Significant differences in the form and management of domestic gardens, which radically influences their benefits–contribution to green infrastructure.
Domestic gardens provide a significant component of urban green infrastructure but their relative contribution to eco-system service provision remains largely un-quantified. ‘Green infrastructure’ itself is often ill-defined, posing problems for planners to ascertain what types of green infrastructure provide greatest benefit and under what circumstances. Within this context the relative merits of gardens are unclear; however, at a time of greater urbanization where private gardens are increasingly seen as a ‘luxury’, it is important to define their role precisely. Hence, the nature of this review is to interpret existing information pertaining to gardens/gardening per se, identify where they may have a unique role to play and to highlight where further research is warranted. The review suggests that there are significant differences in both form and management of domestic gardens which radically influence the benefits. Nevertheless, gardens can play a strong role in improving the environmental impact of the domestic curtilage, e.g. by insulating houses against temperature extremes they can reduce domestic energy use. Gardens also improve localized air cooling, help mitigate flooding and provide a haven for wildlife. Less favourable aspects include contributions of gardens and gardening to greenhouse gas emissions, misuse of fertilizers and pesticides, and introduction of alien plant species. Due to the close proximity to the home and hence accessibility for many, possibly the greatest benefit of the domestic garden is on human health and well-being, but further work is required to define this clearly within the wider context of green infrastructure. (2010) Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 11 (2010) 129-137