Gärtner was born at Tolkewitz near Dresden and even as a child had a passion for the stars. He earned his living as a cloth-bleacher and spent his income on astronomical equipment and books. Later, he learned to grind his own lenses and manufactured and sold telescopes.
Gärtner died a pauper in 1782 and was buried in Leuben cemetery.
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- Jürgen Helfricht and Siegfried Koge (1990). Chr. Gärtner und J. G. Palitzsch — Bauernastronomen aus Tolkewitz und Prohlis bei Dresden. Pulsnitz: Publications of the Astronomical Observatory.