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Green green grass of home in a concrete jungle

Although the city is often perceived as a "concrete jungle", green areas are an inherent part of them. In the current era of climate change, the importance of green areas is constantly growing. Green spaces within the city have a positive impact not only on the health of the inhabitants and the entire ecosystem but also on the economy. Jana Šiftová from the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development, Faculty of Science, Charles University, took a broader look at the less explored and sometimes unjustly neglected private home gardens.

In addition to public parks and sports grounds, private gardens can also be classified as urban green spaces. They have benefits not only for their owners, but also for the wider public, whether from an aesthetic, psychological, or health perspective.

Since this is a crucial urban element, social geographer Jana Šiftová and her students went into the field and collected data through a questionnaire survey of a total of 464 home gardens in different settlement types in Czechia to find out how important gardens are. She also focused on how gardeners themselves perceive the care of their gardens or what is the overall contribution of green spaces to the urban environment. The research areas were chosen to include the most typical and representative examples of residential landscapes in their variety, each having a definite character.

Urban home gardens have important and irreplaceable functions not only for their owners. Photo: Lucie Fraindová.

It can be stated that all home gardens have many benefits. The main benefits include reduction of stress from life and work, overall mental improvement and connection to nature, improved human health through the opportunity to physical exercise. Gardening provides the possibility of food production, reinforcing social ties, community networks, and a sense of community. No less important is the production of oxygen by plants, improved air quality through filtration of harmful pollutants, mitigation of climate extremes, and increased water retention in the landscape or supporting the pollinators and overall environmental biodiversity.

First of all, the survey results showed that the most common activity performed in the home garden was vegetable production. This fact is consistent with a long tradition of food self-provisioning in Czechia. Right behind was spending leisure time through passive relaxation. Next was ornamental flower production and fruit production, confirming the beautification role of home gardens. This was followed by active relaxation, which mainly involved gardening. Animal husbandry was not a very common phenomenon in home gardens in the city, being more common in rural areas. When comparing home gardens with respect to their location (cities, towns, rural areas), leisure activities and passive relaxation were most prominent in cities. Overall, the average time spent on garden care increased from urban to rural areas, ranging from around 8 to 11 hours per week.

Generally, home gardens are perceived by their owners mainly as a means for the above-mentioned activities. To a lesser extent, they are perceived by the inhabitants as part of the whole or a set of habitat patches and corridors that have an important ecological function.

In conclusion, it can be said without any doubt - home gardens matter. The scaling up of home gardens in order to increase the sustainability and ecological stability of cities is not only possible but especially desirable. Along with this, it is also important to raise social awareness of specific environmental issues and their link to appropriately chosen gardening practices. The author further emphasizes the essential need for cooperation between ecologists and social scientists, urban planners and householders, and the targeted education of residents who take care of home gardens.

Kateřina Fraindová

Šiftová, J. (2021): Shaping the urban home garden: Socio-ecological forces in the management of private green spaces. Land Use Policy, 111, 105784. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2021.105784

Published: Nov 18, 2022 02:35 PM

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