Private Gardens as Urban Greenspaces: Can They Compensate for Poor Greenspace Access in Lower Socioeconomic Neighbourhoods?


  • Leila Mahmoudi Farahani RMIT University, Centre for Urban Research, 124 Latrobe Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  • Cecily Maller RMIT University, Centre for Urban Research, 124 Latrobe Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  • Kath Phelan RMIT University, Centre for Urban Research, 124 Latrobe Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia



greenspaces, private gardens, planning, neighbourhood


The increasing process of urbanisation has major implications for the environment, biodiversity, and health and well-being of urban residents. Empirical evidence for urban greening benefits suggests that it is an appropriate planning and policy approach for tackling some of the problems associated with urbanisation, including biodiversity loss and heat island effects. Gardens on private residential lots represent a substantial proportion of greenspaces in low density cities with extensive suburban areas. Drawing on a qualitative study of residents in Sunshine North, Melbourne, Australia, this paper discusses three questions about the relationship of private gardens to public greenspaces:
1) how does residents’ use of private gardens impact their use of other neighbourhood greenspaces;
2) can private gardens address inequality of access to greenspaces in lower income neighbourhoods; and,
3) what does this imply for planning and neighbourhood design?
Contrary to previous research, the findings did not show a meaningful relationship between residents’ use of their gardens and local greenspaces, and further, that large yards and gardens do not substitute for poor access to local greenspaces.  The paper concludes that policy makers and planners cannot assume private gardens and public greenspaces are interchangeable. While private gardens and local greenspaces can both provide positive benefits to residents, private gardens do not act as a substitute for local greenspaces in neighbourhoods of varying socio-economic status.


Armstrong, D. (2000). A survey of community gardens in upstate new york: Implications for health promotion and community development. Health and Place, 6(4), 319-327. doi:10.1016/S1353-8292(00)00013-7

Bhatti, M. (2006). 'When I'm in the garden i can create my own paradise': Homes and gardens in later life. Sociological Review, 54(2), 318-341. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954X.2006.00616.x

Cameron, R. W. F., Blanuša, T., Taylor, J. E., Salisbury, A., Halstead, A. J., Henricot, B., & Thompson, K. (2012). The domestic garden - its contribution to urban green infrastructure. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 11(2), 129-137. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2012.01.002

Caula, S., Hvenegaard, G. T., & Marty, P. (2009). The influence of bird information, attitudes, and demographics on public preferences toward urban green spaces: The case of montpellier, france. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 8(2), 117-128. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2008.12.004

Cervinka, R., Schwab, M., Schönbauer, R., Hämmerle, I., Pirgie, L., & Sudkamp, J. (2016). My garden - my mate? perceived restorativeness of private gardens and its predictors. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 16, 182-187. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2016.01.013

Cheng, E., & Pegg, S. (2016). “If I’m not gardening, I’m not at my happiest”: Exploring the positive subjective experiences derived from serious leisure gardening by older adults. World Leisure Journal, 58(4), 285-297. doi:10.1080/16078055.2016.1228219

Clayton, S. (2007). Domesticated nature: Motivations for gardening and perceptions of environmental impact. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 27(3), 215-224. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2007.06.001

Coolen, H., & Meesters, J. (2012). Private and public green spaces: Meaningful but different settings. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 27(1), 49-67. doi:10.1007/s10901-011-9246-5

de la Barrera, F., Reyes-Paecke, S., Harris, J., Bascuñán, D., & Farías, J. M. (2016). People's perception influences on the use of green spaces in socio-economically differentiated neighborhoods. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 20, 254-264. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2016.09.007

Frankel, L. K. (2011). The relation of life insurance to public hygiene. 1910. American Journal of Public Health, 101(10), 1868-1869. doi:10.2105/ajph.2011.101101868

Ghosh, S., & Head, L. (2009). Retrofitting the suburban garden: Morphologies and some elements of sustainability potential of two australian residential suburbs compared. Australian Geographer, 40(3), 319-346. doi:10.1080/00049180903127754

Gibbons, S., Mourato, S., & Resende, G. M. (2014). The amenity value of english nature: A hedonic price approach. Environmental and Resource Economics, 57(2), 175-196. doi:10.1007/s10640-013-9664-9

Hall, T. (2010). Goodbye to the backyard?-the minimisation of private open space in the australian outer-suburban estate. Urban Policy and Research, 28(4), 411-433. doi:10.1080/08111146.2010.496715

Haskell, W. L., Lee, I. -., Pate, R. R., Powell, K. E., Blair, S. N., Franklin, B. A., . . . Bauman, A. (2007). Physical activity and public health: Updated recommendation for adults from the american college of sports medicine and the american heart association. Circulation, 116(9), 1081-1093. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.185649

Iverson, L. R., & Cook, E. A. (2000). Urban forest cover of the chicago region and its relation to household density and income. Urban Ecosystems, 4(2), 105-124.

James, P., Tzoulas, K., Adams, M. D., Barber, A., Box, J., Breuste, J., . . . Ward Thompson, C. (2009). Towards an integrated understanding of green space in the european built environment. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 8(2), 65-75. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2009.02.001

Kabisch, N., Qureshi, S., & Haase, D. (2015). Human-environment interactions in urban green spaces - A systematic review of contemporary issues and prospects for future research. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 50, 25-34. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2014.08.007

Kendal, D., Williams, N. S. G., & Williams, K. J. H. (2012). Drivers of diversity and tree cover in gardens, parks and streetscapes in an australian city. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 11(3), 257-265. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2012.03.005

Keniger, L. E., Gaston, K. J., Irvine, K. N., & Fuller, R. A. (2013). What are the benefits of interacting with nature? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(3), 913-935. doi:10.3390/ijerph10030913

Kessel, A., Green, J., Pinder, R., Wilkinson, P., Grundy, C., & Lachowycz, K. (2009). Multidisciplinary research in public health: A case study of research on access to green space. Public Health, 123(1), 32-38. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2008.08.005

Kirkpatrick, J. B., Daniels, G. D., & Davison, A. (2011). Temporal and spatial variation in garden and street trees in six eastern australian cities. Landscape and Urban Planning, 101(3), 244-252. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2011.02.029

Kirkpatrick, J. B., Daniels, G. D., & Zagorski, T. (2007). Explaining variation in front gardens between suburbs of hobart, tasmania, australia. Landscape and Urban Planning, 79(3-4), 314-322. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2006.03.006

Kong, F., Yin, H., Nakagoshi, N., & Zong, Y. (2010). Urban green space network development for biodiversity conservation: Identification based on graph theory and gravity modeling. Landscape and Urban Planning, 95(1-2), 16-27. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2009.11.001

Lachowycz, K., & Jones, A. P. (2013). Towards A better understanding of the relationship between greenspace and health: Development of A theoretical framework. Landscape and Urban Planning, 118, 62-69. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2012.10.012

Lee, A. C. K., & Maheswaran, R. (2011). The health benefits of urban green spaces: A review of the evidence. Journal of Public Health, 33(2), 212-222. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdq068

Lin, B., Meyers, J., & Barnett, G. (2015). Understanding the potential loss and inequities of green space distribution with urban densification. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 14(4), 952-958. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2015.09.003

Lin, B. B., Fuller, R. A., Bush, R., Gaston, K. J., & Shanahan, D. F. (2014). Opportunity or orientation? who uses urban parks and why. PLoS ONE, 9(1) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087422

Loram, A., Tratalos, J., Warren, P. H., & Gaston, K. J. (2007). Urban domestic gardens (X): The extent & structure of the resource in five major cities. Landscape Ecology, 22(4), 601-615. doi:10.1007/s10980-006-9051-9

Luck, G. W., Smallbone, L. T., & O'Brien, R. (2009). Socio-economics and vegetation change in urban ecosystems: Patterns in space and time. Ecosystems, 12(4), 604-620. doi:10.1007/s10021-009-9244-6

Martin, C. A., Warren, P. S., & Kinzig, A. P. (2004). Neighborhood socioeconomic status is a useful predictor of perennial landscape vegetation in residential neighborhoods and embedded small parks of phoenix, AZ. Landscape and Urban Planning, 69(4), 355-368. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2003.10.034

Mathieu, R., Freeman, C., & Aryal, J. (2007). Mapping private gardens in urban areas using object-oriented techniques and very high-resolution satellite imagery. Landscape and Urban Planning, 81(3), 179-192. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2006.11.009

Mitchell, R., & Popham, F. (2008). Effect of exposure to natural environment on health inequalities: An observational population study. The Lancet, 372(9650), 1655-1660. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)61689-X

Mitchell, R., & Popham, F. (2007). Greenspace, urbanity and health: Relationships in england. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 61(8), 681-683. doi:10.1136/jech.2006.053553

Morse, J. M., & Richards, L. (2002). Readme First for a User's Guide to Qualitative Methods,

Nauert, R. (2017). Neighborhoods with Nature Tied to Better Mental Health,

Ode, A., Fry, G., Tveit, M. S., Messager, P., & Miller, D. (2009). Indicators of perceived naturalness as drivers of landscape preference. Journal of Environmental Management, 90(1), 375-383. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2007.10.013

Özgüner, H., & Kendle, A. D. (2006). Public attitudes towards naturalistic versus designed landscapes in the city of sheffield (UK). Landscape and Urban Planning, 74(2), 139-157. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2004.10.003

Pauleit, S., Ennos, R., & Golding, Y. (2005). Modeling the environmental impacts of urban land use and land cover change - A study in merseyside, UK. Landscape and Urban Planning, 71(2-4), 295-310. doi:10.1016/S0169-2046(04)00083-0

Payne, L. L., Mowen, A. J., & Orsega-Smith, E. (2002). An examination of park preferences and behaviors among urban residents: The role of residential location, race and age. Leisure Sciences, 24(2), 181-198. doi:10.1080/01490400252900149

Peters, K., Elands, B., & Buijs, A. (2010). Social interactions in urban parks: Stimulating social cohesion? Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 9(2), 93-100. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2009.11.003

Qiu, L., Lindberg, S., & Nielsen, A. B. (2013). Is biodiversity attractive?-on-site perception of recreational and biodiversity values in urban green space. Landscape and Urban Planning, 119, 136-146. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2013.07.007

Rodiek, S. (2002). Influence of an outdoor garden on mood and stress in older persons. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, 13(1), 13-21.

Rupprecht, C. D. D., & Byrne, J. A. (2014). Informal urban green-space: Comparison of quantity and characteristics in brisbane, australia and sapporo, japan. PLoS ONE, 9(6) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099784

Schipperijn, J., Stigsdotter, U. K., Randrup, T. B., & Troelsen, J. (2010). Influences on the use of urban green space - A case study in odense, denmark. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 9(1), 25-32. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2009.09.002

Shanahan, D. F., Fuller, R. A., Bush, R., Lin, B. B., & Gaston, K. J. (2015). The health benefits of urban nature: How much do we need? Bioscience, 65(5), 476-485. doi:10.1093/biosci/biv032

Shanahan, D. F., Lin, B. B., Bush, R., Gaston, K. J., Dean, J. H., Barber, E., & Fuller, R. A. (2015). Toward improved public health outcomes from urban nature. American Journal of Public Health, 105(3), 470-477. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302324

Shanahan, D. F., Lin, B. B., Gaston, K. J., Bush, R., & Fuller, R. A. (2014). Socio-economic inequalities in access to nature on public and private lands: A case study from brisbane, australia. Landscape and Urban Planning, 130(1), 14-23. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.06.005

Sister, C., Wolch, J., & Wilson, J. (2010). Got green? addressing environmental justice in park provision. GeoJournal, 75(3), 229-248. doi:10.1007/s10708-009-9303-8

Sivam, A., Karuppannan, S., & Mobbs, M. (2012). How "open" are open spaces: Evaluating transformation of open space at residential level in adelaide - a case study. Local Environment, 17(8), 815-836. doi:10.1080/13549839.2012.688734

Smith, R. M., Thompson, K., Hodgson, J. G., Warren, P. H., & Gaston, K. J. (2006). Urban domestic gardens (IX): Composition and richness of the vascular plant flora, and implications for native biodiversity. Biological Conservation, 129(3), 312-322. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2005.10.045

Stafford, M., Cummins, S., Macintyre, S., Ellaway, A., & Marmot, M. (2005). Gender differences in the associations between health and neighbourhood environment. Social Science and Medicine, 60(8), 1681-1692. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.08.028

Talbot, J. F., & Kaplan, R. (1991). The benefits of nearby nature for elderly apartment residents. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 33(2), 119-130. doi:10.2190/XK9Q-3MDL-XYW9-9QL3

Tyrväinen, L. (1997). The amenity value of the urban forest: An application of the hedonic pricing method. Landscape and Urban Planning, 37(3-4), 211-222. doi:10.1016/S0169-2046(97)80005-9

Tzoulas, K., Korpela, K., Venn, S., Yli-Pelkonen, V., Kaźmierczak, A., Niemela, J., & James, P. (2007). Promoting ecosystem and human health in urban areas using green infrastructure: A literature review. Landscape and Urban Planning, 81(3), 167-178. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2007.02.001

Veitch, J., Carver, A., Abbott, G., Giles-Corti, B., Timperio, A., & Salmon, J. (2015). How active are people in metropolitan parks? an observational study of park visitation in australia. BMC Public Health, 15(1) doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1960-6

Vickery, M. L. (1995). Gardens: The neglected habitat. Ecology and Conservation of Butterflies, , 123-134.

Wan, C., & Shen, G. Q. (2015). Encouraging the use of urban green space: The mediating role of attitude, perceived usefulness and perceived behavioural control. Habitat International, 50, 130-139. doi:10.1016/j.habitatint.2015.08.010

Wang, D., & MacMillan, T. (2013). The benefits of gardening for older adults: A systematic review of the literature. Activities, Adaptation and Aging, 37(2), 153-181. doi:10.1080/01924788.2013.784942

Wang, R., Zhao, J., & Liu, Z. (2016). Consensus in visual preferences: The effects of aesthetic quality and landscape types. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 20, 210-217. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2016.09.005

Whitford, V., Ennos, A. R., & Handley, J. F. (2001). "City form and natural process" - indicators for the ecological performance of urban areas and their application to merseyside, UK. Landscape and Urban Planning, 57(2), 91-103. doi:10.1016/S0169-2046(01)00192-X

Wolch, J. R., Byrne, J., & Newell, J. P. (2014). Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice: The challenge of making cities 'just green enough'. Landscape and Urban Planning, 125, 234-244. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.01.017

Wright Wendel, H. E., Zarger, R. K., & Mihelcic, J. R. (2012). Accessibility and usability: Green space preferences, perceptions, and barriers in a rapidly urbanizing city in latin america. Landscape and Urban Planning, 107(3), 272-282. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2012.06.003

Zhang, W., Yang, J., Ma, L., & Huang, C. (2015). Factors affecting the use of urban green spaces for physical activities: Views of young urban residents in beijing. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 14(4), 851-857. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2015.08.006





How to Cite

Mahmoudi Farahani, L., Maller, C., & Phelan, K. (2018). Private Gardens as Urban Greenspaces: Can They Compensate for Poor Greenspace Access in Lower Socioeconomic Neighbourhoods?. Landscape Online, 59.



Research Article