Four years later, is pandemic gardening fever still going strong? – InForum

Did you hear about the entrepreneur who wanted to make belts decorated with herbs? His gardening friends told him it was a waist of thyme.

Joking aside, gardening changed dramatically in early 2020 as the pandemic gripped the country. Has the gardening frenzy that began during COVID-19 continued in the years since?

In our March 31, 2020 garden column I wrote, “Toilet paper wasn’t the only thing in short supply during recent weeks. Potatoes were hard to come by in the grocery store, and canned and frozen vegetables were sparse.”

The grow-your-own frenzy was starting.

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Planting your own victory garden is a great exercise in the current pandemic. Dreamstime / TNS

About the same time, I received an email from a San Francisco man urgently asking how to start a vegetable garden after he read The Forum column in which

I wrote about the resurgence of Victory Gardens

. He wasn’t alone; pandemic gardening fever hit with a force not seen since the Victory Gardens of World Wars I and II.

In 2020, 18.3 million new gardeners started gardening in the United States, according to the National Gardening Association. Of those people who already gardened before the pandemic, 42% did even more gardening than they did before the pandemic started.

Gardening fever became so widespread that the high demand for vegetable and flower seeds created worldwide shortages. On January 30, 2021, I wrote the entire garden column on suggestions for

dealing with seed shortages for the upcoming gardening season

.

The National Gardening Association’s 2020 survey indicated 88% of gardeners intended to increase or maintain their level of gardening activity in the years to come.

The tremendous upswing in all forms of gardening was worldwide and included vegetable gardening, houseplants, flower gardening, fruit growing and landscaping. According to a survey by researchers at University of California, people who turned to gardening during the pandemic did so to relieve stress, connect with others, and to grow their own food.

For many people, their yards, gardens or balconies became a special space — a haven from daily worries. One German gardener said their yard became their “little safe universe in a very uncertain and somewhat dangerous time.”

People were also spending more time at home due to quarantines and remote work, so attention to their home space became a priority, including gardening and yard beautification.

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Types that often become long-lived houseplants include snake plant, rubber plant, ZZ plant, ferns, jade plant and Philodendron. Plants pictured are from Baker Garden & Gift in Fargo.

Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

Garden centers experienced a generous upturn in sales during the pandemic, due to increased buying by longtime gardeners, along with the millions of new gardeners.

Would consumers continue the increased rate of buying gardening products?

Garden seed sales are one way to track gardening activity levels. Seed retailers saw increased demand up to 200% above normal during the pandemic, according to the National Garden Bureau, and demand remained high through 2021. Demand has decreased slightly since, but was still above pre-pandemic levels into 2022 and 2023.

According to Axiom Marketing surveys, growing food, vegetables and fruits has been the fastest growing gardening category in the past five years. And the National Gardening Association estimates 42 million U.S. households grew food in 2021, an increase of six million from five years prior. Most growth came from millennials and families with children.

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Given these numbers, will the high level of activity continue? Are any pandemic gardens already being neglected? Will gardening born out of unique circumstances fade into the background?

No one knows for sure, but Axiom Marketing in their 2023 Garden Insights Study wrote, in response to their survey findings, “The gardening industry will keep many of the millions of new gardeners who started gardening during COVID-19.”

This optimism was echoed by Greenhouse Management magazine in a 2023 article. “The garden center industry is on track to keep many of the millions of new gardeners who entered the market during COVID. It appears that pandemic gardeners are hooked, and their interest, time, and spending will continue to grow.”

I’m wondering one thing, though: Are all those houseplants that people bought during the pandemic still alive? Let’s hope so.

Don Kinzler

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at [email protected].

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