The pandemic has brought big changes to gardening and ‘yardening’

“Gardening During the Pandemic” could be the title of a book someday, an in-depth study of how COVID-19 affected home gardening. You won’t see me writing it, however.

First, the impact seems to be huge — too big for me to fully research, nonetheless tackle for a book. Then there is the question of if and when this darn virus will finally be contained. With omicron just settling in, the changes to gardening practices made in 2020-21 are going to harden and expand.

You would have to be totally unconnected from everything to not already know COVID’s impact on houseplant collecting. The internet media cannot seem to write about the new fact of life too often — Google “new houseplants” or “rare houseplants.” People went nuts and, if Amazon and other internet sources are correct, are still going nuts over houseplants. There has been an explosion of not just interest in readily available — dare I say common — houseplants, but an expansion into rare and expensive ones. Surveys show the trend is here to stay.

The next trend is growing food indoors. More and more people, millennials in particular, want to grow some food at home, so there has been a proliferation of websites, blogs and media to help people pursue this goal. It is not just interest in kitchen growing systems, either. People are growing all sorts of stuff indoors. In fact, I feel a column coming up!

Another gardening trend that has become mainstream is the use of social media to reach and teach gardeners, especially newbies who mostly happen to be millennials and those who live a lot of their lives online. Newspaper columns and even blogs are morphing into YouTube channels and Reddits. Yikes! I am going to be aged out by some TikTok-er!

Moreover, the use of video increased exponentially. I remember when we started including website references in the ’90s. There was no going back. The newer phones make it easy to create videos, and there are any number of sites that host them.

Some 18 million new gardeners entered the scene, and more will come. As you might expect, they bring changes. Sounds weird, but things like Wi-Fi are becoming a thing to have in your gardens. A router may be in your outdoor greenhouse this year?


Oh, I laughed when I saw my first outdoor living room a few years back. It had a huge TV! “Yardening” now includes the landscaped area with a fire pit, with portable ones being a COVID trend, a gas grill and lots of comfortable seating. Much to my amazement, more and more are putting giant-screen TVs in these areas! (Check out this weatherproof TV.) It is happening in Lower 48 suburbia, but could it happen in Alaska?

Shared gardening also became a thing during COVID, and people like it enough for it to become a permanent thing and not just a trend. Neighbors and “pod members” split the work and the harvest. A site that shows how to start a shared garden (as well as the new trend in use of video) is here.

I am not sure we see it here in Alaska, but a great deal of gardening emphasis has shifted from gardening in the backyard to gardening in view of the front porch. This is where people spent an inordinate amount of pandemic time, and in some places this is how neighbors communicated. There are tons of “what to grow on a porch articles” like this one. These are great, particularly if you have southern porch exposure.

Ornamental grasses, already a trend before COVID, became very desirable and have now established themselves Outside. They may be part of the “rid the yard of lawns” movement, but what used to be featured as parking lot screening and low-care plants for hard-to-access areas — clumps of 4-, 5- and 6-foot plants, waving in the breeze — somehow caught hold in home gardens and landscapes. The industry has noticed and is producing more. I hope our local outlets will carry as many as can be found in Outside nurseries. You will find examples here.

And finally, Organic Gardening — the use of capital letters is intentional — solidified its place as the only way to garden during the pandemic. Millennials must have learned some science in school and are skeptical of gardening corporations that are literally the only ones pushing nonorganics. Proof of the trend is that more and more nursery outlets deal only in organic products. Hint to local nurseries: Business has never been better.

I don’t know what is coming next, nor which trend is going to become a permanent part of gardening. However, things are a changing and will change lots more before the pandemic is over. Thanks to the internet — now a permanent gardening tool and not a mere trend — we won’t have to wonder what these are.

Jeff’s Garden Calendar

Merry Gardening to all: Thank you for the gift of being able to write this column every week. I couldn’t do it without your support.

The Seattle Flower and Garden Show: Feb. 9-13 at the Washington State Convention Center.

Last minute, greatest gardening gift: Membership in the Alaska Botanical Garden, This is a gift every gardener and family needs and should have. Buy a membership for yourself if no one else does.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.