When my wife and I moved into our house, the front ‘garden’ looked like this – a blank paved square. 18 months later, it still does. I’ve been focusing on the inside, and on the back garden. But next year, I’ve got plans for this space.
Now, someone clearly spent a fair amount of money, not very long ago, laying down those bricks. It probably adds value to the property, because you can claim that there’s off street parking for two cars. But it’s still the worst thing you can do with a front garden.
In London, two thirds of front gardens have been cleared for cars. Add them all up, and you’d have a green space 22 times the size of Hyde Park. That’s a lot of green space lost from the city, and that obviously has consequences. It makes the city more prone to flood, as there is nowhere for rainwater to go. It exacerbates the ‘urban heat island effect’. Clearing shrubs and trees removes the wind break, making streets windier and dustier. Wildlife habitats are lost, and so is the pollution and CO2 absorbing capacity of the plantlife. In short, it’s really not a great thing to do.
I was reminded of this because I read a nice little article in the weekend paper. Emma Townsend has turned hers into a lush tropical garden, and really values the time she spends there. “A front garden is a way of spending time outside, watching the comings and goings, a talking point for conversation to begin and friendships to form”. People say they don’t know their neighbours in London. “I know all my neighbours” she says, “and I’m pretty sure I have my front garden to thank.”
That’s an inspiring thought, spending time in the front garden in order to meet people and build community. I’m inclined to plant some vegetables too, to help spread the Transition Towns message. My wife reckons they’ll be nicked, but that’s okay. I’ve got friends who kept rabbits in their front garden, and they got away with it. If you can do it with rabbits, you can do it with courgettes.
So here’s to front gardens. Make the most of yours. And if you haven’t got one, garden the verge.