The pandemic has brought big changes to gardening and “gardening”

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“Gardening During the Pandemic” could be the title of a book one day, an in-depth study of how COVID-19 has affected home gardening. You won’t see me writing it, however.

First of all, the impact seems to be huge – too great for me to do a full research, nonetheless broach for a book. Then there is the question of whether and when this damn virus will finally be contained. With omicron just taking hold, the changes to gardening practices in 2020-21 will harden and spread.

You would have to be totally disconnected from everything not to already know the impact of COVID on the collection of houseplants. Internet media can’t seem to write too often about the new reality of life – Google “new houseplants” or “rare houseplants”. People have gone crazy, and if Amazon and other internet sources are correct, they are still going crazy for houseplants. There has been an explosion of interest not only in readily available – dare I say common – houseplants, but an expansion into rare and expensive plants. Polls show the trend is here to stay.

The next trend is to grow food indoors. More and more people, millennials in particular, want to grow food at home, so there has been a proliferation of websites, blogs, and media outlets to help people pursue that goal. It is not only the interest in the cultivation systems in the kitchen. People grow all kinds of things inside. In fact, I can feel a column going up!

Another gardening trend that has become widespread is the use of social media to reach and teach gardeners, especially newbies who are mostly millennials and those who live much of their lives online. Newspaper columns and even blogs turn into YouTube and Reddits channels. Ouch! I’ll be aged by a TikTok-er!

In addition, the use of video has increased exponentially. I remember when we first started including website references in the 90s. There was no going back. Newer phones make it easy to create videos and there are plenty of sites that host them.

Some 18 million new gardeners have entered the scene, and more will come. As you might expect, they are making changes. It sounds odd, but things like Wi-Fi are becoming a thing to have in your backyard. Maybe a router in your outdoor greenhouse this year?

Oh, I laughed when I saw my first outdoor lounge a few years ago. There was a huge TV! “Gardening” now includes the landscaped area with a fire pit, laptops being a COVID trend, a gas grill, and plenty of comfortable seating. To my amazement, more and more giant screen televisions are installed in these areas! (Look at this weatherproof TV.) This is happening in the lower suburbs of 48, but could it be happening in Alaska?

Shared gardening has also become a thing during COVID, and people love it enough that it becomes a permanent thing and not just a trend. Neighbors and “pod members” share the work and the harvest. A site that shows how to start a shared garden (as well as the new trend in using video) is here.

I’m not sure we see it here in Alaska, but a lot of the focus on gardening has shifted from gardening in the backyard to gardening in sight of the porch. This is where people spent an inordinate amount of pandemic time, and in some places, this is how neighbors communicated. There are tons of “what to grow on a porch” articles like this one. These are great, especially if you have exposure to the south of the porch.

Ornamental grasses, already in fashion before COVID, have become very desirable and have now established themselves outdoors. They may be part of the ‘rid the yard of lawns’ movement, but what was previously billed as a parking shield and low-maintenance plants for hard-to-reach areas – clumps of plants of 4, 5 and 6 feet, rippling in the breeze – kind of caught in home gardens and landscapes. The industry has noticed and produced more. I hope our local outlets will sell as much as can be found in outdoor nurseries. You will find examples here.

And finally, organic gardening – the use of capital letters is intentional – has cemented its place as the only way to garden during the pandemic. Millennials must have learned some science in school and are skeptical of gardening companies that are literally the only ones promoting non-organic produce. Proof of the trend, more and more nurseries only offer organic products. Advice to local nurseries: Business has never been better.

I don’t know what will follow, or what trend will become a permanent fixture in gardening. However, things are changing and will change a lot more before the pandemic is over. Thanks to the Internet – now a permanent gardening tool and not just a trend – we won’t have to wonder what it is.

Jeff’s Garden Calendar

Happy gardening everyone: Thank you for the gift of being able to write this column every week. I couldn’t do it without your support.

Seattle Flower and Garden Show: February 9-13 at the Washington State Convention Center. https://gardenshow.com/information.

Last minute, the best gardening gift: Alaska Botanical Garden Membership, www.alaskabg.org. It is a gift that every gardener and family needs and should have. Buy a subscription for yourself if no one else does.


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