A fresh start in the garden: Growing Trends for 2021

-- By Alabama Living Magazine

If there was ever a year for fresh starts, it’s 2021, and there’s no better place to start afresh than in a garden, the very place where millions, maybe billions, found refuge from 2020’s many challenges. 

Though numbers are still being crunched, early surveys and studies confirm that 2020 was an unprecedented year for gardening. According to a Garden Media Group report, the pandemic sprouted some 16 million new gardeners in the U.S. alone, most of whom intend to continue gardening this year. One U.K.-based survey found that gardening ranked second behind binge-watching television programming as a go-to pandemic activity, and garden industry reports show that 2020 broke — exploded, actually — previous sales records. 

These trends, which occurred across the globe, took root early in the COVID-19 pandemic spurred by stay-at-home orders and concerns about the availability of fresh, healthy food. However, many gardeners soon discovered (or rediscovered) gardening’s physical and emotional benefits such as much-needed exercise and relief from stress and anxiety. The pandemic also provided us all chances to connect with the environment, whether it was learning about the plants and animals in our own yards or spending time in outdoor public spaces such as public parks, gardens and trails.

Just as 2020 will not soon be forgotten, these pandemic-inspired gardening lessons will remain with us for years, maybe even generations, to come. They will certainly influence gardening this year, so I did a little digging to find out what trends garden experts are predicting for 2021. Here are a few that may help as we plan the coming gardening year.

Outdoor Livability. Whether we have a yard, patio or only a balcony, many of us will likely enhance and expand our personal outdoor spaces, including creating outside “rooms” for sitting, dining and working as well as areas for play. 

Small is Big. Just like tiny homes, small — even itty-bitty — gardens (and plants) are all the rage. This trend is expected to grow as we strive to garden in smaller, more confined spaces such as porches and balconies but also indoors in our homes and offices. Interest in vertical gardens is also expected to grow, especially for urbanites and others with limited land resources.

Designing Gardeners. More and more people are expected to design, not just plant, their gardens, focusing on specific styles or color palettes. Among the leading style trends this year are cottage gardens and welcoming gateways but also a focus on specific colors such as calming whites and greys to vivid, lively yellows. 

Mindful of Mood. Setting the mood in our gardens, whether we need rambunctious and cheery or serene and calming, will also be big in 2021. Setting moods includes appropriate plant choices but also incorporating features like playful garden art to soothing water fountains. 

Food-forward. Food production will continue to be a primary focus for many, so expect to see more and more raised beds, vegetable plots, herbs and lots and lots of fruit and berry plantings.

An Eco-friendly Ethos. As we’ve spent more and more time outside, we’ve developed a keener interest in, and commitment to, gardening with nature and the environment. This is expected to cause us all to reduce inputs, such as chemicals and water, do more composting and plant more natives. More of us will also strive to co-exist with and protect wildlife and other natural resources.

Kidding Around. Engaging children in the outdoors for play but also for learning will continue to be important in 2021, both at home and at schools. Kid-friendly spaces and garden projects will likely expand and may help develop the next generation of gardeners. 

Growing Outdoor Community.Last year highlighted local needs, from food security to the need for public spaces, which will lead to an expected growth in community gardens and farmers markets and in creating more open-air public spaces and entertainment and cultural events.

These are just a few of the exciting gardening trends for 2021, but they can inspire us all to explore other trends and create our own. It’s also a chance to expand our gardening know-how through such resources as the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (aces.edu), Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (asanonline.org) and Plant Alabama (plantsomethingalabama.com). And don’t forget the wealth of knowledge available through public gardens, nurseries and garden centers, garden clubs and societies and gardening friends and neighbors.

January Tips
Keep planting trees and shrubs and keep them well watered.
Plant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, beets, carrots and other hardy vegetables and flowers.
rder seed for the coming year.
Feed the birds.
Take online gardening classes.
Start a 2021 gardening journal.
Turn the compost.
Get a soil test.

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com.

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