Categorizing urban commons: Community gardens in the Rhine-Ruhr agglomeration, Germany (International Journal of the Commons)

Community garden in Antwerp

Community garden in Antwerp

Urban gardening has become a growing international movement. Many urban gardens are established, organized, and managed collectively as commons. Particularly in developed countries, these community gardens (a subset of urban gardens) emerge not only in response to a lack of locally produced food, but also in response to a lack of democratic use of public spaces or missing opportunities and time for socializing. They then give rise to social networks that fulfil various social functions. Although community gardens are often listed as examples of commons, they have thus far lacked closer scientific examination. Hence, we present criteria to explore and categorize community gardens as commons by their degree of collectivity. This is based on five components: resource system, infrastructure, resource units, work, social time. We classify these criteria further according to various styles of use, ranging from individual use to sharing. To demonstrate the utility of this model we implement a quantitative study of community gardens located in one of the most urbanized area in Germany, the Rhine-Ruhr Agglomeration. Our results show a high diversity of collective use and the importance of sharing immaterial components in sustaining community gardens, notably social values. We can empirically demonstrate that gardeners develop diverse ways of collective action and social interaction to manage and change their urban environment. To aid in thinking about these issues, we provide an initial typology of community gardens according to their relative degrees of collectivity, reflecting the underlying values of these alternative agricultural system.

Keywords: urban agriculture ,   community gardens ,   categorizing system ,  collective action ,   commons ,   Rhine-Ruhr Agglomeration  

How to Cite: Rogge, N. and Theesfeld, I., 2018. Categorizing urban commons: Community gardens in the Rhine-Ruhr agglomeration, Germany. International Journal of the Commons, 12(2), pp.251–274. DOI:

Read and download:

Koen Wynants