Quality of life in cities: The role of private urban gardens in sustainable development

RHS project team
Ms June Greenway, University of Sheffield (RHS-funded PhD studentship)
Start date
31/01/2005 13:41:35
End date
31/01/2009 13:41:39
The problem

Since the end of the 19th century, gardens have been seen as an essential ingredient of a decent home and provision has explicitly been linked to issues of quality of life, well being and social justice.

However, more recently, the change of emphasis towards more efficient use and reuse of urban land has undoubtedly put pressure on existing garden provision and reduced new provision. This is at a time when there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the contribution urban gardens could make to sustainable development has been under valued, and is more extensive than has previously been thought. Consequently, while there is now greater potential to link garden provision into the delivery of a wide range of sustainability goals, the link between provision and delivery is no longer explicit.


A critical realist approach is used to identify both the ‘necessary conditions’ and mechanisms that can help explain why it is that some people choose to practice for example growing fruit and vegetables and composting. A combination of both quantitative (i.e. questionnaires and diaries) and qualitative methods (i.e. in-depth interviews) are used to generate data.


To identify the potential contribution that private urban gardens make to sustainable development, by explaining a range of sustainable garden practices and identifying how current practices can be influenced to maximise the contribution of private urban gardens to sustainable development.

Benefits to gardeners

Making a strong case for the preservation of existing urban gardens and continued provision in new homes. Identifying effective ways to overcome barriers to engaging in a range of garden practices including: growing fruit and vegetables, composting, collecting and reusing water, line drying and encouraging wildlife.


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Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.