Gardening is a wonderful pastime. Those of us who relish the scent of the soil, the hum of the bees, and the slow satisfaction of watching our works grow to (literal) fruition, know this well. However, gardening is traditionally considered an older person’s hobby. Visit any garden centre, and the target audience becomes evident. Padded kneelers, with handles to help you get up again. Osteopathic recliners. Nostalgic home decor. ‘The Oldie’ alongside the gardening publications on the magazine racks. The gardening industry aims its products firmly at the ‘retired’ demographic. They’re not wrong to do so – gardening has certainly been the preserve of retired people (who have the time and the land to indulge in such a pastime) – for some years. However, a new trend is emerging. Despite rarely having any gardens to speak of, and despite their relative youth, Millennials and their younger counterparts are increasingly turning to the soil.
Perhaps it’s something that skips a generation. The generation which fought in the war was notoriously fond of gardening. Baby-boomers, however, have been rather less keen to dig their hands into the mud. Perhaps it has something to do with economic conditions. Gardening was a matter of necessity as many of our parents and grandparents were growing up. Not so for the post-war generation, who did not need to dig to feed themselves. Perhaps, having been brought up with parents who thought of gardening as a necessity, the post-war generations did not realise that it could also be fun – good for you in ways which did not directly involve feeding yourself. What’s more, in times of plenty like those experienced by the baby-boomers, gardeners could be hired if you wanted a beautiful space to sit out in. Once more in less certain economic times, Millennials are turning back to the soil for both solace, and to have something to rely on in turbulent times.
But perhaps this is putting too much of a negative spin on things. Millennials could simply have discovered that gardening is incredibly good for you. The peace, creativity, and fulfilment of gardening is a wonderful balm for the soul – and a particularly good antidote to the fast-paced, information-overloaded modern world. It gives a sense of achievement and self-worth to those who are struggling, and teaches valuable lessons about delayed gratification to those who have grown up to expect everything to happen instantly. All in all, it’s quote wonderful for mental and physical health – and the uptake of gardening among the 18-35 demographic indicates that it’s just the remedy that this troubled generation needs. Not to mention that it’s a great way for them to ‘do their bit’ for the environment – an issue which preoccupies many younger people.
Notably, millennials in general have far less land to work with than their predecessors. We’re talking ‘generation rent’, many of whom are living in tiny flats with no gardens to speak of. This doesn’t stop them, however. Allotment uptake is greater than ever, and waiting lists for allotments are growing – putting the kibosh on the plans of perplexed developers, who have been eyeing up allotment sites all over the country. Millennials who don’t drive (and that’s a surprising amount of them) have been converting their parking spaces into little container-gardens. Windows and roof-spaces brim with flowers and foliage. Tiny grass verges are dug over and turned into mini vegetable patches. The ingenuity with which younger people are creating gardens out of virtually nothing is truly wonderful.
If not inspired by their parents, perhaps Millennials are inspired by happy memories of their grandparents. Stepping into the greenhouse with Granny or Grandad is, when you’re a child, akin to stepping into a tropical wonderland. Better still, you may be allowed to help pick the tomatoes, or cucumbers, and perhaps be fed a few bright fruits if you are very good. The maintenance of even a windowbox may bring back those same childhood feelings of comfort, security, and enjoyment first felt within a grandparent’s greenhouse or potting shed. Whatever the reason for this upsurge in gardening among the younger demographics, new blood in the world of gardening can be no bad thing! We wish them all the best in their horticultural endeavours.