September 16th 2005: Cargarden to the Eternal Parking Lot

We're very sorry to annouce that the cargarden today has left to the eternal parking lot, because of mediocre neighbours claiming 'their' parking space. omwonenden

En een gewone auto neemt de plek weer inAmsterdam misses this beautiful statement of people reclaiming the streets

Here we keep the memory alive, and the instructions at hand to crerate your own cargarden. We already started with a new one!

At October 8th 1999 the Dutch capital Amsterdam made acquaintance with the phenomenon ‘car garden’ (in Dutch: autotuin). On that day, Fokke van Katwijk sawed off the roof of his Toyota Corolla, filled the car with one and a half cubic meters of fatty gardening soil, and subsequently furnished it according to his own taste with all the good stuff garden centres have to offer this season of the year.

Florrie en de autotuinThe car garden is the perfect solution for each inhabitant of the inner city, who does not have a garden herself, but does want to have a genuine outside. By default an average road in a city like Amsterdam is stuffed with parked cars. Which makes it a bad place to be. The car garden offers people the possibility to refurnish one of those many public parking places in a different way. With a garden, for example. But a chicken run is possible as well, as is a refuge for the homeless, a playing hut, a little zoo or a day care centre. In fact, everything one might think of that fits into or upon the undercarriage of an automobile.

Herparkeren autotuinAs of March 2002 the car garden is owned by Florrie de Pater, while Fokke has moved from the Lomanstraat. Furthermore, the car garden has been moved on May 13th 2002 when road restructuration of the Lomanstraat began. Since that date the car garden is located nearby, on the Willemsparkweg in Amsterdam close to Hotel Zandbergen, which in intself is a perfect starting point to go and see the car garden and the rest of Amsterdam yourself!

Make your own car garden!

Just fancy. What would you like to see in the street? This website of ‘Eigen tuin & auto’ (‘Private car and garden’ - a contraction of the titles of two Dutch magazines on gardening and cars) offers all the information you need to make your dream come true in public space. So get the grinding machine and get to work!

The foundation: a public parking lot in your street

This is where it all starts, of course: a bit of public space at the size of an average car (but why not make it bigger?). This accounts for at least 7 square meters of city, that can be called yours with a little effort. Like Amsterdam, most European cities have already ‘regulated’ parking in public spaces years ago, using a wide variety of bureaucratic and technological means like parking meters, parking licenses, controlling institutions and sanctions for violators. As automobile tourists in Amsterdam may have experienced, one of these is the so called wheel clamp.

The essence of the system in Amsterdam is a price differentiation between citizens and visitors. If you visit the city by car, you’re obliged to pay a considerable amount of money to leave it standing. Citizens however can get a parking license for their dwelling area for a very small fee. With this license, they’re allowed to park anywhere in their area without paying anymore. For example: in the Amsterdam Oud Zuid district one pays € 57,52 for half a year. Just try to get an allotment garden at that price!

Every citizen living in such a license area has the opportunity to request such a license. That is, if you own a car. It ain’t easy to get a license for a chicken run, a house trailer or a playing construction. And if you would request one, chances are you get zilch. In other words: if you want to place something bigger on the street it can be anything, as long as it is a car.
The foundation of each car garden thus is a public parking place and a parking license. Below is explained how to get one in Amsterdam, so if you live somewhere else you should figure out the local requirements.

Parking licenses are given to citizens and businesses in a certain ‘license area’. This might be a quarter, or a whole district, depending on where you live. Amsterdam Oud Zuid is divided in three license areas, one in The Pijp (the quartier latin of Amsterdam) and two in Zuid.
Parking licences are granted according to the Parkeerverordening (parking regulation) of the city council. The actual issueing is delegated to the ‘Dienst Stadstoezicht’, who sticks to the rules and procedures the city council and the councils of the city quarters establish.

The most important rules are:

  1. that you are the owner of a car
  2. that you’re a citizen, or run a business in the area you’re requesting a license for.
  3. that nobody living at your address already has a parking license.

Ad 1: which can be shown with the vehicle registration certificate. If you buy a car in the Netherlands you’re obliged to register with the Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer (RDW). You then register the car on your name, which can be done at most post offices in an instant for about € 11.

Ad 2: which can be proved with an extract from the citizens registration. Businesses have to follow a different procedure, with the number of employees as one of the relevant parameters.

Ad 3: this applies to most of the license areas. For each ‘selfcontaining’ household one license is maximum. In the quarter of Amsterdam Oud Zuid different rules apply, since in Zuid (the richer part) a maximum of two licenses per household is issued.

Dutch definition of a selfcontaining household: "Zelfstandige woning: een woning welke een eigen toegang heeft, en welke de bewoner kan bewonen zonder daarbij afhankelijk te zijn van wezenlijke voorzieningen buiten die woning, als bedoeld in art. 1623a, derde lid, van het Burgerlijk Wetboek." [Parkeerverordening 1996]

Let’s suppose you’re going to request a license as a private citizen. What do you need?

  1. an extract (or a copy) from the citizens registration not older than six months
  2. a (copy of) part II of the vehicle registration certificate
  3. a (copy of) your driving license

Ad 1: Stadstoezicht is willing to check this themselves for a € 2,25 fee

Ad 2: Someone else may be the owner of the car. In that case, you should take a signed declaration of that person with you, in which he or she declares that you are the permanent user of the car. Proof of legitimation of the car owner should accompany this.

Ad 3: If you don’t have a drivers’ license, but you do own the car, then you have to give a proof of legimitation together with a declaration in which you state name and address of someone who does have a drivers’ license. Of course a copy of that drivers’ license should go with it.

The request form for a parking license in Amsterdam can be found here.

If everything is in order you’ll get a temporary license immediately, until the definitive license is issued. All in all, the administrative procedures won’t take long. A visit to the post office, and one of the offices of Stadstoezicht is enough.

Another foundation: the car

One cannot have a car garden without a car. Which is not to say it should be an especially good one. We’ve learned from experience that a reasonable car can be bought for 130 up to 230 euro. If you want to buy one, pay attention to the following matters:

Size and weight of the car: size determines possibilities. Height of road taxing and insurance vary according to weight. Usually, the seller of the car can give you a good indication.

The APK of the car: in the Netherlands any registered car should be ‘APK inspected’, which is a means to ensure the safety of the car for its occupants and the other people on the road. If your car gets through the APK inspection, it should be re-tested after a certain time (usually a year). If the car isn’t retested after that period, you cannot get your vehicle registration certificate renewed, which also means you’re not able to renew your parking license. Frankly said: a car with the roof sawn off will not get through APK-inspection again. So buy a car with a APK-renewal date that lies far in the future!

The driving capabilities are of less concern. It might be handy to drive your car to its definitive resting place, since you do not want to push it fifteen miles.

The following cars deserve special recommendation:

  • Cabrio’s: since the roof doesn’t have to sawn off, these cars might pass the APK inspection later. But you’ll miss one of the more spectacular parts of your venture.
  • Busses: very handy as a chicken run, or anything else. We don’t have any experience with them, but we suppose they’ll also get through APK inspection as long as their inner structure isn’t destroyed. Make big holes in the side walls, put chicken wire in them, and you might have a long lasting chicken run.
  • Oldtimers: if you own a car older than 25 years in the Netherlands, you’re in bonus, because no road tax has to be payed for them. So if you manage to get a hold on a car made before 1974, lucky you!

Juridical hairsplitting & alternatives

One is only allowed to occupy a public parking place with a ‘vehicle’. The Amsterdam Parking Regulation 1996 defines a ‘vehicle’ as follows:

"vehicle or motorvehicle: as it is defined in article 1, sub z and al of the RVV 1990, in that respect that bicycles and mopeds with less than four wheels are not considered to be a vehicle."

The RVV 1990 (the national regulation of traffic rules and signs) considers:

  • a motor vehicle to be "all motorized vehicles except mopeds and vehicles for disabled people, meant to be moved forwards otherwise than along rails." (RVV 1990, art 1.z).
  • a vehicle to be "bicycles, mopeds, vehicles for disabled people, motor vehicles, trams and chariots." (RVV 1990, art

According to the Amsterdam Parking Regulation it is forbidden to place other objects than vehicles on public parking places.

Article V.1: "It is forbidden to place, or leave behind any object, not being a vehicle, on a parking place"

A parking place is defined in this regulation as those places that fall under the fiscal regime of the Parking Regulation, which of course means that private parking places are excepted from these rules.

Here we see an interesting hole in the Parking Regulation. Bicycles and mopeds are explicitly excluded from parking places, but this does not necessarily means that only motorvehicles may stand there. The Parking Regulation explicitly talks about "vehicles and motor vehicles". Nowhere the issueing of parking licenses is explicitly restricted to cars registered as motorcars.

As you should have understood by now, most car gardens do have a temporary character, since their treatment reduces their chance to get through the APK inspection. Not getting through the APK, implies not getting a vehicle registration certificate renewal. As a consequence your parking license cannot renewed as well.
But imagine we parked a non-motorised vehicle with four wheels (‘meant to be moved forward not along rails’). We could think of an old fashioned house trailer, or our own construction with four wheels. Considering the regulations for licensing, we should be able to get a license for that. Problem is that the bureaucracy isn’t adapted to these exceptions. The whole paperwork is based on motorcars, having a registration. As we understood from the juridical employee of Stadstoezicht, there really is an incongruency between the law and the bureaucratic implementation.

The next step of Eigen Tuin & Auto will be to design a non-motorised car with four wheels, to test this incongruency. If we succeed, a whole new market for our garden centres will be opened up! And the car garden will become in reach for a lot more people. Just buy a car garden basement in your local garden store, and make your own garden. No taxes, no insurance, no APK.

We’ll keep you informed on this site. If we succeed, the tragedy of the parking commons will turn out to be a car garden comedy.


Once you own a car and fulfilled the needed paperwork, you’re ready for the real work. Any application of a car for other purposes requires other things. We do not claim to have a concise manual here for all of them. We hope to gather all the different experiences of peoples' car-conversion projects. Up to now, we focus on the exemplary artifact: the car garden.

Phase 1: preparation

After you parked the car on its destined place, you start the preparatory work. this means dismantling the whole inner furnishment, except for the driver’s seat if you want to keep it still seem a functional car. You will need a set of good spanners or ring spanners, as well as a set of skrew drivers and a robust stanley knife for this. Remove all couches and chairs from the car (including the driver’s seat), get rid of all the plastic and foamy rubbish sticked to the frame, and lower or remove the windows. Also remove the foam that is glued to the inner side of the roof at those places you’re going to saw. Get a hold on it with a skrew driver and tear it loose with a little force. Mind the staples, mind your hands! A pair of working gloves come in handy.
Since you’re going to practice some techniques with risk of fire in phase 2, it is very important to remove anything from the scene that might burn. Even if you plan to leave one seat in place, you’d better remove it for the time being. Keep the skrews.

Phase 2: get off that roof!

A good car garden is nothing without the fertile light of the sun. The roof of the car thus isn’t very ideal. Get rid of it! We have good experience with the ‘tilted grinding machine’, a nifty utility also known as a ‘flex’, that can be bought for about fifty euro, or can be rented at your local iron store for 5 or 10 euro. The tilted grinding machine is a kind of a tilted drill, upon which so called ‘flex discs’ can be mounted. Even drills can be equipped with these discs, but they’re pretty much less safe than the tilted grinding machine. Flex discs can be bought at the D.I.Y. shop for a few euro each. Buy three or four of them for an average car. If you like the firework, double the amount. Mind the difference between flex discs for metal and for stone. Cheap safety glasses and working gloves may safe your eyes and hand for the rest of your life.
Flex discs can be bought in different sizes. Simple tilted gronding machines use flex discs with 10 cm diameter, which is big enough most of the time. In that case, the thick parts of the car have to be sawn both from the inside as well as the outside to get through. More practical are the 15 cm flex discs, but you need a more expensive tilted grinding machine for those. On the other hand: a professional uses professional material...

This phase of our car garden project is really spectacular, but keep your mind on the work. One moment of disregard and this was the last time you ever used the tilted grinding machine. Which would be a shame. So get a hold on the machine with two hands, and make sure you're standing in a stabile position. Always grind away from yourself. The sparks fly in the direction of the rotation of the flex.
Again: practice fire prevention before grinding, and make sure all easy-to-burn stuff is out of the way. Have a bucket of water at arms length.

Exactly where you should saw depends on the type of your car, and the desired end result. Fokke van Katwijk left the front window in its groove, and ground the roof of just before that groove on the front end of his Toyota. There is no particular reason, except esthetical, for this. Also the back side may vary according to wish. Generally a so-called fifth door won’t be functional after this operation. Remove it, by unskrewing or grinding off the hinges.

This phase is preferrably done together. Not only because it’s a lot more fun, but also because you’re able to help each other so well. Operating the tilted grinding machine may be very fatigueing, so you might choose to do a little job rotation once in a while.
Finish off the sawn-off parts. File smooth the burrs, and fill the open parts with ‘pur foam’ for example. In a later stadium you can preserve the sawn-off parts against rust with red lead (or one of those new, more environmentally friendly alternatives).

Phase 3: the ground work

This is a critical phase. Weight and moist are relevant parameters. First the weight. A car with garden soil quickly comprises a 1500 kilogram extra weight. Most cars ain’t designed for that. A standard nuclear family (two parents, two kids) on a holiday to Marbella weighs not even one third of that, even if they take a bag of Dutch potatoes with them. So, to prevent breakdown of your car garden in the short term, we advise strong supports to place below the axes of the car, as well as below the sidegirders in its longitudinal direction. Usually, good wooden beams or tiles of stone can be found in any container along the street. Use a jack to lift the car.

Then: moist. It’s crucial to have a kind of natural drainage. At the same time you should protect the car’s chassis from rust. Frankly said, we do not have much experience on this point yet. It seems advisable to arrange natural leakage points, for example by removing the rubber bands around the door openings. Furthermore, you could remove the rubber caps (if present) in the bottom of the car, or prick holes at will. Just monitor while time passes whether these measures suffice, or whether you should make another bunch of holes.

We chose to cover the inside with ‘root-cloth’, available in your garden centre, which is a special material that lets the water get through, but not the roots. By this, you ensure drainage, while preventing disruption of your doors by the force of growing roots. Experience has to prove whether this is the smartest solution or not. Agricultural plastic offers an alternative, that would be a better prevention from rust, but would present you with other problems concerning drainage. A perfectionist might choose to red lead the bottom of the car first.
Root cloth or agricultural plastic, both should be big enough to cover the sidewalls too.

Phase 4: the construction

Depending on your final goals and the type of car, you should prepare a (wooden) formwork for those parts you do not want to be covered by the soil. Fokke van Katwijk left the driver’s seat in place, in order to sit literally ‘in’ his garden. If you sawed off the ‘fifth door’, a construction for the back side is also needed, to prevent spillover from soil. Keep wooden planks ready, and a good saw to customize them. The tilted grinding machine isn’t very useful for this.
A further option is to heighten the bottom by means of old custom sawn wooden pallets. You will save on garden soil, and you’ll reduce the final weight of the car. Eventually, you might even drive with your car garden!

Koos from Zeeland gave us the following tip to reduce the amount of garden soil and the resulting weight of the car: filling the car with polystyrene foam, also sold at your local D.I.Y. shop. If you break this foam into pieces, the resulting structure will be porous and filled with soil after watering. Drainage isn’t inhibited, as isn’t rooting of plants.

Phase 5: filling it up

Now this is a sweaty task. Our Toyota Corolla consumed already 1,5 cubic meters of garden soil. Imagine a Chevy. We did it by hand, but if you’re smarter than we are, you can arrange that your gardening centre delivers the soil once you’re ready for it. Then, the truckdriver can deliver it right into your car! In other cases: manage to have the big bags with soil close to your car (or park your car close to the bags), and have a good spade and barrow at your disposal.
The amount of soil you should buy can be calculated easily by multiplying the surface of the parts of car to be filled with the average height.
Regularly tamp down the sool with your feet, otherwise it settles down too much by itself in the long run.

Phase 6: furnishing

And now is the time to really furnish your own public-private partnership. No general rules can be, or will be given. As a rule, an oak is a less fitting inhabitant of you car garden than a bunch of heathers. The place of your car garden may limit your options. If it is a shadowy place, some plants will like it, while others won’t. Garden gnomes do like the sun only for a limited period. Consult your local gnome. A list of plants used in Fokke van Katwijks car garden can be found here. That car is located in the Lomanstraat in Amsterdam. The big chestnut trees over there make it a rather shadowy street. But also the season in which we started the car garden, the autumn, was a relevant determinant for our list.

Phase 7: finishing off

After furnishing your car garden, you’re surely not finished yet. Special attention has to be paid to the placement of our beloved parking license. The law states, that it should be placed in the lower-left corner of the backside window. That window is however gone. We chose an esthaetic alternative, by putting the license upon a piece of black plastic, and under a plexiglass construction. This sandwich is mounted to the hood with a set of bolts, preferably those that cannot be loosened by a simple spanner.

You should furthermore pay some thoughts about the child-friendliness of your car garden. File all the sharp edges smooth, and paint them with red lead to prevent from rust.
Hollow parts of the car, which are open to rain and water should be filled, to make them waterproof. Use newspapers to fill the most of it, and finish it with (waterproof) pur-foam.
Finally: take care of all the waste you’re producing. You dismantled a significant part of your car.

Final words

Private car & garden promotes the creative use of public parking places in the city. We are strongly in favor of the possibility for non-car-users to occupy a piece of public space as well, for other purposes than parking cars. Current parking regulation doesn’t leave much room for that. That’s the reason why we try to seek for possibilities within the boundaries of law to creatively converse public parking places to real public space.

Contact us

Private car & garden is very interested in other ideas about the creative conversion of parking places. Do you own a car garden, or did you do something completely different with a parking place? Let us know. We’d like to collect a colourful collection of initiatives on this site.
Email us: Eigen tuin & auto

30 november 1999, update 13 May 2002

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More pix

The car garden is one of the themes in a course Dutch for Foreigners in Delft. Learn the right prononciation of the Dutch word autotuin!

een rijdende autotuin
A driving car garden in Florida (USA) Click on the illustration for a bigger version