short garden

courtesy Midge Short

A sea of hardy and healthy winter greens (lettuce, Swiss chard, kale) fill Bruce and Midge Short’s hoophouse in Anton Larson Bay.

 Every year the Garden Media Group, based out of Pennsylvania, predicts trends that will impact our yards and gardens. The 2017 report titled “Grow 365” identifies gardening trends that range from clean, healthy living with fewer chemicals and more organic food to “soundscaping” with trees to buffer sirens and encourage birds to bring song. All in all, it’s more popular than ever to garden 365 days a year and the millennials are getting into the act.

Before I continue, you might be thinking that gardening year-round is impossible at 58 degrees north. Well I’m happy to say that last Saturday night we savored a salad made from locally-grown lettuce and mustard greens thanks to Midge and Bruce Short of Anton Larson Bay, who shared some of their precious produce grown in their hoophouse.

Back to the report. I always get a chuckle out of the garden trends report, an amusing exercise to check which declarations apply to our garden-quirky latitude. After all, like paint colors and fashion, gardening trends come and go. I’ve summarized what they feel will be hot topics using their terminology and brought it home, so to speak, by adding a few of my thoughts. 

 

Inside meets outside

Instead of limiting gardening to the outdoor growing season, transitioning it indoors is a growing trend. More people will be growing food and herbs indoors, growing under lights in soil, hydroponically or aquaponically. Here is where small spaces like kitchen counters or windowsills are put to service as microfarms. 

Yes, indoor gardens have come of age.

“The stigma once placed on hydroponics is long over,” says Susan McCoy, president of Garden Media Group. “The demand for clean food, the surge in canna-businesses and concerns about the environment are just a few reasons why growing 365 days-a-year is trending.”

 

For all ages

And who are the new gardeners? Of the 6 million people who classified themselves as “new” gardeners last year, five million were ages 18-34.

“At the other end, baby boomers are keeping only those things that speak to their heart,” says Katie Dubow, creative director at the Garden Media Group. “They are taking the plunge and discarding all the rest. By doing this, they can reset their life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

 

Wellness

Gardening is viewed as being healthy in several new ways. Get this: The latest fitness trend to hit the United States is called “forest bathing.” If a mental image of bathtubs in the middle of a spruce forest came to mind, you’re not alone. Actually, it refers to simply basking in nature’s beauty, one of the best ways to reduce stress. Whatever you call it, the more we spend time in nature and acknowledge the value that green plants play in workspaces, the better our inner environment will be.

I almost forgot: “Soundscaping” is a new buzz term for the old practice of planting trees and shrubs to change everyday city sounds by increasing bird songs and buffering traffic and other industrial noise.

 

Tidy gardens

The United States population is shifting focus from the suburbs to city living. Gardening in smaller spaces follows the trend. Smaller spaces require neatness. Large, overgrown plant material that has outlived its usefulness should be rejuvenated or removed. Attention to pruning, thinning, and dividing keeps plants tidy. Along those lines, new varieties of dwarf plants are in high demand and as is container gardening for growing herbs, flowers, and vegetables.

 

Clean gardening

Following the clean food movement in which more people are demanding to know what is in and on their food, and where it comes from, “clean gardening” is also gaining popularity. An increasing number of people are speaking up about the overuse of pesticides that might have dangerous or unknown effects on health of humans and pets. (For the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce go to www.ewg.org.) Gardeners and homeowners desire to know what is being sprayed on lawns and landscapes. We only need look at how the environmental problems such as the Flint, Michigan, water crisis has raised interest in what’s in our water and soil.

 

Buzz off

Following the clean gardening trend, people are looking for ways to control pests naturally. The scare of Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses, combined with a desire to reduce chemical use, means more people are looking for ways to control pests naturally.

 

To dye for

The do-it-yourself spirit now extends to growing plants to dye your own textiles and clothing. Whether it’s using marigolds for a golden yellow or cosmos for a bright orange hue, it’s just one more way to enjoy your garden. And don’t forget, many vegetables and pollinator-attracting plants are also great for dyeing.

It’s fun to read about what media analysts feel are trends and hot topics, (though plants don’t care whether you accessorize your garden with the latest style or not). But gardening isn’t like repainting the living room with the latest color of the year, which is gold, by the way, for 2017. It takes experience, time and planning.

Take Midge and Bruce Short’s January greens for example. They don’t just magically appear.

“I start the plants in late July,” said Midge when she handed over the bag of kale, lettuce, and Swiss chard. “That way they get a head start before the cool, fall weather and low light set in.”

And the good news: Spring is right around the corner.

 

Got a gardening question? Want to learn how to grow melons in Kodiak? Join the Kodiak Garden Club or the Kodiak Growers Facebook group. To contact Marion: mygarden@alaska.net. You can also follow Marion on Instagram and through her blog at marionowen.wordpress.com

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