The allotment garden system can look back on an over 150-year tradition. The forerunners of today’s allotment gardens were the so-called “paupers’ gardens” of the 19th Century. They were designed to allow the needy to be able to meet their own demand for garden fruits themselves, instead of receiving financial support. Moreover, the allotment-garden movement harks back to Leipzig doctor Dr. Schreber, who called for physical education and for bringing children into contact with nature. Later, the workers’ gardens of the Red Cross were set up for reasons of health policy.
During World War I and the subsequent world economic crisis, the allotment gardens assumed great significance for the nutrition of the urban population – their role in securing subsistence became primary. At the height of this crisis in 1931, the provision of allotment gardens for the unemployed was decreed by Germany’s president. At the same time, the municipalities received additional funds for the procurement of allotment garden plots.
Immediately after World War II, allotment gardens were used not only to meet food requirements, but also as permanent residences.
The functions of the allotment gardens changed over the course of time. Their economic utility was supplemented by their leisure-time and recreational function, as well as by their urban-planning function in the context of green and open-space planning. The 833 Berlin allotment-garden complexes have developed in Berlin to a typical form of urban recreation area, and are an essential component of the green-space system of the city, since, through their public accessibility, they provide recreational possibilities in the city not only for the allotment gardeners themselves, but also for the Berlin population.