Across the nation, gardening grew by leaps and bounds in 2020. And it’s not slowing down. In fact, more than 20 million new growers picked up the trowel and pitchfork in response to the pandemic. The good news is that many newbies had such a good experience, they will be back in 2021.
If that sounds like a lot of marketing talk, it is. But it’s also real numbers.
For over 15 years I’ve reviewed the annual Garden Trends Report, searching for trends that apply to Alaska gardeners. (Cutesy lawn furniture and BBQ grills large enough to fit in the deck of a crab boat? I don’t think so.) The brains behind the report is Katie Dubow, president of the award-winning lawn and garden public relations agency Garden Media Group.
And what will everyone be doing, garden-wise, in 2021? Let’s dig into five trends to be aware of and potentially embrace as we lean into a new year ...
1. FEELING GOOD
For one thing, it’s clear that the bliss of being in nature, in general, will be bigger than ever. (Of course, Kodiak Islanders know how lucky we are to have Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park and Pillar Mountain as backyards.) People are increasingly turning to their yards for exercise, stress relief and a creative outlet.
I’ll talk about the bliss of gardening in future columns, but it seems fairly universal that both seasoned and new gardeners enjoy surrounding themselves with all manner of plants, from landscaping enhancements and indoor hydroponics to the “victory gardens” they started because of the pandemic — especially to help their neighbors.
Helping neighbors is something gardeners do, whether it’s setting a bouquet of flowers on someone’s doorstep or sharing tips for how to grow broccoli.
One local gardener recently shared on the Kodiak Growers Facebook group that he taught a buddy when and how to grow his own vegetables.
“He was absolutely thrilled about what he grew and wants to do more this upcoming year,” he said.
And for Lori L., a gardener outside of Anchorage, this summer allowed her to reach out with support.
“We grew veggies for six families who didn’t have space/time to grow,” she said. “It was a wonderful experience for us all.”
2. HOME, HOME ON THE (GARDEN) RANGE
More homegrown food was, and continues to be, important ...
According to the Garden Trends Report, one of the main reasons millions of newbies hit the gardening scene in 2020 was to grow their own food. No surprise here. Since March 2020, the price of food jumped an average of 3%, depending on where you live. Many gardeners took up the mantle to ease the pressure of costly food and to provide food security.
For Lorne White, owner of Kodiak’s Strawberry Fields Nursery, they had their best April ever for sales of seedlings, perennials, shrubs and fruiting trees.
Spending more time at home, and spending more of that time cooking, has led to a renewed interest in food gardening. What better way to discover where much of our food comes from, right?
“Home food growing is a huge trend — that iconic Victory Garden is on everyone’s mind,” Dubow reports.
“And for parents who have kids learning from home, growing edible plants is covering snack time, physical education and science class in one fell swoop!”
Speaking of landscapes, according to Dubow, “People are shifting away from ‘dead-looking’ landscapes to co-creating with nature.”
In other words, people are looking for functional and beautiful landscapes, she says.
But there is more to gardening than growing things ...
3. IMPROVE YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE
Gardening is a wonderful way to manage stress and enhance wellness. This has been known for many decades. But this past spring gave fresh validation: the opportunity to reconnect with their gardens or nearby green spaces.
It’s predicted that in 2021, gardening will continue to provide a creative outlet. There will be a lot of interest in cultivating a backyard oasis, whether people are heading back to the office or continuing to work from home.
Dubow feels that “yards need to be Zoom-background ready, hands-on learning zones to keep kids entertained, and space for adults to unwind as well.”
As we’ve all grown increasingly tired of staring at our own four walls while quarantining, one of the biggest trends for 2021 is bringing the indoors outside.
Backyards are becoming the new living rooms, so it’s no wonder that the Norwegian term frilufsliv has become a marketing buzzword. It translates roughly to “open-air living,” perfect for achieving the sense of contentment one feels in a garden and the great outdoors.
Meanwhile, inside the home, houseplants have become the background of choice for virtual meetings, and demand for them will continue to rise. Interesting.
4. THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE SEED
Last spring, gardeners worldwide experienced shortages in seed supplies. Favorite seed varieties were sold out online, and store seed racks were riddled with empty slots.
Now is the time to start planning. Many seed companies couldn’t keep up in 2020, and Dubow says that early indications show the same will be true in 2021. I can attest to those forecasts.
I started ordering seeds online in October. While the 2021 stock wasn’t available in most cases, I kept track of what I’d successfully ordered. In early December, I found the last items on my list. As a side note, online seed companies seem to be keeping people updated on their stock.
5. THE GREAT ESCAPE
More than any other year, this 2021 garden trends report feels much more upbeat than in the past. All signs indicate that 2021 will be a time to fill your home with plenty of houseplants and your garden with nutritious edibles to feed not only your family but also those in need. The future is definitely looking greener.
The future certainly looks brighter for Alaska gardener Janann Kaufman.
“Gardening has always been my therapy. 2020 more than ever,” she messaged me. “Always distracted and happy with my hands in dirt and grandkids helping. This year it was the great escape. So glad to have it again as I dwell on seeds and placement. I think 2021 will also be fraught with worry and uncertainty. So glad my therapist (the plants and critter) will be there for me.”