Why aren’t more young people gardening?
Andrea Bellamy |

Have you been following the discussion over at Cold Climate Gardening on why more older gardeners don’t blog?

Makes for interesting reading, and links quite nicely into my own personal interest in why more younger people don’t garden. I’m not alone in this query. Hanna at This Garden Is Illegal responded to Katie at Garden Punks‘ comment, “Why aren’t people in younger generations interested in gardening?!” with a post of her own, in which she raises two important points (as summarized by yours truly):

• Younger generations do garden. They’re just not all as obsessed with it as many of us bloggers. That doesn’t mean they don’t “enjoy plants and the act of growing something.” Although…

• They’re not calling themselves gardeners – either because they feel they don’t have the right, or don’t want to be associated with the title. I understand this one – at least the former point. It took me a while to realize that just because I didn’t know a physalis from a podocarpus didn’t mean I wasn’t weeding and planting and harvesting and, well, gardening. 

So there you have two arguments for the well-being of gardening amongst the younger generations, and I’ll add a few more. I tend to agree with Hanna: I don’t know what the stats are, but I think the assertion that fewer young people are gardening is somewhat misleading.

As a “younger” person (at least by gardening standards) who is also a gardening addict, I feel like I straddle the divide somewhat. I’m more into gardening than most people my age, but I’m less into a lot of the things that typically define “a gardener” than the generations of gardeners ahead of me.

If you think of “a gardener” in the traditional sense – as in, one who tends a garden – yes, fewer youngins are doing it. First of all, and this is obvious, but younger gardeners are less likely to have a yard or outdoor space in which to create said garden. So they may not have a garden, but that doesn’t mean they’re not gardening. This brings me (finally) to my first point.

• Younger generations do garden, but their gardens may not be recognized as such by those expecting lawns and perennial beds. Their gardens may be the pots of herbs on the patio, the rampant collection of houseplants, or the scattered seeds left at a bus stop. So yeah, I believe gardening is alive and well amongst my peers (the under-35 crowd, though I think it has more to do about life stage than age). It may just look different than our parents’ ideas of gardening.

We’re also getting into gardening for different reasons. Here’s what I think is driving interest in gardening among the younger generations:

• Interior design and, to a lesser degree, the DIY/craft movement, has gone mainstream, and that’s carrying over into the garden. Many people in their 20s and 30s are often looking to move away from college-style decor and create a great living space – their patio or garden space, should they have one – is part of that.

• They’re interested in building community, and gardening, through a community garden or otherwise, is a great way to do that. Xris called it “community through gardening” — I love that. Many of the gardeners I meet are through my guerrilla gardening and social activism networks, and a desire to create community is what we really have in common. Many of these people – young or not-so-young – wouldn’t necessarily call themselves gardeners. But they’re helping to build community gardens and throwing seedbombs — I say they’re gardening.

Food security issues. This isn’t a new idea – many people in my grandparents’ generation gardened in order to provide their families with food – but it certainly wasn’t as prevalent in the subsequent generation. I see a resurgence of interest in growing your own food as a means of empowerment through self-reliance, often as a response to the issues surrounding peak oil and its effects on the global distribution of food.

• In a related way, environmental and sustainability concerns have also hit the mainstream, which has more young people realizing that gardening is a way to better their relationship with the earth. They’re reducing their production of waste through composting and they’re growing their own organic vegetables, for example.

If we expect to see younger people fitting neatly into the definition of a gardener as defined by mainstream media and marketing, of course we’ll see a decline. They’re not flocking to garden shows and botany lectures, or buying lawn fertilizers and fiberglass water features. But they’re out there. Slowly changing the definition of gardener forever.

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