Platform. The everyday portal for sharing knowledge and intelligence on sustainability across Greater Manchester.

How does your garden grow?

Domestic gardens offer a valuable source of green space in cities. They are important patches of green that can provide connectivity between larger green spaces such as parks and recreation grounds, and can thereby improve the functioning of ecosystems and the benefits they provide, called ‘ecosystem services’. They help to cool the city, improve air and water quality, absorb rainfall, support wildlife and provide a setting for recreational activities.

Whilst an individual domestic garden may appear insignificant, collectively domestic gardens contribute up to 30% of green space within the urban matrix, which becomes especially important at the city scale.

However, our understanding of domestic gardens, in terms of both the quantity and quality of greenspace, is lacking. This has implications for the future resilience of an urban environment and the health and well-being of its citizens.

Current data over-estimates the amount of vegetation within private gardens, which leads to subsequent inaccuracies in environmental model outputs (e.g. surface water runoff estimations in an extreme rainfall event), and in the identification and prioritisation of areas of GI need, inhibiting effective action on-the-ground.

Furthermore, the general public are often unaware of the environmental value of their own private garden and how they can improve it.

A 2-year innovation project (Jan 2016 – Dec 2017), funded by NERC, has been developed in partnership with Manchester City Council, The Mersey Forest, Red Rose Forest, Southway Housing, and Lancashire Wildlife Trust, and members of the Manchester A Certain Future Green Infrastructure Strategy Group. It aims to improve our understanding of domestic gardens and the urban ecosystem services they provide, and will deliver an action plan to prioritise greening solutions within and beyond domestic gardens.

Green and blue infrastructure is a core component of Manchester City Council’s long-term plan for delivering a green, sustainable and liveable city throughout the 21st Century. Manchester is a densely urban city, with a growing population over 500,000 people living across approximately 115 Km2. Manchester City Council’s new Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy aims to realign GI in terms of presenting much needed understanding of the actual value and functions that specific types of GI provide. This project will provide the strong and focussed evidence needed to support practical actions.

We are inviting Manchester residents to complete an online survey about their own garden at

Survey respondents are given tips on how to improve their garden to help to cool the city, improve air and water quality, absorb rainfall, and support wildlife. They will also be entered into a prize draw to win £500!

This survey information will be combined with analysis from satellite images and scientific models to measure and map the different benefits provided by gardens across Manchester.

We will then develop recommendations that will aid planning and investment decisions in local neighbourhoods – aiming to maximise the benefits for everyone.

We hope that you will be able help us with promoting and completing the survey. A stakeholder workshop will be held in 2017 to aid development of the action plan. Please get in touch with us if you would like to be invited.

To complete the survey, please go to and for more information contact
Dr Gina Cavan, Manchester Metropolitan University on:, or
Dr Claire Smith, University of Leicester on: