On the outskirts of almost every German city is a hobbit town, with miniature gingerbread houses and vegetable gardens on tiny plots of land behind picket fences.
To call Germany's urban gardeners obsessed is an understatement. The gingerbread potting sheds dot the landscapes of 1.24 million allotment gardens—called Schrebergärten—where city dwellers raise crops, mow postage-stamp lawns, and invite the neighbors over to barbecue. For gardeners not ready for the long-term commitment of leasing a Schreber garden (named after a 19th-century public health proponent from Leipzig), there's also the option of renting a pre-planted vegetable plot from a company called Meine Ernte. Here's how it looks when gardens frame a city:
Above: Behind the hedges, allotment gardens in the northern city of Wismar. Image by Patrick Scholl, via Flickr.
Above: A "Small Garden Law" called Bundeskleingartengesetz limits the size of Schrebergärten. Each community also has rules to cover everything from how big your shed can be (and what color you can paint it) to "no-mow" quiet hours. Image by Wolf, via Flickr.
Above: A tamarisk shrub in bloom in a Schrebergarten. Common throughout Europe and drier regions in Asia, tamarisk has been labeled an invasive plant in parts of North America. Image by Andreas Kriz, via Flickr.
Above: Gooseberries, for jam. Or syrup. Or pie. Image by Gitarren, via Flickr.
Producing clusters of soft, sweet fruit, a Pixwell Gooseberry plant is $12.99 from Gurney's.
Above: Now starting its fourth season, a company called Meine Ernte—which translates to "my harvest"—rents pre-planted gardens on the outskirts of 16 cities, for from $237 to $436 (depending on size) for the season. Planted with more than 20 kinds of vegetables and flowers, "they have to be watered, and you look after the weeds," says company co-founder Natalie Kirchbaumer. Image via Meine Ernte.
Above: A weekend gardener. Image via Welt.
Above: For elderberry syrup, Schrebergarten style, add flowers, lemons, water, and sugar. Image via Tobias Steinhoff, via Flickr.
Above: Beds of winter vegetables. Image by Nataline, via Flickr.
Above: Cauliflower, a typical sight in a Schrebergarten. Image via Eat a Duck I Must.
Above: More than 5 million Germans are gardening in Schrebergärten, many of them families with young children; government policy describes allotments as essential green space. Image by Patrick Scholl, via Flickr.
For more German gardening trends, see Endangered Roses: Are Any Hiding in Your Garden?
This is an update of a post originally published April 30, 2012.