As our climate alters, and as social systems shift and change, asking ourselves what UK gardens might look like in 2050 can help us see our way down the right path.
As we look at the future of gardening, one thing is clear – we as gardeners will need to adapt in order to achieve what we want to achieve and to have beautiful and abundant gardens.
We might not be able to predict all the possible changes that might come. But we can anticipate many of the changes that are likely in our areas. In this article, we will explore some of the ways that UK gardens may change over the coming years.
Table of Contents
14 Ways that UK Gardens May Change
1. Climate-Adaptive Planting:
One of the most important things to remember is that our climate is changing. We as gardeners have no choice but to adapt to our changing climate in order to create gardens that can withstand the conditions that we will face.
By 2050, successful gardeners will have had to recognise the ‘new normal’ and create gardens that are suited to the new conditions. Here in the UK, summers are likely to be warmer and drier, with greater temperature extremes.
But many areas will experience increased flooding, and extreme weather events throughout the year that will also shape what we can and cannot grow in our gardens.
As gardeners adapt to the changing climate, we will likely see some different plants being grown. We are likely to see more drought-tolerant species, and plant species otherwise suited to specific growing conditions in specific regions.
2. Sustainable Solutions
Of course, adapting to our changing climate is only part of the picture. As climate change continues to make major changes to our global and local environments, it is likely that more and more gardeners will recognise the urgency to adopt more sustainable approaches in each area of our lives.
It is likely that by 2050, necessity and increased awareness will drive ever more gardeners to embrace sustainable practices such as rainwater harvesting and sustainable water management and water conservation, garden composting and reuse, closed-loop organic gardening systems and more.
Many more gardeners may be fully aware of environmental concerns, and recognise the important role that they can play in solving the world’s problems in a garden – through the practices and methods they adopt and through the efforts they can take to increase carbon sequestration.
3. Smart Technology Integration
While often sustainable practices involve looking back for better ways to do things, sometimes we need to embrace modern technology to adapt and to thrive.
Gardeners in 2050 are likely to have access to much more smart technology than we do today, and will increasingly be integrating these existing and new smart technologies into their gardens.
Automated irrigation systems, weather sensors, and smart lighting will probably be used widely to optimize resource usage and create efficient, low-maintenance landscapes.
Gardeners will likely lean more than ever before on smart gardening apps and virtual assistants that will offer personalized advice and help manage garden tasks, and robotic mowers and weeders will be able to take care of routine maintenance, allowing homeowners to enjoy their outdoor spaces without excessive manual labour.
4. Vertical and Rooftop Gardens
With more people living in cities than ever before, and land at an absolute premium, many gardeners in 2050 will be dealing with gardening in small urban spaces. This means that innovative, space-saving solutions like vertical gardens, and rooftop gardens will become ever more popular solutions.
As solutions are sought for the sustainable cities of the future, 2050 should see in increase in green spaces within cities in the UK and around the world. UK gardens taking many different shapes and forms will help to manage water, produce food, and create healthy, green city spaces.
5. Multi-Purpose Outdoor Spaces
UK gardens in 2050 will need to fulfil many different roles. Increasingly, people will likely recognise the many different things outdoor spaces can offer, and create multi-purpose and adaptive spaces that can accommodate various different activities and functions.
Gardens can and should be both recreational and productive spaces, where people can work and play. They can provide food and many other resources for household use while also giving space for relaxation, outdoor living and play.
6. Enhanced Biodiversity and Wildlife Conservation
Sadly, by 2050, our natural environments are likely to be depleted even more than they are today, as biodiversity losses continue apace.
But gardeners can aid in enhancing biodiversity and help to prevent species losses and we seem to be on a trajectory where ever more gardeners recognise the important role they can play.
Gardens of the future will certainly play a crucial role in supporting biodiversity and wildlife conservation efforts. Gardeners will likely increasingly prioritize creating habitats for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife by incorporating native plants, insect-friendly features, and wildlife-friendly structures.
A harmonious coexistence between humans and nature will be a priority for many and gardeners will understand the need to create a wide range of different habitats and include wildlife-friendly garden features like wildlife ponds, wildflower meadows and log piles, as well as bug and bee hotels, bird feeders, bat boxes and more…
7. Low Maintenance/ More Leisure Time
UK gardens in 2050 will need to reconcile the needs of different gardeners – both those who are busier than ever before and crave low-maintenance and hassle-free options and products, and those who have the time to spend on a garden, and who are happy to spend a little more time on their outside spaces.
There may well be a recognition that gardens do not need to be paved over to create a low-maintenance scheme, and that may lead to gardens with a lot more planting – with groundcover plants less damaging than a neat grass lawn, and hedges in place of walls and fences.
There may be a move away from minimalism and man-made garden features and towards gardens that work with nature rather than fighting it – gardens on which you can spend just as much time as you prefer.
8: Multipurpose Plants
As the focus in gardens returns to where it should be – on the plants – UK gardens in 2050 are likely to focus far more on choosing just the right plants for the right places and the right purposes.
Plants will be carefully selected within holistic designs in order to fulfil a wide range of functions – both in terms of our own needs and wishes, and in terms of the garden ecosystem as a whole.
Plants that are productive, wildlife-friendly and which fill a number of niches in the garden will be preferentially selected for suitable spots.
9. Fewer Driveways
One major shift by 2050 is likely to come from the changes to vehicles and what, when, where and how people drive.
The rise in autonomous vehicles may remove the need for driveways with every home and mean major changes in the layout of both individual gardens and cities overall.
What is more, people may turn more and more to more sustainable methods of transport, and shift away from the fossil-fuelled world towards biking, and other slow-travel solutions, as well as EVs.
Without so many driveways, our front gardens in towns and cities may look rather different – with the space given over for food production, wildlife corridors, and rain garden designs.
10. Less Lawn
The boring and ubiquitous lawn may also, by 2050, increasingly be a thing of the past. As summers get drier and water restrictions creep in more and more frequently in some jurisdictions, lawns may simply be too challenging to maintain.
So all those who know that lawns are not an eco-friendly choice, and who embrace more sustainable solutions will be joined by those reducing or eliminating lawn to combat water related issues with easier, low-maintenance planting and mulch options.
11. Out With the New, in With the Old
Innovation in materials is already giving new and more sustainable options for gardeners when creating permeable paving, decking, fencing and other garden structures. Recycled and upcycled materials are already made use of in many gardens.
UK gardens in 2050 are likely to be even more involved with using reclaimed materials as well as low-impact natural products and materials.
12. Multipurpose compost
By 2050, it is to be hoped that peat will remain in peat bogs where it should be, and that the use of peat has entirely been eliminated from horticulture.
Peat-free composts and potting mixes should have become the norm, and there will be even more understanding about the importance of generating our own compost at home, to maintain healthy soil and reduce food waste.
13. Chemical-Free Gardening
Greater understanding of the necessity of organic gardening plus greater regulation on weedkillers, pesticides and other harmful problems should mean that many more UK gardens are entirely organic by 2050.
14. Shared spaces & Community Gardening
With space at a premium in the cities and towns of 2050, even more so than today, it is likely that shared garden spaces and community gardening will become even more widespread and important. UK gardens may often be far more co-operative in the years to come.
How will the lifestyle impact the future appearance of UK gardens in 2050?
The future lifestyle trends may result in smaller outdoor spaces and a preference for low-maintenance features like artificial turf, gas fire pits, and outdoor entertainment systems. However, there is also a growing interest in creating environmentally friendly gardens with more planting, fewer paved areas, and a focus on embracing the value of wildness.
Will the emphasis on garden planting change in 2050?
Yes, there is a shift towards functional plants that serve multiple purposes such as aiding wildlife, capturing water run-off, or addressing air pollution. The concept of “right plant, right place, right purpose” is gaining prominence, with research being conducted to determine the most suitable plants for various tasks.
How might the rise of autonomous vehicles impact UK gardens in 2050?
If autonomous vehicles become widespread, the layout of cities and gardens could change. With reduced car ownership, front gardens might be reclaimed for purposes like food growing, rain gardens, or wildlife corridors. This shift could enhance environmental sustainability and community well-being.
Will traditional lawns continue to exist in UK gardens in 2050?
The future of traditional lawns is uncertain due to water scarcity and increasing restrictions on water usage. As a result, alternatives to traditional lawns may become more prevalent, such as drought-tolerant planting or the use of permeable surfaces like gravel.
How might the use of construction materials evolve in UK gardens by 2050?
There is a growing interest in testing new construction materials like bio-composites, neo concrete, and recycled plastic. However, there are concerns about their environmental impact and long-term stability. The use of reclaimed materials and low-impact options like timber may become more popular.
What changes can be expected in soil management and composting by 2050?
Peat-free growing mediums are likely to be the norm, and there will be a greater emphasis on soil recycling. Reusing existing soil from gardens and parks, as well as exploring innovative composting methods, will be important for sustainable gardening practices.
How will technology influence UK gardens in 2050?
Technology is expected to play a significant role in gardening, with the potential for labor-saving devices, automated monitoring systems, and smart watering systems becoming more widespread. However, there will be a balance between incorporating technology and preserving the traditional, unconnected aspects of gardening.
Will pesticide usage change in UK gardens by 2050?
Stricter controls on weedkillers and pesticides are likely, leading to a shift towards organic gardening practices. While there may be challenges with pests and diseases, the focus will be on promoting biodiversity and creating a healthier environment for pollinators like bees.
How will climate change impact UK gardens in 2050?
Climate change is expected to bring wetter winters with increased flood risks in some areas. To mitigate these challenges, gardens may adopt sustainable drainage systems, permeable surfaces, and water collection methods like rainwater harvesting. Drought-tolerant planting will also become more important in hotter and drier summers.
What is the future of tree planting and conservation in UK gardens by 2050?
There is a growing recognition of the importance of trees for various ecological benefits. Efforts such as the England Trees Action Plan aim to promote tree planting and conservation.
The Telegraph. What will gardens look like in 20 years from now? Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/problem-solving/will-gardens-look-like-20-years-now/ [accessed 07/06/23]
UK Government. England Trees Action Plan 2021 to 2024. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/england-trees-action-plan-2021-to-2024 [accessed 07/06/23]
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.