built structures and the lease is seasonal. All crops are grown organically according to the criteria of organic farming (no certification to reduce time-intensive bureaucracy!). There is water supply in all Krautgärten, either through wells or a connection to public water sources.

There are also advantages for farmers. Due to the consistently high demand for Krautgärten plots, the profitable use of the land for this type of gardening is secured in the long run and is not exposed to economic fluctuations. Their role is perceived as more positive as they have closer connections to the community.

The general public also benefits from the Krautgärten, because the location close to the built-up city reduces time-intensive and emission-producing transport routes. Empowering gardeners to run their own association, organise the gardening and grow their own organic, yet inexpensive food is, of course, the biggest benefit.

Measuring and Reporting Impact

Monitoring Results

The monitoring of the Krautgärten happens in two ways, complemented by the occasional independent external scientific study. Monitoring takes place of physical features (i.e. soil probing) as well as the process of establishing and running the gardens (i.e. quantitative development of Krautgärten).

Before the Krautgärten are established the land’s soil is probed for pollutants as well as nutrient levels. If the latter are low, the city recommends new probes to be taken every couple of years and – where necessary – organic fertilisers to improve the soil quality.

Every year the city analyses the development of Krautgärten in numbers; the number of gardens including the number of plots and square meters are assessed. The trend is growing although the size of plots differs from year to year, depending on the gardeners’ needs. At the start of each year, the heads of the citizen’s associations are also invited to reflect on recent experiences and allow for space to exchange on tips and tricks around gardening.

Demonstrating Progress

The number of Krautgärten has reduced the pressure on established allotment gardens, whose waiting lists have often closed due to high demand. Munich has comparatively fewer allotment gardens than other German cities and it is very difficult to create new allotment gardens despite some being in the spatial zoning plan as the land is not owned by the city. This can take decades, so it is generally easier to get a plot in a Krautgarten (even though some also have waiting lists). A Krautgarten plot is also ideal for the transition period to an allotment garden as citizens can get to know and try out gardening without too many obligations. Tracking the number and location of Krautgärten has informed identifying new land opportunities as well, whilst keeping an eye on the distribution across the agglomeration.

The Krautgärten are recognised as valuable public spaces in the open space concept and will play a role in the open space strategy, which is currently being developed by the city administration. As the Krautgärten can contribute to shaping the identity and feeling of a place, the concept is now taken on by other projects (e.g. in the EU-funded project “Creating NEBourhoods together” in Neuperlach). The Krautgärten have also been recognised by political decision-makers. The Krautgärten are thus accepted and supported and their continued roll-out is called for.

Measuring Impact

The monitoring of the Krautgärten takes place regularly. Each year the number of Krautgärten are recorded as well as their square metres, based on information provided by the citizen associations. In addition, the number of plots and their square metres are collected. In 2023, the current 25 sites cover 6.65 hectares and have 1,603 plots. These vary in size, depending on the overall size of the Krautgarten as well as the demands on site. In some locations, smaller plots are preferred, whilst in other Krautgärten citizens grow most of their vegetables in the garden and require larger plot sizes. Overall, there has been a slight decline in the plot numbers, mostly due to the implications of COVID-19. The organisation of the gardens was made more difficult due to the restrictions that came with the pandemic, yet the motivation of all associations is unwavering.

A recent scientific analysis of the use and benefit of the Krautgärten took place by the IÖR (Artmann et al, 2021). It provided insight into how much gardeners harvest for their daily use, their food consciousness and other potential behavioural or perception changes due to gardening.

Learning and Transferability

Adaption and Enhancement

Demand continues to be high, which is why the Department of Urban Planning and Building Regulations has set itself the goal of developing (new) sites in the coming years and to allow as many gardeners as possible this uncomplicated way of gardening and self-sufficiency by growing vegetables organically. The initiative has not changed much in the last years as the process of organising as well as the gardening itself worked well; therefore, no major changes were necessary. The associations’ chairs exchange once a year on achievements and lessons learnt, which allows each Krautgarten association to learn from others and grow a network of informal collaboration and support, which can be used during the year.

Potential for Replication

The annual exchange forum for chairs of the citizen associations has been most valuable. The participants can discuss legal (e.g. organisation form, insurance) as well as organisational issues next to gardening topics. For example, the forms of citizen associations have changed over the years from mostly “partnerships under the Civil Code” to “un-registered associations”. The main reason for now establishing un-registered associations is the liability of the group, which in this form no longer rests with the members. One association investigated this legal requirement and stipulation and then shared it with groups, who in turn changed their set-up to reduce any risk for their members. The collaboration between the city administration, the supporting company and particularly the citizen associations chairs is based on trust, in which a constructive, open and supportive atmosphere prevails. The staff from the Green Space Planning Unit also act as facilitators to, for example, connect Krautgärten with each other. The contracted company complements the need for support and advice mostly from a technical or administrative point of view (e.g. advice on directives, regulation or certification).

Inspiring Other Cities

There has been a growing interest in the Krautgärten by other cities in Germany and Europe as well as internationally for some years now. The city administration regularly receives inquiries for scientific studies or surveys, mostly focusing on how the initiative was set up, its progress and approach. Staff of the city have been invited to present the Krautgärten in conferences and webinars around the topic of urban gardening or as part of planning processes or projects. Interested cities use Munich’s experience to adapt it to their own needs and context. Next to city administrations, non-profit or civil society organisations might also drive such urban gardening initiatives.


Reducing Negative Impacts and Ensuring Sustainability

One of the main goals of the Krautgärten is to be as close as possible to residential areas. Being close to gardeners’ homes reduces emissions whilst getting to the Krautgarten and bringing produce home (e.g. the city encourages getting to the gardens on foot or by bike). Consequently, emissions linked to the transport of crops are also reduced. The close proximity also helps keep gardeners motivated longer as the time to get to their plot is less. By not providing recreational facilities, the time spent in the Krautgärten can be kept short, thus avoiding additional costly infrastructure facilities (e.g. restrooms, parking spots). The requirement for organic gardening promotes soil health and biodiversity, and reduces any negative impacts compared to conventional fertilisers.

Environmental Considerations

The Krautgärten strive to be as local and regional as possible – not just with regards to who gardens there from the neighbourhoods. The Krautgärten show how urban gardening can transform conventional agricultural land – even at a small scale – from monocultural cultivation to organic farming, promoting biodiversity. By not allowing pesticides or herbicides and requiring more ecological methods, the Krautgärten enable a more environmentally friendly way of growing vegetables in and with a community.

The plant selection is done differently in each Krautgarten. In some, the citizen association buys or grows and then plants local seedlings and hands the maintenance and harvesting over to the gardeners once done. In others, the plant selection is decided by each individual gardener – whilst the association provides advice and connects them to plant providers.

There is a water supply in each Krautgarten, either through a well or a connection to a public water source (e.g. hydrant, public building, other allotment gardens). Due to not being able to build any infrastructure on site, the gardeners also rely on rainwater. Awareness is raised by the associations to not use too much water for watering the vegetables.

The sites are completely off grid; hence, no energy costs accrue and any waste that is generated is either composted (if organic) or disposed of at home.

Use of Natural Resources

The Krautgärten rely on the farmers preparing the land for the gardeners. The only allowed fertiliser is natural manure or similar. All sites build on and work from the original land, thus little to no resources are required from elsewhere. Food growing methods and resources, which were commonly used by previous generations and have a lower environmental impact are promoted by the Krautgärten. Gardeners teach and support each other in learning about them. These, for example, include:

  • Use of seeds and plants from organic nurseries.
  • Use of home-grown seeds and seedlings or seeds from exchange markets.
  • Use of old varieties (e.g. the original tomato varieties, which withstand rain better).
  • Gentle soil cultivation through manual work whilst machines (if at all) are only used on cleared fields.
  • In one Krautgarten runner ducks were used to control slugs.
  • Promotion of old preservation methods (e.g. sauerkraut, fermenting) to preserve produce.