Our green spaces in Britain are shrinking along with our homes, with modern day homes having halved in sized in comparison with those built in 1920, while between 1983 and 2013 the average British garden has shrunk from 168 square metres to only 163.2 square metres.
In addition, over two million UK homes don’t even have gardens, this according to 2010 figures which also project that by 2020, 10.5% of homes won’t have a garden. In light of some related research of how 38% of children with no access to gardens are likely to become obese, this definitely makes for some rather concerning reading.
It isn’t just access to our gardens and their size that’s changed however. The entire approach to gardening in the UK has evolved, with different materials being made use of. This includes the likes of synthetic outdoor spaces such as decking while the actual gardening tools used have changed as well, like fertiliser, which was previously organic in its nature. Some of the elements which were first to change include:
- Plant pots: Original plant pots were made out of clay, but now they’re generally made out of plastic or biodegradable materials
- Fertiliser: Once completely organic, fertiliser now comes in the form of chemicals which have been developed to serve as synthetic fertiliser, but many gardeners still prefer organics nevertheless
- Lawn mowers: Grass-cutting was initially a manual process, but lawn-cutting machinery was developed in the 1900s to feature early version cylinder mowers that were powered by manual pushing. So it’s perhaps not all that bad since we now have electric motors that make it easier to maintain gardens
- Materials: The same basic materials as those which have always been in use are still deployed for gardening, including clay, stone, soil and timber. There have been some additions however which see us now using the likes of plastic, concrete and stainless steel (invented in 1913)
The manner in which we approach our gardens has also changed. Going back to World War II, gardens used to be areas in which food was grown to supplement rationing as well as making for a space on which people built their own bomb shelters. The 1950s saw gardeners foregoing this sensibility as gardening shifted to a focus on decoration and ornamentation, placing more emphasis on neatly trimmed shrubs and manicured laws.
Garden Centres rose to prominence in the late 50s through the early 60s, with Ferndown in Dorset having the first one set up in Britain (1955), forever changing the manner in which British gardeners cultivated plants.
The 70s came with a counterculture movement which also made changes to the way we garden, placing more emphasis on the retrospective idea of the type of self-sufficiency that comes with growing your own food while gardening programmes were more widely aired with the invention of colour television.
Modern day Brits will perhaps recognise a throwback to the gardens which emerged in the 80s, with a serious emphasis on recreation. Conservatories and BBQs gained in popularity. By the time the 90s hit, this movement assumed more of the form of the ‘makeover’ — with many people electing to install decking as a quick and affordable way to create garden living spaces.
The rise of the internet which came with the 2000s altered gardening again. With readily available information about growing your own plants and cultivation, a renewed focus on healthy eating and issues such as climate change saw more people going more for sustainability in the creation of their gardens. Recycled materials are still being used in everything from composite decking to plant pots.
With ever-shrinking garden space though, how are we to use the new materials and information available to us if we want to get as much as we possibly can out of our gardens? For many, this would mean going online to study some guides and recreate their own do-it-yourself fruit and veggie gardens, while for others it would be a simple matter of using as much of their shrinking garden space as they have available to create living spaces.