Gardening in 2020: The Pandemic Effect

Looking back at the year 2020 will surely produce chilling reminders of a year that most of us likely would prefer to forget. It feels like long ago, but it was less than a year that there were long lines to get into stores, toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages, closed restaurants and venues, gathering restrictions, and a seemingly endless count of Covid-19 cases. There was much pain and loss that even now, almost a full year later, it is difficult to put into words.

Through all the negative things that happened in 2020, however, there was plenty that occurred as a result that was inspiring. The green industry alone saw an activity spike that included such things as enthusiasm for growing vegetables at home, garden centers sold out of just about everything, and a wait of months to get playsets installed as families remained at home and spent the summer outside. We saw calls for new patios, outdoor kitchens, and fire pits. There was interest in simple yard updates for more flower color and greener lawns to full property renovations (often including significant screening plantings for added privacy), and everything in between.

While some of these trends are likely to wane once life returns to normal, here are three that I hope to remain:

Getting Outside and Getting Dirty

There is no other way to say it! The pandemic brought us outdoors because of having nothing else to do. Families found walking trails, went for day hikes, and dug in their own gardens. We found butterflies, worms, and cool little streams running through our own neighborhood. Let’s keep it going! Plant annuals for cheery seasonal color. Plant perennials for reliable cutting flowers year after year. Plant trees and shrubs for amazing fall foliage and scents right in your own backyard. The list goes on! Whatever your intention, the connection to the outdoors is more vital than ever.

Investing in the Property

It may sound obvious that we would like to see people continue to show interest in making major renovations to their yards. Aside from increasing sales for green industry professionals, there is a very practical side to adding that well-thought-out patio: the return on investment. Outdoor living spaces can add real value to a property (percentages will vary based on the project and location), but the overall idea here is that they are a true extension of the home. These are trends that have been in place for many years now, but 2020 alone was a great example of how an outdoor space- whether it was a patio, fire pit, or in-ground pool, made it possible to see a few close friends or family while remaining socially distant. No one knows what the future will bring, but having your own space when there is nowhere else to go is a very valuable thing.

Vegetable Gardens

Aside from being a fantastic learning tool (so many of us suddenly became teachers last year), what’s not to love about knowing exactly where your food comes from? When it becomes dangerous to go to the store and a grocery delivery is days away, having fresh produce right outside is priceless. It does not have to be overly complicated or a large garden, even a simple 4’ x 6’ raised bed can yield incredible amounts of tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. If you do have space, try cucumbers, zucchini (or any squash), or beans. Don’t forget about lettuce in cooler times of the year, or about fruiting shrubs and brambles like blueberry bush or raspberry. Herb gardens do remarkably well in containers and can often look great aesthetically as well. Although there is much to get right (soil composition, wildlife protection, just to name a couple), there are just as many resources available as well.

While some of the above can be learned via books, online tools, or trial and error, much of it does require  professional guidance.Fortunately, help is available! A difficult year changed our lives in unimaginable ways, and life will never be the same. But there was good that came from it, and in some cases, all we had to do was get outside.