Are millennials the future of gardening, or are they throwing in the trowel?
In the first of Don Kinzler's two-part series on millennials and gardening, "Growing Together" explores the unique ways people in this generation are tending plants.
Each generation has its quirks, which makes for easy humor.
Do you know how many baby boomers it takes to change a lightbulb? None. They hire it done, and then complain how back then a lightbulb only cost a nickel.
Millennials have foibles, too. Did you hear about the millennial on "Wheel of Fortune?" He tried to rent a vowel.
Millennials are our next generation of gardeners. Or are they? Times have changed, and will a group connected to an electronic device during much of their day be interested in the hand labor of planting, pruning, weeding and mowing?
The millennial generation is loosely defined as those born in the early 1980s until about 2000. The Pew Research Institute uses the 15-year period from 1981 to 1996 in a more technical definition that includes people currently aged 23 to 38, which is now the nation’s largest adult demographic.
The past year’s gardening data showed that 77% of American households partake in some form of gardening, and of that group, 29% are millennials, replacing other age groups as our nation’s largest group of gardeners. Millennials are indeed the new gardening generation, and they’re embracing it with passion.
There’s a change, though. To past generations, home gardening meant growing a sizable vegetable garden, tending a neat lawn, planting flower beds and maintaining the home’s landscape. Millennials might not see it that way.
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Here’s how millennial gardening is different than past generations.
- Fewer millennials are buying homes; instead, two-thirds are renting by necessity or choice. Typical homeowner-type gardening, lawn care and yardwork is less common among the demographic.
- As they were growing up, many millennials observed their parents spending hours mowing, weeding and planting, and they aren’t sure they want to spend their free time laboring the same way. Yet they see the joy that gardening brought to parents and grandparents.
- Houseplants are a hot trend among millennials, who call themselves “plant parents,” and houseplant sales have doubled over the past three years driven by their purchases, according to figures by National Gardening Association.
- Millennials have developed a passion for plants and gardening “as an antidote to this insane connectivity” to electronic devices, according to NBC News.
- They’ve been dubbed the “wellness generation” by Sanford Health, spending resources on gym memberships, spa treatments and organic foods. Millennials appreciate that plants improve air quality, lighten our mood and help us think more creatively.
- Millennials see gardening as a way to cooperate with Mother Nature through composting, planting pollinator gardens, using native and heirloom plants, gardening sustainably, installing edible landscapes and using technology to improve success, such as gardening apps.
- Knowing where your food comes from is important to millennials, which is why raising vegetables is appealing. Because many rent their dwellings, older-style vegetable gardens are less available. Instead, raised gardens, patio containers, window planters and balcony gardening are increasingly popular.
- With less space and less time to garden in a home landscape setting, millennials choose indoor gardening, container growing and small-space vegetable production.
- With full schedules and constant connectivity, turning to plant care is seen by millennials as a healthier stress reducer than heavy drinking or binging on junk food.
- Most millennials prefer to get their gardening information through physical activities like workshops and hands-on participation, instead of lectures or listening to online training, according to research by Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension.
- Millennials enjoy gardening for much the same reason as older adults — they enjoy the contentment, peace and satisfaction that comes from tending plants. That much hasn’t changed across generations.
Editor's note: This is the first in Don Kinzler's two-part series on millennial gardening. Next Saturday, Nov. 16, catch the rest of the series as Don explains what every millennial should know about gardening.
Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 701-241-5707.