Since 1973 the Texasbased National Gardening Association ( NGA), an organization promoting gardening education for home and community gardeners, conducts an annual National Gardening Survey portraying consumer profiles, household participation, retail sales and industry trends, and how the pandemic influenced gardening for the green industry.
NGA’s quadrennial specialty survey What Gardeners Think revealing attitudes, behaviors, and motivations of American gardeners was also conducted in January 2021 polling a representative sample of over 2,000 households ages 18 and up. Both survey reports were released in April. Dynata, a market research company, conducted the surveys.
The research data illuminated the current boom in pandemic gardening.
Last year 18.3 million, seven percent of the U.S. population, gardened for the first time. These recruits are particularly pronounced among younger gardeners, gardeners with young children, apartment and condo residents, and gardeners of color. For decades baby boomers have been the core gardening audience. However, millennials are gaining ground, buying property, starting gardens, and using Instagram to share their growing power. Veteran gardeners reported spending more time gardening than usual.
Survey questions included: What did you grow? What tools did you buy? Where do you purchase gardening supplies? What do you like least about gardening? To the latter responses included —not enough space, not enough time, too much work, need to know more about how to garden and more about lawn and garden care, need more and better tools, need a companion to garden with, and want better weather.
While food gardens remain popular, flower gardening is increasing, especially pollinator gardens. Two- thirds of all gardeners tried a new gardening activity last year. When asked “Why did you get into gardening last year?” 49 percent said it was good for their mental health; 43 percent had more time to garden and beautify their home; 35 percent found it a good activity to do as a family; 30 percent wanted to grow food for their family, and 32 percent wanted to get more exercise. Each demographic noted an increase in self- confidence and 88 percent planned to continue gardening in 2021.
Both survey results are scrutinized by green industries and used to make strategic marketing decisions. Garden writer Charlie Nardozzi wrote the analysis and commentary for How Gardeners Think. Jim Feinstein, former CEO of Gardener’s Supply Company, wrote the analysis and commentary on the National Gardening Survey.
Dave Whitinger, executive director of NGA, believes one of the biggest surprises in 2020 occurred when consumer seed orders surged leaving seed companies scrambling to fill orders. Companies increased inventories in 2021 based on high demand last year. The survey revealed the continuing strength of home and garden centers and mass merchandisers in the gardening market. Survey commentaries outline measures independent business owners can take to distinguish themselves from large corporate players.
A looming question from both surveys is “How do we retain new gardeners?” Since gardeners hunger for knowledge, The National Gardening Association website, garden.org includes a Learning Garden online course, database of plants, newsletter, and plethora of resources. NGA’s Gardening for Dummies series of 50 books published by Wiley are available in libraries and bookstores.