This is my final article to be published with the Charleston Gazette-Mail. While I won’t be writing for the newspaper, I do plan to continue writing. Stay tuned to see what writing adventures I get into in the future, after I’ve settled into my new life in Omaha.
We usually see the new year as a time to look forward, to plan for the future and to make changes. People make resolutions or set goals as a way to pledge to be better in the future.
Just look at any gym in January, filled to the brim with those who resolve to get fit, or grocery carts filled with diet foods of those who resolve to eat better, to see what a big deal this is for some people.
This look to the future is why I chose today to be my final Garden Guru article — a big change is coming to my life, and what better time to make that change than on New Year’s Day?
Of course, I also have two weeks to move across the country and start my new job on Jan. 17, so there’s that frenzy to prepare for, too.
Back when I started writing this column in May 2013, I would have never thought writing a garden column for the newspaper would have such a positive impact on my life and my career. Here I am, though, nearly four years later leaving behind one of the best, most enjoyable things I’ve done in my life.
So I look forward to new opportunities and, hopefully, new and wonderful things to write about. I thank each and every person who has read my work, sent me encouraging emails and letters, and said “hello” in person.
I’ve sort of made it an annual tradition to look forward at the beginning of each year to the trends that are likely to shape the world of gardening. How has gardening changed, and what changes are coming?
While the act and science of gardening hasn’t really changed since I started my job as an extension agent eight years ago, the demographics and practice of gardening has changed drastically.
Perhaps the biggest change in gardening in those eight years, which is a trend likely to continue for years, is the demographic of new gardeners.
Back when I started my job, the majority of people attending my classes and calling for information were in their golden years. More recently, a bigger percentage of students and callers have been much younger.
According to the Garden Media Group, which publishes an annual report of garden trends, 5 million out of the 6 million people who started gardening for the first time last year were in the 18-to-34-year-old age bracket. More and more young people, namely millennials, are gardening.
What these gardeners grow is also much different than years ago. The majority of what these young gardeners, and, by extension, all gardeners, are growing are edible plants.
Fruits and vegetables top the list, as do herbs, ingredients to use in alcoholic drinks and even medicinal plants. It was just a few years ago fruit and vegetable plant sales out-paced the sale of ornamental plants.
You can find all kinds of indoor hydroponic or aeroponic growing systems for home growers. From sprouts to herbs, (and crops not legal in the Mountain State), indoor growing is on the rise. Most people are growing herbs on the windowsill or opting for stylish new growing systems to grow small veggies in the home.
Organic gardening is on the rise, too. People are interested in having fresh, healthful foods that are safe and environmentally friendly. However, it is important to make these decisions with scientifically accurate information at the fingertips.
Organic doesn’t mean no-spray or no-chemical, either in the garden or at the grocery store. It is possible to manage pests by both avoiding the pest and using organically derived treatments that have been proven safe and effective.
I’ve seen gardens where people refuse to use any treatment, even an organic one. The results are often what I call “organic by neglect” — bug eaten or diseases plants that produce little for the effort. So keep in mind when gardening organically, there are safe and effective ways to control pests with organic products.
Another trend in gardening is the rise of subscription services. Beyond gardening, subscription services have become a huge trend. I’ve taken part myself — from deliveries of fresh produce and ingredients for meals to lifestyle and grooming products, I’ve gotten many subscription boxes on my front step.
Gardening subscriptions are on the rise, too. From monthly delivery of seeds for growing indoors or out, or monthly deliveries of cacti and succulents, there are lots of ways to get gardening delivered to your door.
Education is also big among the younger crowd. Gardening classes at stores, community spaces and more are popular. This is another great thing for the work that I do — educating people about growing their own food. It makes it easier when you have people wanting to come to your classes rather than begging them to show up.
Aside from these changes, another trend shaping the future of gardening is a move toward tidier, cleaner gardens. Clean garden spaces with tidy, well behaved plants are becoming more common than messy, cottage-type gardens.
It isn’t just about a minimalist garden approach, but a focus on less consumption (less water, fertilizer, labor, etc.) and enjoying the experience more than prizing what you have — more about finding happiness and less about keeping up with the Jones.
Recognizing the role of plants in both mental and physical well-being is also a trend. Even hospitals recognize this, with the inclusion of indoor plant displays and living walls as a way to promote health.
So, as both you and I look forward to this year and many years to come, I wish for you a happy, green future; a future filled with beautiful gardens and productive plots; a future filled with the love of plants and the act of growing.
Blessings for a life filled with green growing things and many bountiful harvests. I wish you all the best. And maybe one day our paths will cross once more. But for now, a fond farewell.
Garden Guru, signing off.