Summary Report


Summary Report

Table of Contents

This report covers actual approaches and suggests future strategies involving municipalities and community gardens in education and awareness raising about environmental and climate-change challenges.

Its main objective is to analyse the relationship between community gardening and education related to environmental sustainability and climate change challenges in the 5 consortium countries (Czech Republic, Austria, Spain, Hungary and France).

It is structured in three main parts:

  1. Contribution of community gardens to climate change adaptation and education
  2. Cooperations with NGOs and decision makers/municipalities
  3. Future strategies

The methodological approach was shared between the five country teams and each one was responsible for researching their national contexts. This resulted in the production of this Summary Report and 5 National reports.

This report is a basic introductory document presenting differences and similarities in the consortium countries, including a general overview that allows its transferability to other EU countries.


In Europe, nearly 73 % of the population live in urban areas and this is projected to increase to over 80 % by 2050. Climate change is likely to influence almost all components of cities and towns – their environment, economy and society. (climateAdapt) Massive changes have already been noticed. Especially in the Southern Partner Countries such as Spain and the Southern part of France severe droughts occur, causing forest fires while we are working on this project. But also in more continental regions an increase in extended periods of droughts is the phenomenon reported most often by community gardeners participating in our online survey.

Facing those challenges, most cities and towns are developing climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Urban design aimed at tackling climate change and Urban Heat Island effects through green infrastructure increases resilience of the urban area and is likely to also have numerous co-benefits, such as improved air quality, better health, improved biodiversity and enhanced overall quality of life for citizens (climateAdapt) At the same time the maintenance costs of green infrastructure are stated as an important challenge to increase it (MA 22, 2018). Community managed gardens could be an important part of the solution, although so far they are rarely part of climate adaptation strategies and therefore underutilised in developing resilient cities and neighbourhoods (Clarke et al., 2019) – what has changed in some of the partner countries in the last years. What and how community gardens can contribute is part of this report – in terms of green infrastructure, as laboratories for adapted gardening techniques and design and as environmental education hubs in a broader sense. Chances and potentials for the future are as well described as obstacles and what kind of support and strategic planning are needed to make community gardens reach their potentials.

Development, forms of community gardening, networks and supporting organisations in the different countries

Community gardens in the partner countries have evolved during the last 25 years. In France the development started with the foundation of a national network in 1997. In the early 2000s, initiatives in Spain, Hungary and Austria took up the idea and community gardens started to develop also there. About a decade later first community gardens were established in Prague and have from there spread to other regions of Czech Republic.

Today the number of community gardens has multiplied in all of the countries. The actual numbers are:

Country Number of gardens
Czech Republic
Above 10 000
Spain (including school gardens and therapeutic gardens)

The data concerning the number of gardens is not statistically valid. In all the countries there are a number of gardens that are not registered anywhere and could not be counted. Also what is counted differs from country to country – only community gardens in a narrow sense or also school gardens or other types.


The first few community gardens were private initiatives of individuals and groups of friends in Vienna. In 2007 cooperations with the city of Vienna started and at the same time community gardens, initiated by engaged citizens, came up in different regions of Austria. Meanwhile they are initiated through citizens’ initiatives as well as with support of or through local governments and neighbourhood managements – depending very much on the regional conditions. Recently community gardens become more and more part of new housing projects and are integrated part of their green spaces.
So far there is no official national network, still Gartenpolylog has taken the role of offering different networking activities and with its website a platform for exchange and information. On a regional level several networking and service organisations have been established such as the community garden coordination and service as part of the climate association Upper Austria or the service centre for adult education in Tyrol.


The development of community gardens has started with the creation of the national network “Jardin dans tous ses états” that wanted to establish community gardens following the role model of other countries like the UK and US. It has invited international experts and has spread the idea all over France. Training, workshops and tools were delivered through local correspondents of the network for 20 years. The network has terminated its activities in the 2010s. Right now various organisations are working on its revival. Being from the beginning an issue of civil society, community gardens are meanwhile strongly supported by various local authorities and municipalities. Their value as green oasis and place of well being for local communities especially in a changing climate as well as the economic pressure on management of green spaces has increased public interest in community managed green spaces.

Czech Republic

The first community gardens were developed in cooperation with municipalities, non-profit organisations and enterprises. Still all those stakeholders play an important role in the further development. The main focus of community gardeners so far is social encounters and neighbourhood activities. From a municipality level they are already seen as important factors for climate change adaptation.
There is no organisation (association, federation etc.) or network that regionally or nationally takes up the role of a network or coordination. Instead Kokoza plays a major role, offering services and consultation and organising regular meetings for community garden managers to facilitate exchange and learning.


In Hungary, the very first initiatives that could be considered community gardens were linked to small groups of friends or residential communities. Almost at the same time, local governments (especially in the capital) also started to show interest in establishing gardens. This interest led to active cooperation between municipalities and NGOs with the necessary knowledge and experience in establishing and running gardens and organising community gardens. In that period of time (2006-2016) KÉK had a leading role in promoting the ideas of community gardening movement and providing tools for community gardening. Concepts (models) could be adapted locally in the frame of e.g. law and regulations in force. Some of the companies involved in real estate development projects, which were stalled by the global economic crisis, have also provided plots for temporary use for gardening communities. Concerning the perception in society, community gardeners are still seen as kind of “aliens”. As a historical, socio-cultural “heritage” there is still a kind of essential resistance and mistrust towards activities based on community cooperation and solidarity.

Presently, there is no organisation (association, federation etc.) or network that regionally or nationally takes up the role of coordination, networking, service providing or other functions in order to support the cooperation of the gardens, dissemination of their values and promoting them towards the public and decision makers.


The development of community gardens was strongly linked to different social movements and political actions, especially after the economic crisis of 2008. They were mainly created for communities by communities and are considered as places for community self-management run and managed by volunteers. So far they are rarely supported by local municipalities and therefore often not stable and lasting enough to reach their full potential. As a special case for Spain universities play a strong role as promoters of community gardens by providing land and including the gardens into their teaching and learning activities.
Concerning networking there have been several events on a national level initiated by different actors but so far no institution that creates stable structures and promotes networking on a regular basis.

Contribution of community gardens to climate change adaptation and education

Community gardens make a valuable contribution to climate change adaptation of cities and towns through “infiltration areas, higher biodiversity e.g. through flower meadows, circular economy, water saving and collection”. (participant focus group Austria) On one hand, regarding their own survival, gardens are active in terms of climate friendly techniques implementation. On the other hand, when implementing new techniques and activities, gardens become kind of pilot spaces where the rest of the society can learn how to be greener and climate friendlier, in fact, gardens are, of course, the best example of think global act local practices, and spaces for direct citizen action against climate change(participant Focus Group Spain). As reported also from Spain gardeners see themselves as experts in finding locally adapted solutions and reacting to the environmental context. They can serve as green oasis and also be used to recultivate brownfields.

Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change in the gardens themselves

Community gardens have set numerous measures to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce their negative impact on climate and adapt their gardens to the changing climate. According to all partner organisations the average awareness for climate change is higher among community gardeners than among the rest of the population. Still not all measures set in the gardens that have a positive impact on the climate are necessarily consciously taken as climate change mitigation or adaptation measures. Often they are simply part of ecological garden practices.

To find out what is already put in practice we have sent out an online questionnaire to gardeners in all partner countries. The most wide spread measure among all respondents is the ban of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides from the gardens. More than 130 out of all 158 respondents already apply these measures. Especially the ban of fertilisers reduces the emission of greenhouse gases caused by its production and decomposition.

A practice closely linked to the ban of synthetic fertilisers is composting which is also very much in use across gardens in all countries (121 out of 158) to keep nutrients in the cycle and fertilise plants in a natural way. The use of green manure, another way to bring in fertiliser, is less popular but still used by 82 gardens. As stated by one participant of the Austrian focus group “Community gardens can contribute to sequestering carbon in the soil through building up humus – through normal composting or plant charcoal”.

Mulching, a special form of composting as well as a method to protect the soil from evaporation, and erosion, is another practice used by a wide majority of responding gardens (110).

The inclusion of natural flora and wild corners for insects and birds was also among the most widespread practices.

Interesting to see are also the differences between countries. While drip irrigation is only used in very few gardens in all other countries, in Spain almost two thirds of the responding gardens use this watering system. The opposite can be said for rainwater collection which is rarely in use in Spain as well as in Hungary, but used by at least half of the gardens in the other partner countries. The definite leader of low dig gardening is France(21 of 26 gardens using this method), probably due to the prevalence of the broad fork or Grelinette.

Practices that are not yet in use in many gardens but are part of future plans in at least some are changes in water management including rain water collection and drip irrigation,  the use of biochar and new nature-friendly growing techniques .

Additional practices, that community gardeners specified, are

  • Promotion of low tech gardening tools
  • Crop rotation and intercropping
  • Changing the sawing calendar
  • Permaculture
  • sector mowing
  • the use of ollas – a special watering system
  • extensive gardening with the use of perennial self-seeding and low-demanding plants as well as wild edible species
  • Planting a large number of trees and plants, establishing forest gardens or so called food forests
  • Seed production for local seed collection and seed library
  • Vertical gardening

Practices beyond gardening that are in use in many of the respondents’ gardens are reuse, repairing and re- and upcycling. Use of local material and separate waste collection were also mentioned by the majority of gardens.
The use of compost toilets/dry toilets/separating toilets was independently mentioned by different gardens from different countries, in some of them the human manure is even treated to be reused in the gardens. Use of renewable energy such as photovoltaic was also specified by different gardens. Built up structures like pergolas or shelters to create shade and collect water are another practice mentioned by several respondents.

Environmental education in community gardens

There is a great approval across all countries that communities have a high potential in terms of environmental education and do already play an important role right now. Gardens are the ideal place to provide an education that is both practical and responsive to the most current challenges, including, of course, the fight against climate change, but also to learn about coexistence, citizenship, equality, respect and democracy.
Participants of the various focus groups as well as respondents of the questionnaire especially highlighted the role of community gardens in informal education. Formal education including workshops, seminars, guided tours and information panels are less frequently implemented and gardens face diverse difficulties to implement them.

Informal education

Learning environmentally friendly gardening practices from each other, consulting each other and learning through observation are the most commonly practised “learning methods”. Knowledge and experience are exchanged in informal settings like common meals or sitting together in the evening. But already being only part of the garden and using it for growing has an educational impact and creates understanding for natural cycles and the impact of climate change as stated  by a participant of the Czech focus group “I can already see this happening. Our members get more and more involved… just by being members of our garden, talking to others, etc.”
As described above, community gardens have already released numerous environmentally and climate friendly practices and thereby influence their members. This also stimulates changes in perception and behaviour also beyond actual gardening. Consumption patterns are rethought, consciousness for natural resources and waste management is induced. In many cases basic rules of sustainability are already covered in the garden rules and are communicated to every new member of a garden group.
Transversal actions, which are considered by gardeners to be extremely relevant, are all dissemination and awareness-raising activities, mostly in local canals, but with a need of widely spreading what is and can be done in gardens, they claim that‚ the more visibility we gain, the more catching this will be for the people and further the message will reach.” (participant Focus group Spain)

Related to climate change community gardens are described as places of self-efficacy where people can experience that they can change their environment and become active. “This action-orientation is totally important…what can I contribute without being overwhelmed?…everyone can contribute”. (participant Round Table Austria)  

Moreover “the multiplying effect of  community gardens is huge. There are the people, who garden, their environment and the neighbourhood of the garden as well as the organisations involved in the garden and their environment.” (participant Focus Group Austria)

Formal education

Concerning formal education, workshops for the gardeners of the respective garden group are the most common activity. But also workshops open to the public or for specific target groups are carried out. The workshop contents range from sustainable consumption, agroecology, ecofeminism, irrigation methods, soil and climate, permaculture to more hands-on workshops like building a dry stone wall, setting up a compost or planting a flower meadow. Information on ecological garden practices is further spread through newsletters and whatsapp-communication.

Educational activities in community gardens (n=155)

Activity 1: Looking at other community gardeners in your garden and learning from their example
Activity 2: Gardeners asking and telling each other, how to plant, grow, harvest
Activity 3: Exchange of knowledge and skills in meetings and workshops from gardeners for gardeners
Activity 4: Workshops with external experts on certain topics for gardeners
Activity 5: Cooperations with other organisations in the field of environmental education

Additional training and education activities that community gardeners specified, are:

  • Biking classes organised by a garden
  • Guided tours in the gardens
  • Training teachers on urban gardens and school gardens
  • Promoting citizen science
  • Seminars concerning eco-anxiety

To include a wider public open door events, internships and even education for companies are organised. Info panels that explain sustainable gardening practices are also in use. Besides adult education, in many gardens, offers for kindergartens, schools and youth camps are an important part of education activities.

Learning activities open to the public (n=155)

Activity 1: Open garden days
Activity 2: Internships for students or volunteers
Activity 3: Environmental programs for enterprises or institutions
Activity 4: Passive methods of educations e.g. info panels
Activity 5: Environmental education activities for schools, kindergarten
Activity 6: Learning/teaching activities together with educational institutions or municipalities

A special case is the connection of community gardens and universities in Spain. Universities use their green spaces to install community gardens. These can be used as open classrooms and students can carry out their internships in the gardens.

Challenges and further potentials

A wide majority of respondents  is planning or would like to carry out more educational activities in the garden in future (110 out of 158). Challenges are mainly described in the area of formal education.

A major challenge across all countries is the capacity of community garden groups for organising and carrying out educational activities. Lacking capacities are described on different levels:

Time and capacity to organise and coordinate:  As most garden members and garden coordinators take part in the garden in their free time it is difficult to coordinate such activities on a regular basis. “If you want me to start educating, just give me some expert in the field and someone who might organise everything. I am already busy with the garden…” (participant Focus Group Czech Republic)

Knowledge and expertise: Missing expertise in the workshop fields as well as in organisation and promotion are also described as hindering. Community gardeners are not professionals in the field and finding and engaging the right experts seems difficult to many garden groups. This is also linked to the next challenge.

Financial means and funding: Financial support seems to be a crucial point in organising educational activities. Experts sharing their knowledge in the garden need to be paid and also workshop material and room rentals. “We are always keen on organising awareness-raising programmes for community gardens, but due to a lack of funding we are less and less able to do so free of charge.” (participant Focus Group Hungary)

A further challenge is the missing infrastructure and equipment. Venues close to the gardens that are suitable for all weather conditions and materials would be needed.

Promotion of educational activities is another weak point reported by different gardeners. Reaching out to a wider public is often not possible. Lack of time and skills, as described above is one reason. Missing support through municipalities and little cooperations with educational institutions are another.

A special challenge reported from Austria is the lack of openness of the gardens. One quarter of the respondents do not want to open the garden to the public. The discussion about how open or closed gardens should be is an ongoing one. While participants of round tables agreed that gardens should be open especially if they shall play a role in environmental education there is no clear regulation in land use agreements or many public funding schemes and many gardens tend to keep the gates closed.

From Spain and Czech Republic fluctuation within the group and instability of the gardens are reported as important challenges. While in Spain gardens as such are often short term projects and therefore cannot tap their full potential and develop long term programs in Czech Republic members tend to be part of garden groups for only a short time and a lot of energy is invested in group consolidation and acquisition of new members.

A great chance to overcome some of the challenges described above is seen in increased networking and cooperation. If gardens cooperate with each other they can share materials and resources. They could also increase exchange of experience and practices among gardeners and even develop new educational content together.  They could also invite experts, share the costs and make the event accessible for gardeners from all participating gardens. Cooperation with educational institutions could solve the problem of appropriate infrastructure. At once through institutions’ information channels a wider public could be reached and educational activities could increase their impact.

Aside from financial support, advice and training, organisational support was mentioned as relevant to increase formal education activities. As gardeners and garden coordinators are mainly working on a voluntary basis and have limited resources, paid staff that coordinates, organises and promotes educational activities for one or more gardens in a region would help to increase such activities.

Cooperations with NGOs and decision makers/municipalities

Looking at cooperations with municipalities and decision makers the picture differs a lot in the different partner countries. In Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria municipalities mainly act as providers of land or in some cases of financial support.      

In the case of Hungary, long-term, regular cooperation is only possible if there is a competent person or department within the municipality responsible for community gardens. They might be included in strategic documents – as in Czech Republic and Hungary – or not even part of those as in many regions in Austria.
In France and Spain support through and cooperation with municipalities and public institutions is far more common. Various cities in France like Pau, Montpellier, Paris, Lyon do accompany citizens who want to develop community gardens, helping them to create their project, to find a place, to create an association. They also provide materials and even plants. A seed distribution program for the conservation of local varieties in Andalusia and Montpellier or programs for educating compost masters in France and community composting plans in different Spanish regions are examples for support in education for climate friendly behaviour.
A special cooperation between neighbourhood associations and municipal organisations has been found in Cordoba. Following first meetings the municipality became fully involved in the management of gardens and has thereby increased the space for gardens in general by four, most of them being collectively managed. Thereby the city wanted to create “educational, agro-ecological and gender-equitable gardens” (participant round table Spain). Within the program “Cordoba Verde por el Clima” more than 200 workshops on climate change have been held since 2011 involving 4000 young people.

In almost all of the partner countries schools and universities are seen as important partners for cooperation – either already existing or for future educational activities.

Cooperation with NGOs covers diverse activities. NGOs use the space of a community garden for their outdoor, therapeutic or environmental activities.  In Austria NGOs are mainly a strong partner in advice and education concerning diverse garden issues. In Hungary food cooperatives use gardens as their point of sale. They might cooperate as partners in EU-funded projects. In the frame of other Erasmus+ projects NGOs in partner countries and beyond have developed the Gardeniser program, education for garden managers to support them in running community gardens.

Future Strategies

Looking at existing strategies concerning community gardens there is no report of a community garden strategy on a national level. If so, strategies are formulated on a regional or local level like in Budapest or Paris. In municipal development strategies community gardens are sometimes mentioned in a note like in Prague or Vieann but often not linked to climate change or the multitude of potentials is not seen. Currently climate strategies are being developed in many places but except for Hungary community gardens are rarely explicitly mentioned.

Following respondents from all partner countries there could be manifold contributions of community gardens to climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies on different levels:

  • their function as green infrastructure cooling dense areas of the city and retaining rainwater
  • their education and awareness raising function
  • production of local food and feeding communities
  • closing resource cycles through local production and composting
  • impact on local communities and reach out to different target groups

All these functions could also be interlinked with other existing strategies concerning

the development of organic agriculture and agro-ecology, social & community economy, food strategies and urban transformation strategies.

How community gardens can become part of such strategies and which steps have to be taken is a crucial point in the discussion.

Undoubtedly strategy development has to take place in a multidisciplinary field including education, spatial planning, civic participation, agriculture and alike. In some of the partner countries it was reported as difficult to come together with relevant stakeholders on a political level. Institutions that facilitate the development of municipal strategies might be an entry point for community gardens. For example in Austria program officers of climate change adaptation regions were part of the focus group and recommended to educate their strategy development staff about community gardens.

Working together with activists and active gardeners as well as service organisations in the field also seems crucial. To be able to promote strategy development it also needs strong organisations on the side of community gardens. A lack of official structures on a national level is stated in all countries. NGOs and social enterprises take over the representation and advocacy work up to some level but do not have the capacity to fully take over these tasks.

As there is still little consciousness about community gardens, a collection of data of their diverse benefits should be done to have a better position in negotiations. A policy briefing based on the data in this report and additional data could be a starting point. Increasing visibility and spreading the multifunctional image of community gardens in public also seems to be suitable to start the dialogue with decision makers and attract their attention.

Looking at the strategic development of gardens themselves capacities are often low and fully occupied with the daily tasks of gardening and organising the group. Support through paid staff, either in the gardens themselves, through cooperation or in networking and service organisations could liberate some energy for further development of educational activities, strategies, awareness raising, cooperation and reach out to different target groups.


Looking at adaptation to climate change in the gardens there are already numerous measures in place although gardeners might not always be aware of the impact of their practices. As there are great differences between single gardens and in some practices also between countries there is great potential to learn from each other and adapt practices to the local context. Best examples are water and soil management practices like drip irrigation or low dig gardening.

Community gardens are a good environment for education, as stated in research before and also in all national reports of this project. A major benefit is seen in informal education also having an impact on consciousness and behaviour of gardeners and organisations involved as well as their surroundings. Challenges are seen mainly in formal education. Still a majority of gardens want to increase their activities in this field. The development of educational material tailored to the needs of garden groups can help to overcome some of the challenges.

Knowledge about relevant practices and expertise in adaptation to climate change are definitely one part of the needs that community gardeners expressed to be able to carry out more educational activities and have an impact on awareness for climate change. Other aspects that should also be considered, when developing training materials, are:

To enhance cooperation with and support through municipalities and decision makers it might also be useful to have a closer look at positive examples like the initiative of Cordoba or Lyon. Role models might induce change also in other municipalities.

NGOs, schools and universities are seen as important present or future partners in all countries. Also in this field it might be useful to learn from each other what can be done together.

Concerning strategic development of community gardens there is still a lot to be done. Again a first step can be to consult good practices. To strengthen the position of community gardens and organisations a collection of data on the positive impacts is needed. Identifying the right people to get involved in strategy development also seems crucial as decision makers themselves are often out of reach. Uniting community gardens and strengthening community garden organisations seems an important step towards constant advocacy for community gardens.

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The summary report is derived from 5 National Reports, that are based on online questionnaires sent out to the community gardens, focus group discussions with experts and round tables with people from administration and decision makers as well as literature research. Additionally some web sources were consulted directly to complete the summary report. In Hungary a questionnaire was sent to the relevant departments of local authorities.

Online Questionnaire
Period of data collection March to July 2022
Number of gardens, that have participated
Some questions were not answered by all of the respondents. So we have n=155 in some of the replies.
Ways of reaching respondents
Through email, social media and phone calls
Response quote (to how many did you send out, how many did you get back)
158 out of 866
Focus Group
Period of data collection May and June 2022
Number of participants
A total of 33 experts in the field, between 5 and 10 participants per discussion
Number of focus group discussions
Online or place
4 online discussions one live
Round Table
Period of data collection June and July 2022
Number of participants
A total of 29 representatives of NGOs, municipalities and alike, between 2 and 7 participants
Online or place
3 online, 3 live
Questionnaire Sent to Hungarian Representatives of Local Authorities
1. Purpose of the request

In the current phase of the project, we are working on a situation analysis on community gardens in the country. We are looking for answers to the following questions:

  • Are there any links in existing municipal (city district) climate strategies to establish meaningful cooperation between community gardens and local decision makers?
  • Are there local projects/programmes/applications to support community gardens?
  • Are there measures that also involve community gardens and are linked to climate strategies at different levels?
  • How could community gardens be part of climate change adaptation strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change?
  • What is a realistic vision for community gardens in the context of future climate strategies? For example: promoting community gardens (garden communities), making gardens formal and informal centres for awareness-raising, education, etc.
2. Topics and questions
2.1. From the aspect of Implementation of regional/local climate strategies
2.1.1. Do you see, and if so, what opportunities for community gardens in terms of communicating the content of environmental/climate strategies of different levels, facilitating the implementation of planned interventions, etc.?
2.1.2. What do you think would be needed to make community gardens part of climate change adaptation strategies (in terms of green infrastructure that exists and can be developed in gardens, and in terms of awareness raising/education)?
2.1.3. What challenges and difficulties do you see in this area?
2.2. From the perspective of policy makers/local decision makers
2.2.1. Do you see and if so what (untapped) potential in community gardens?
2.2.2. Does your municipality already have experience with community gardens and if so, what kind of experience (garden establishment, maintenance, programme organisation, relationship with the garden community, etc.)?
2.2.3. Does your municipality use community gardens for its own events (meetings, workshops, (citizens') forums, etc.)?
2.2.4. What would be needed to enable the municipality to 'use' community gardens in climate adaptation work?
(Ad 2.2.1.-2.2.3. If there are no community gardens in the municipality/district, please describe your own ideas on the possible role of community gardens and the cooperation of the municipality with them)