The bustle of city life has definite advantages over the "boondocks". But having space for a garden – a refuge from hectic pace and urban concrete – is clearly not one of them. The Viennese love their Schrebergärten, those traditional small gardens found in areas like the Prater or the Alte Donau, often in the family for generations, and hard to come by for a newcomer.
There are now countless other, more accessible options to make the city a greener place. From neighbourhood co-operatives to "Guerrilla Gardening", many are growing their own vegetables and coaxing the budding spring blossoms in public spaces that have become more than just a niche trend.
A little goes a long way
For the solitary gardener, there is the option of the Garteln ums Eck ("gardening around the corner"), another City project currently offered in the 7th, 8th and 16th districts. Horticulturalists can pick a Baumscheibe (the bit of earth around a sidewalk tree), take a photo, and send it to their Gebietsbetreuung (community administration). If they give the OK, your creativity is set free – but be prepared to fend off the dogs that consider this their territory.
The gardener next door
While some districts boast various such oases, the City of Vienna funds one garden project per district with up to €3,600. These Nachbarschaftsgärten (neighbourhood gardens) combine two pleasant things: nurturing nature and getting to know your flora-loving neighbours. The first to meet the criteria was the Heigerlein Garten in Ottakring, funded since 2008. Today, roughly 50 amateur gardeners, teachers and kindergarteners from the Kinderfreunde Kindergarten Seeböckgasse and patients at the Haus der Barmherzigkeit nursing home tend to it. As a city requirement, all Nachbarschaftsgärten are open to the public.
To avoid bureaucracy, try Guerrilla Gardening, the art of embellishing public space without permission. But don’t be fooled: If you expect an intimidating warrior gardener throwing seed bombs, think again. On a dry day outside the Längenfeldgasse subway stop, you’ll find peace-loving people taking care of their conquered garden space. The scariest element is the roar of the subway approaching every few minutes.
Harvesting ‘city fruit’
One last project, Stadtfrucht Wien is the city’s "initiative for urban self-sufficiency", an inspired and laid-back way to profit from downtown gardening without a year-round commitment. Stadtfrucht Wien is based on the idea that fruit and vegetables grown in public parks or private gardens often go to waste, as nobody bothers to pick them. The initiative connects those with time and energy with those who have the resources: a win-win situation.