Top 3 Gardening Trends For 2016

 

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Top 3 Gardening Trends For 2016
by Rob Sproule

Gardening is self expression. It moves through trends like any creative paradigm, simultaneously a reflection of what’s happening in society and what’s happening inside the artist.

Like painting or music, gardening moves from trend to trend while its lifeblood, the “why” of gardening that makes us crave getting our fingers into soft soil after a long winter, is universal. Most of my articles celebrate the “why” of gardening. This one is about the “how”, and specifically, the “hows” to watch our for in 2016.

The Buzzing Garden

We all know that our bees are in trouble; even those who continue to argue about the cause accept that basic fact. In a world without bees, your grocery store would be sans apples, onions, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, mangos, lemons, kale cauliflower, leeks, zucchini, cantaloupe, avocados, and more. A 52% percent loss in all. Bees make food possible.

Pollinator friendly gardens have already moved from niche to mainstream. Now they are becoming the norm. Concerned gardeners are using fewer chemicals and allowing predators to do the work they evolved millions of years to do: eat pesky critters.

Native plants, which attract more bees and reduce watering and fertilizing time/resource use, are back in vogue. Sustainability, long a distant second priority to aesthetics, is becoming celebrated for how beautiful it can be.

Except to hear terms like Permaculture, Xeriscaping, and Bug Hotels more this year. They all mean essentially the same thing: that we’re starting to take the idea of ecosystems seriously and recognizing that the most gorgeous garden is the one
welcoming life.

Money Saving Gardening

We all remember the $7.99 cauliflower of January, 2016. While recent media attention has  keep silly pricing like that at bay, fresh vegetables have still increased 18% in price over the past year.

At Salisbury, I’ve never seen people snatch up seeds like they are this year. Customers are also snatching up seeding soil, trays, and even grow lights faster than we can stock the shelves. People are nervous. Massive job losses across Alberta, coupled with a devalued loonie, is making a record number roll up their sleeves and rediscover the bounty of the soil outside their door.

The sad thing about today’s food economy is that I can fill my gut at McDonalds for a few bucks but the fresh produce isle is becoming for those with money to spare. But while a pepper might cost $2 to buy, a $2 package of seeds will yield dozens. A clam-shell of lettuce may be $4 or more but a few seeds scattered onto moist earth will yield salad after salad.

The self-imposed stigma of “I don’t know how to grow that” is being rinsed away by the flood of educational, inspiration materials available online. Learning how to grow food has never been easier, and growing it hasn’t had this sense of urgency in a long time.

Gardening 2.0

Our phones have become extensions of our hands. A recent survey by Forbes found that 40% of “millennials” (born 1981-1996) would rather lose their car than their phone. I’m not even kidding. Wireless tech impacts every aspect of our lives.

Every garden trend report for the last few years has a garden-tech headline. There’s been the basic “Gardening 101” phone app for a while. Now there’s supersonic pens that imitate bees’ wings, infrared cameras that promise a better picture of plant health, and plant nanny apps that monitor your houseplants’ moisture and pH levels.

In this garden writer’s humble opinion, it’s all getting a bit silly. The gardening tech talk reminds me of when trend watchers promised the death of printed books. Printed books survived the existentialist challenge of e-readers because people value experiences.

Gardening is about moist earth in your hands and tomato juices dripping down your chin. It’s visceral and fulfills a deep need for connection with earth that few other things can. Technology will play a valuable educational role in the garden but will never be the star. That’s my hope, anyway.

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