Urban gardens have had a long history, representing a variety of different structures and functions. In the 19th century, there were “poor peoples’ gardens” and allotments, often serving the alimentation of the public. Starting in the beginning of the end of the 20th century, there is a recurrence of urban gardening, often politically motivated, e.g. to avoid long distances from food production to consumption, to educate urban dwellers in environmental topics, to provide an intercultural exchange and to allow a self-organized political awareness (Rosol, 2010).

While restoration psychology has been focusing on the comparison between effects of natural and urban environments for a long time, it has opened up towards research on the effect of different natural or different urban environments. Urban gardening integrates both, urban and natural aspects present an intense interaction. Physical, psychological and social aspects of environments are represented in the same setting: by activating people and serving their individual needs for restoration, urban gardens can provide an important opportunity to increase social interactions, physical activation and psychological well-being, thus providing a valuable source for public health, especially for deprived communities (Guitart et al., 2009).

In the proposed symposium, work from different countries with different planning policies and different legal structures as well as from different interdisciplinary perspectives will be presented. Research results on the effects of urban gardening on health issues, environmental education and sustainability will be presented. In addition spatial concepts such as place attachment and identity processes will be closely looked at.

At the end of the session we will discuss new planning and management concepts that would meet the needs of urban inhabitants more adequately.


Jahrl, Ingrid; Home, Robert

Allotment gardens are important green spaces in Swiss cities, with 640 hectares of urban land under cultivation. The gardens are usually found on areas of land that are owned by cities and managed by associations, with small allotment plots rented to individual tenant gardeners. Cities and associations often have rules for sustainable production as one target to reach defined sustainability goals of cities but the rules are not always followed, and the associations are reluctant to adopt the policing role. The gardens are often under threat from alternative land uses, such as housing development, and demonstration of the sustainability and value of the land use may be an argument for their continued existence. A solution appears to be in finding ways to motivate gardeners to manage their plots in a sustainable way that agrees with the goals of the cities. In this paper, we investigate the attitudes held by Swiss allotment gardeners towards natural gardening, and which motivations can be used to encourage and promote natural garden management. In particular, we focus on how the availability of information, the existing attitudes towards sustainability, and the social environment combine to form a behavioural intention. Once such motivations are identified, strategies can be developed to encourage natural garden management that is both environmentally friendly and can be used to showcase the value of the allotment areas.

Respondent gardeners were sourced from four Swiss target cities: Basel, Lausanne, Lucerne, and St. Gallen. Data were collected by means of semi-structured interviews with gardeners and key informants from city administrations and gardening associations. The interviews were conducted during the summer of 2013 and analysed using a qualitative content analysis approach. The results indicate that the degree of knowledge about natural gardening has an influence on management practices, with synthetic agents more likely to be used when knowledge of alternatives is lacking. Effective provision of education therefore appears to be a promising strategy but education opportunities are few in most areas and the existing offers are rarely coordinated or targeted. Immigrant gardeners, who make up a significant proportion of the gardeners, may not be reached by existing education offers, while many established gardeners are reluctant to change and do not feel the need to access the available information. The existential pressure faced by the garden areas might however inspire the gardeners who would otherwise be reluctant to change to engage with more natural gardening practices. It was found that the social environment has a strong influence on the behaviour of gardeners, and some potential exists for encouraging a culture where environmentally friendly cultivation becomes the norm. Education strategies should therefore be developed in consultation with gardeners as well as with integration and education specialists to enhance their effectiveness by reaching their target groups in a way that encourages the cultural change.

Bauer, Nicole; Mondini, Maria

In Switzerland as in many parts of Europe, life is characterized by an increasingly sedentary lifestyle combined with high levels of mental stress. At the same time the densification and the sprawling of many cities and peri- urban areas leads to a reduced number of accessible natural environments. These developments exacerbate each other and pose risks to health.

Urban green spaces can provide many opportunities to enhance the quality of life of large parts of the society. They contribute to quality of life in a myriad of ways including by providing opportunities for physical exercise, facilitating social contact, giving opportunities for self-regulation and restoration, enabling recovery from stress, enhancing personal development, and facilitating the development of place identity and a sense of meaning.

Urban allotment gardens are under threat in many Swiss cities as they are attractive targets for development.

But at the same time the popularity of allotment gardens as well as the number of gardens – e.g. 6000 allotment gardens in Zurich - suggests that the effect on society could be considerable. However the influence of urban allotment gardens on human health (as defined by the WHO) remains virtually unstudied.

Therefore we initiated a research project to answer the following research questions

1) What is the effect of urban allotment gardens on restoration and on psychological and social well-being?

2) What are the most important characteristics of the urban allotment gardens for these effects?

In order to be able to answer these questions we conducted a quantitative survey with tenants of allotment gardens in Zurich. As there is no database of all the tenants of allotment gardens in Zurich, we contacted the 13 allotment garden associations of Zurich. 600 questionnaires were distributed by the 13 garden associations, either handed out to the gardeners by the officials of the allotment garden association at social events or the annual meeting, or sent out by post to a random sample of allotment gardeners. From the 600 questionnaires 252 were filled in and send back to us (a response rate of about 40%).

Preliminary results of the survey show that most of the gardeners visit their garden more than once a week and feel restored after a visit in the garden. About half of the respondents report to have more exercise than before having a garden and to eat more vegetables than before. In an open-ended question we asked what they considered as special in their garden. About half of the answers referred to the calm and quietness of the garden, and about 30% to the social contact in the allotment garden association. The further analysis of the data will focus on the importance of these and other characteristics of the garden or the gardening experience for psychological and social well-being and on the possibilities to foster these by e.g. planning policy.

Martens, Dörte; Vivian, Frick

Urban community gardens nowadays exist in almost every bigger city in Germany, and recently they have received a lot of public attention. They can provide an important opportunity for restoration, capacity building and sustainability at a local level. Attention Restoration Theory argues that natural environments in particular restore physical, psychological and social resources that have been diminished by daily demands. However, social aspects of community gardens, e.g. facilitating interactions, relationships and an intercultural exchange, have not yet been focused much in restoration research.

The present study addresses the restorative effects of 28 community gardens in Berlin. Structured face-to-face-interviews including scales have been carried out with 28 initiators of community gardens during July and August 2013. Restoration was measured by a German translation of the Perceived Restorativeness Scale including the subscales „being away“, „fascination“, „compatibility und „coherence“ (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989). The individual background and attitude towards nature was assessed by a German translation of the “Commitment to nature” scale. Additionally, the perception of activities related to the garden and childhood experiences were assessed by 5-point-scales. A list with 19 given items and an open question served to assess the motivations, their strength to be marked on 5-point-scales.

Results show that community gardens are present especially in densely built areas with a low socioeconomic level in the city, indicating a specific need in those areas. The most important motives for the garden initiators to start a community garden were found to be active participation in forming the city, community work, ecological gardening, a healthy diet and protection of environment and climate. Thus, community gardens show, besides activation by practical gardening a high potential in experiencing and educating people in sustainability topics at a very local level.

Restoration is shown to be rather high in all gardens for the initiators. The perceived restorativeness was closely connected with the feeling of responsibility, and with the perception of activity related to the garden as a hobby: the higher the perceived responsibility, the higher the restorative effect of the garden. This indicates new paths in motivational research considering participation, confirming results that show political activation being beneficial for well-being (Klar & Kasser, 2009).

The potential to enhance public health and social equity in community gardening is promising, even though there are some limitations due to the small sample size. Community gardens could be used to address people who are so far rather difficult to reach for changes towards more sustainable lifestyles. By serving peoples’ need for restoration, urban community gardens provide an important opportunity to enhance quality of life. Additional to physical characteristics of the natural environment, social aspects enhance the positive effect on restoration, needing to be considered in urban planning processes.