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Opinion >  Column

Gardening; 20 million novices took up hobby in 2020

Tonight, we can kiss 2020 goodbye. What a year! The only thing normal about it was that many gardeners carried on as usual: We continued to play in the dirt to our heart’s content.

The nurseries and hardware stores were open and many of us with altered work schedules (or sadly, no work schedule) had a lot of time on our hands.

More than 20 million novice gardeners picked up a trowel for the first time swelling the ranks of American gardeners to more than 63 million according to Bonnie Plants CEO Mike Sutterer. Most of them were males under age 35, and they want to continue gardening in 2021. So, what are the trends for 2021 going to be?

Growing food crops and other edible plants are at the top of many gardeners’ lists. Victory gardens were everywhere in 2020 as people tried to offset potential food shortages or to supply local food banks with produce. Vegetable gardens provided opportunities for kids who were learning remotely. A garden can teach about a variety of sciences, language arts, writing, math, social skills, physical education and healthy eating. Vegetable gardeners made a huge difference in their communities. Because we won’t be out of the woods until well into the summer, they will be needed even more this spring.

Because people couldn’t go anywhere, many gardeners and DIY enthusiasts turned backyards into cozy, get-away-from-it-all spaces. That trend will continue this year with additions like comfy seating areas around fire pits with a wall for watching outdoor movies. Edible vegetable and berry plants will be tucked into planting beds close at hand that invite nibbling. How about a gazebo turned into a screened sleeping house for those hot summer nights?

Creating backyard habitats for birds, pollinator and other beneficial insects and neighborhood wildlife was huge last year. As people spent more time outdoors, they noticed the activity the birds, animals and insects created. Many people who expanded their gardening efforts asked for plants that supported the critters need for water, food and shelter. Nurseries responded by creating preplanned gardens of appropriate plants that made it easy to go into the nursery, grab a kit and return home still following the COVID-19 rules. Preplanned gardens are a great starting point for novice gardeners because they know they will get the right plants to start with and can learn from there.

Experienced and novice gardeners realized that being able to get out in the garden and close to nature was and will continue to be an easy way to reduce stress and be creative at the same time. A growing body of research shows that people who get in contact with the soil and plants experience positive health outcomes for a variety of conditions beyond stress relief. We will all need to take advantage of every opportunity this next year and into the future.

One last word. Order your seeds and plants early this year. You are competing with 63 million other people who are looking for the same things.

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