Sourdough starters, dress shirts with pajama bottoms, Zoom cocktails, pandemic trends come and go. But there’s one trend that looks like it’s here to stay – at least for another year – gardening.
Multiple seed sellers are reporting blossoming demand for seed orders that matches the florid increase in orders they saw last year just as state-ordered lockdowns were starting when some seed sellers sold more seeds than in any spring prior.
As homebound green thumbs turned to horticulture once more, Missouri-based Baker Creek Seeds has had to shut down its website three times due to overwhelming demand. The company said it is selling six times more seeds compared to their average busy season. Last year, the company told the Washington Post, they saw “the largest volume of orders we have seen” just as shutdowns began.
“Even with machines, we can’t pack them fast enough,” Kathy McFarland, who handles public relations for Baker Creek, told Civil Eats.
Talking to Iowa Public Radio, Nikos Kavanya, a seed purchaser for Fedco Seeds, said the last time demand for seeds was this high was during the “Y2K” panic in 1999, when people believed the start of the new millennium would cause a mass disruption of society. “Y2K was this little blip compared to this,” Kavanya said.
Just like a slate of home-friendly hobbies like baking and knitting, gardening has seen an increase in popularity over the last year. One survey of consumers from Freedonia Group found that a quarter of respondents started gardening because of the pandemic. The wave of new gardeners has led to retail sales growth in the gardening industry, while other types of consumer goods, like clothing and home furniture, saw declines during the pandemic. Lowe’s and Home Depot, the country’s largest home improvement store chains that sell plants and gardening supplies, both saw sales gains last year.
According to a survey from Axiom Marketing, half of respondents who garden said they do it as a reason to get outside and relieve stress. Some started their gardens to have security in their own food supply, especially at the beginning of the pandemic when grocery store shelves were empty.
“There are certain very stabilizing forces in gardening that can ground us when we are feeling shaky, uncertain and terrified. It’s these predictable outcomes and predictable rhythms of the garden that are very comforting right now,” Joel Flagler, a professor of plant biology at Rutgers University, told Agweek Magazine.
While food stock in grocery stores have remained stable, and the vaccine rollout has had success in the US, a majority of people in the Axiom survey said they planned to garden the same amount, or even more, in 2021.