Green havens: The importance of our urban gardens

If you look out of your window, there is a good chance that you will catch a glimpse of some kind of urban greenery. Whether it’s the hedges of the local park, one of the trees that line your street, or maybe just your own garden, what is evident is that natural greenery, whatever the size, plays an important role in diversifying the built-up landscape of our towns and cities. If you were to remove these spots of nature from our communities, the place would begin to look a bit drab.

As well as making our neighbourhoods attractive, our urban gardens can also serve some very practical purposes. Whilst parks and open public spaces provide many large-scale benefits, your domestic garden contributes more to your home and the environment than you may realise. Our gardens can contain up to 25% of trees outside of woodland in the UK (according to a biodiversity study by Elsevier), meaning the advantages of keeping your garden green can soon add up.

Su Mayimage licence)

During the hottest summer months, residents of urban areas can experience soaring temperatures compared with those who live in rural areas. This is because much of the greenery that has been cleared for your town or city has been replaced with dark materials, like concrete and tarmac, which retain heat. The effects of heatwaves on urban areas are predicted to get worse with the effects of climate change.

Making sure that your garden is green can help solve this worsening problem. Trees and climbing plants have the potential to create cool and shady areas, while all plants have the ability to be air conditioners through a process called evapotranspiration (for more information, read About Education’s detailed explanation on the process of evapotranspiration). Buildings that employ air-conditioning units on a large scale can save money by surrounding their buildings with luscious vegetation and taking advantage of their natural cooling effect. 

Ruth Hartnupimage licence)

Britain is notorious for its wet weather, so it isn’t surprising to find that our drains can sometimes find it tough going when the clouds open. Overflowing drains can quickly lead to flooding, something that can cause major problems in busy areas.

A town’s urban gardens can help to reduce surface water reaching man-made surfaces by intercepting rain as it is falling, delaying the flow of water to the ground. Soil also plays a big part by absorbing rain water, keeping it away from any over-burdened drainage systems.

There are a rising number of households that are choosing to pave over previously natural gardens. Paved surfaces offer homeowners various benefits, but will also reduce the absorption of surface water by your garden. Consider only partially paving your garden, leaving enough vegetation to continue having a positive effect. 

(Image – public domain)

City gardens also provide a valuable habitat for wildlife within the urban environment. There are a large number of animals that now call the gardens of towns and cities their home, such as foxes, hedgehogs, frogs and thrushes. Welcoming wildlife into your garden can be a very satisfying experience, giving you the chance to encounter the joys of nature in your own backyard.

Making your garden creature-friendly is extremely helpful, with some species, such as bees, needing a helping hand after their numbers have started to dwindle. Wyevale Garden Centres has an excellent guide to attracting bees, as well as many other animals, on their website’s advice section. 

Alan Kotokimage licence)

Urban gardens also provide great benefits to the health of people who use them. If you were to imagine a place where you can relax and get away from the bustle of urban life, there is probably a good chance that the image will be that of a quiet garden. Studies undertaken by gardening charity Thrive have shown that gardening can have a positive effect on your well-being, offering a boost in mood and a lowering of stress levels. It also offers a good outlet for exercise, which can release endorphins, our body’s feel good hormone.

Our urban gardens have a hugely positive impact on our towns and cities, and it is important that we continue to enjoy and cultivate them to carry on reaping these benefits. If you’ve never gardened before, or are intimidated by the thought, take a look at this beginners’ guide to gardening from the Royal Horticultural Society to find out how you can begin.


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