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A Look at How UK Gardens are Getting Smaller

8 min read

Research has indicated that both the British home and garden are getting smaller. Homes throughout the country have halved in size from 1920 to the current day, for example, while the average British garden measured in at 163.2 meters squared as of 2013 — quite a drop from 168 meters squared in 1983.

It’s also been revealed in figures from 2010 that more than two million homes across Britain don’t even have a garden today. That’s not to mention that it’s been predicted that 10.5 per cent of all homes in the country will not have a garden come 2020. This is not good news in light of research that suggests children with no access to gardens are 38% more likely to become obese.


How things have changed when it comes to how we look at our homes goes further than just the size and access to gardens though. Instead, the entire approach to gardening in the UK has shifted as different materials have come into usage – from synthetic living spaces such as decking to actual gardening tools like fertilizer, which was originally organic. Some of the first things to change were:

  • Plant pots: Originally made from clay, pots are now generally plastic or biodegradable.
  • Fertilizer: Once, fertilizer was entirely organic. However, chemicals have now been developed to serve as fertilizer – although many gardeners prefer organics.
  • Lawn mowers: Originally, grass cutting relied on a manual process. Early machinery was developed in the 1900s which saw early versions of cylinder mowers powered by pushing. Now, electric-powered motors mean gardens are far easier to maintain.
  • Materials: Gardening still employs the same basic materials it always did: stone, clay, timber, and soil. Now, however, we use plastic, concrete and stainless steel – which was invented in 1913.

For those who still have access to gardens in their home, the approach to these outdoor spaces is different to that witnessed by previous generations. During WW2, gardens became areas for growing food to supplement rationing, but also an area of refuge for those who had to build their own bomb shelters. In the 1950s, gardeners shrugged this sensibility off and focus shifted towards ornamentation and decoration, placing more attention on manicured lawns and neatly trimmed shrubs.

Moving into the end of the 1950s and the start of the 60s and garden centers began to open around the world. The first of these in Britain was based in Ferndown, in Dorset — opening in 1955, it forever changed the way British gardeners cultivated plants. This widespread availability of plants meant heathers, conifers, and bedding plants became popular.

The 70s saw another shift in the gardening world, brought about by the counterculture movement of the decade that resulted in growing your own and self-sufficiency both becoming popular. Colour TV’s invention also saw the widespread airing of gardening programs.


By the time the 80s arrived, gardens were recognizable features to the homes of many modern Brits. The decade would also pave the way for the concept of recreation around our outdoor spaces. BBQs and conservatories grew in popularity. By the 90s, this movement became more about the ‘makeover’ – with many people installing decking as a fast, affordable way to create a living space in their gardens.

 Of course, the internet changed the gardening scene quite dramatically as the technology became more advanced into the new millennium. Now, information about growing and cultivating your own plants is everywhere, accessible through mobiles, desktops, and tablets. A renewed focus on climate change and healthy eating have also meant more people are aiming to create sustainable gardens with minimal harm to the environment, using recycled materials whether they are investing in composite decking or a new set of plant pots.

With gardens shrinking though, how can homeowners make the most of all the fresh information and new materials that is becoming readily available to them? For some, this will mean studying guides online and creating their own DIY fruit and vegetable gardens. For others, it will mean creating as much living space as they can in their shrinking gardens.






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