German words you need to know: Der Schrebergarten

Nele Schröder
Nele Schröder - [email protected]
German words you need to know: Der Schrebergarten
A gnome in a Schrebergarten in Cologne. Photo: DPA

This is more than a word for some people in Germany – it’s a concept, a goal, a way of life.


Now that it's summer and the plants have been sprouting, you might find that a lot of Germans aren’t confined to their homes anymore. Instead, they have ventured outside, to find some peace in their Schrebergärten.

Schrebergarten in literal English means something like “Schreber's garden.” If you look it up in a dictionary, though, you find another translation: “allotment” or “allotment garden".  A Schrebergarten in German can also be Kleingarten (“small garden”) or Familiengarten (“family garden.”)

The most common word is Schrebergarten, though, so let’s have a look into the word’s history.


The first Schrebergärten (Gärten is the plural of the word “garden”) were called Armengärten (“poor gardens”) and were constructed for poverty-stricken urban populations living in poor housing conditions. It allowed people to grow their own food and get some fresh air.

One of the first Armengärten was established in Kappeln in northern Germany in the early 19th century.

In the late 19th century, Moritz Schreber, a doctor from Leipzig, together with some other academics, created a new concept: to use the small gardens as a place for physical exercise, for everyone. After he died in 1861, the concept found more and more proponents.

Hence, the small gardens in allotment areas, (known in German as Kolonien - garden colonies), were named after him.

An allotment in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

Nowadays, almost a million people in Germany, from all socio-economic backgrounds, are members of an allotment garden association and use their gardens for all kinds of purposes: parties, gardening, family gatherings...the list goes on.

Renting a Schrebergarten might be one of the most German things to do ever. But beware: there are strict rules that you have to follow when renting a small garden – and it is illegal to permanently live in a garden shed in the allotment, no matter how big it is.

SEE ALSO: Berlin colony says no to more 'non-Germans' in its gardens


Wir haben uns einen Schrebergarten gemietet!

We rented an allotment garden!

Schrebergärten stehen meist in Kolonien.

Allotment gardens are usually found in public garden colonies.

Viele Leute verstehen Schrebergarten falsch und denken es heißt Strebergarten.

Many people read the word Schrebergarten wrongly, and think they are actually called Strebergarten (geek or nerd garden).


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