Garden Spaces

Image credits: Jonathan Hanna, Unsplash

Urban garden spaces can come in the form of community farms, rooftop gardens, backyard plots, and edible landscaping. In this section we focus on garden spaces for cultivation. Garden spaces provide therapeutic and community building benefits and can be designed to maximize biodiversity support. Garden spaces can be incorporated into various typologies to promote their human health and biodiversity benefits.

Biodiversity role:

Gardens can incorporate diverse plant assemblages including locally rare or threatened native species that also support local soil fauna. Urban gardens provide pollination, seed dispersal, and pest management services to neighboring landscapes, and support birds and arthropods. In addition, wildlife friendly gardens can improve urban habitat connectivity and quality.

Human health role:

Garden spaces provide access to fresh produce and opportunities for gardening, which has benefits to mental and physical health. Past studies have also revealed the antidepressant effects of gardening, including on individuals with disabilities. Community-based gardening provides opportunities for social interactions and increased exposure to nature and sunlight outdoors.

Key tensions and tradeoffs:

Many people have a cultural preference for highly manicured gardens dominated by exotic annuals, and diverse gardens with native plants can be viewed as less beautiful and inviting. Wildlife are also often seen as pests within urban gardens. While beneficial insects are welcome, barriers to safely separate wildlife-dedicated space from productive areas may be needed.

Make gardening spaces inclusive

Design for a broad spectrum of users, including the disabled and the elderly, if the gardening space is intended for public use. Components to consider include access ramps and handrails, height of raised planters for people with limited mobility, and resting areas and shelter.

Encourage multiple sensory experiences

Therapeutic gardening programs engaged with multiple sensory experiences, such as smell, touch, sound and sight, help reduce stress and improve mood. Consider using host plants and water features that attract singing insects or birds, and planting fragrant, flowering plant that provide food for wildlife.

Mitigate soil contamination

Urban soils often contain toxic trace metals such as lead which can be transferred through consumption of soil or contaminated produce. Using raised planting beds as well as considering nearby pollution sources before placing gardens can reduce trace metal risks.

Create forest gardens

Designing polyculture forest gardens with tree overstory, herbaceous middle story, and an understory of vegetation, herbs, and flowers can support biodiversity while providing food.

Integrate structural

Despite many garden plants being exotic species, structural complexity can still support vertebrate diversity through provision of cover, breeding sites, and shelter.

Include edible landscaping

Fruit and seed bearing trees and plants can produce food for species while providing foraging opportunities for urban residents to reduce hunger and support social interactions. Trees can be foraged for food, medicine, and resources.

Plant native flowers

Including a variety of native floral resources within gardens increases plant diversity and helps to support arthropods like spiders, grasshoppers, bees, beetles, and butterflies.

Reduce chemical inputs

To prevent negative impacts of intensive agricultural management, utilize organic and integrated pest management practices within gardens.

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