This paper introduces ‘beneficiary citizenship’ as a way to understand a form of urban citizenship that has emerged from shifts in state–citizen relations. Through the case of state-initiated urban community gardens in Metro Manila, it examines beneficiary citizenship as conditionally granting urban dwellers welfare, entitlements or recognition in the city in return for their transformation into good, responsible citizens. Beneficiary citizenship captures the dual forces of neoliberal technologies of government and alternative citizenship claims that are simultaneously present in various participatory and community-centred state projects. Case study gardens established in a resettlement housing project, in a poverty reduction programme and in a gated village in Metro Manila all seek to cultivate good citizen traits deemed worthy of being granted recognition in the city through a transformation of self and the community. Yet, beneficiaries in these projects also use their good gardener/citizen subjectivity to mobilise ends different from those intended by garden projects as technologies of government. Community gardens therefore become spaces where urban dwellers articulate citizenship by combining various strategies granted by their participation in the projects, exceeding attempts to order and contain urban life.