By analysing experiences of a Civic Preference Forum organised for community gardeners in Hungary in 2017, our paper’s aim is twofold. We investigate if the Civic Preference Forum was an adequate format to enable discursive participation. Then we provide evidence on how this deliberative method can be applied on common-pool institution design gaining scientific knowledge about community gardening. Community gardeners, garden coordinators and experts were invited to the pilot Civic Preference Forum to share their experiences, problems, doubts, solutions, and opinions related to community gardening. First, the potential link between community gardening and deliberation is discussed and the method of Civic Preference Forum is introduced and placed among the deliberative and participative methods. Then by the lessons of the forum on community gardening it is demonstrated how the method can deliver insights for participants, decision-makers and academia. Participants’ preferences and wishes are analysed by applying and testing the criteria of discourse quality analysis. It is argued that the Civic Preference Forum fulfilled the criteria of equal and open discursive participation and the analytic dimensions of evaluating the discourse worked well in the case of a Civic Preference Forum. Enclave deliberations based on proximity may differ from collective identity-based ones in terms of composition and implications. The first may result intra-group discursive equality, while the second may provide inter-group equality. Beside the methodological findings, the explored positive and negative side effects and limitations of the methods, the forum delivered new scientific knowledge on community gardens as common-pool resources, which helps to better understand the mechanisms in community projects. We learned that community gardeners’ discourse was focused on such nodal themes as dependence and independence, monitoring and control, active and passive membership, equal and unequal participation, free riding and collective action, rules and norms of land cultivation and behaviour. Civic Preference Forum as a method enabled participants to clarify preferences, thematise problems and wishes as well as exchange ideas on possible solutions to them.