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The Growing Popularity of Home Gardens

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How home builders and landscape architects are adapting to the rising trend

These days, home gardening is in full bloom. The act itself has been proven to positively impact therapeutic and physical health, along with the environment. According to data from BiggerGarden, 55% of American households actively garden.

Either as a wellness boost, a positive pastime or a way to create additional food sources, home gardens are surging. A major driver that boosted its popularity was the COVID-19 pandemic. A staggering 18.3 million people gravitated toward cultivating green space not only to occupy themselves but also to become more self-reliant. And now, with soaring food prices and inflation, home gardening saves homeowners a significant amount of dough month after month. Rather than going to the grocery store to pick up the next batch of produce, people now prefer to walk into their yards to shop for fruit, vegetables and bouquets.

Related: Beyond Curb Appeal

Gardening has been impactful on homeowners’ lives—and the economy. And many homeowners need to spend some money to jumpstart their overall savings and wellness benefits. BiggerGarden’s survey also shows that adults are spending more than $37 billion dollars on gardening supplies like outdoor tools and hydroponic kits for indoor growing.

© Elite Landscape & Outdoor Living

While gardening, for some, might conjure up images of grandmothers and homesteaders, that’s no longer the case. A hefty 44% of new pandemic gardeners are from Gen Z, who were born between 1997 and 2012, and 34% are from Gen X, born between 1965 and 1980.

In addition to long-term savings and health benefits, numerous innovations and approaches to home gardening in recent years have been driven by additional factors like sustainability, space constraints and technological advancements. Here are nine trends Colorado-based professional gardeners, builders and landscapers are noticing and how they’re adapting.

1. It’s a family affair

Where gardening was once primarily enjoyed by one passionate member of the family who took it on as a hobby, Adrian Wisniewski, project development manager at Melton Design Build in Boulder, says he’s seeing home gardening now used more as a family activity.

“It’s a way to teach kids where food comes from while keeping them off devices,” Wisniewski says. “It has become a form of family bonding to get outdoors and calm the soul while learning about nature.”

Related: Six Outdoor Design Trends

2. Garden design is mindful

Peter Van, owner of Elite Landscape & Outdoor Living in Highlands Ranch, says his approach to creating an outdoor gardening space is two-fold: keep the space in mind and the types of plantings. His designers lay out the garden and create separate spaces for different plantings, labeling the areas based on the amount of sunlight they receive (full or partial sun, afternoon shade, etc.). The plants’ lifecycles, in terms of blooming and hibernating, are also taken into consideration.

“After we create a space, we choose plants and vegetables that would thrive in those areas,” he says.

Van says that one of the biggest obstacles he encounters while helping to create a new home garden are weeds and poor soil quality in areas with newer constructed homes.

3. Edible gardens are on the rise

Whether annuals, perennials, shrubs or trees, dual-purpose edimentals—plants that are both ornamental and edible—are grown for both visual value and as food. Yard-to-table landscaping lets homeowners enjoy a beautiful, edible, bountiful garden that adds visual appeal to the yard. From colors that make a major impact to plants that can be placed on the plate, with approximately 20,000 edible plant species, there’s no shortage of selections for homeowners to choose from. Berries, rainbow chard and edible flowers like sunflowers and daylilies fall into this category. Edimentals also attract pollinators and other wildlife.

When it comes to vegetables, tomato plants are a top choice, which are perfect for anyone born with a black thumb; these plants produce a high value for their limited footprint. Cucumbers and peppers are close seconds while beans, asparagus, broccoli and onions also fare well in Colorado’s climate. The same goes for vegetables like kale, which doesn’t require a large area to grow and features drought-tolerant roots. Herbs like lavender, sage and thyme add fragrance and depth to cuisine.

Related: Create a Sanctuary with These Top Privacy Plants

4. People want impactful color (and cut-able) arrangements

Bold, moody colors, like deep purples and greens and dark foliage, are on the rise, increasing curb appeal when complementing the home’s exterior color palette. Low-maintenance options, like ornamental grass and evergreen shrubs, keep a baseline color, with high appeal no matter the season. Homeowners also appreciate being able to pick a bouquet directly from their own garden. Most florals in cutting gardens require full sun, six to eight hours per day, plus high-quality soil that’s brimming with nutrients.

5. Eco-conscious is important

In Colorado’s semi-arid landscape, water is in greater demand as populations grow. Pollinator-friendly plants, like milkweed and borage, foster safe havens for endangered pollinators like monarch butterflies and bees. When Larry Elmore, business manager at Lyons-based Wildlife Garden Habits, started his company more than a decade ago, there was only one focus: to create wildlife habitat gardens that support birds, bees, caterpillars and butterflies. And it remains the same today. “Everything we design for the planting spaces fits into this parameter,” Elmore says. “Our approach is to create as natural looking a garden as possible that mimics the natural world around us. Since we live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, we let the surrounding nature guide our designs.”

Elmore points out that while you may spend quite a bit for your landscape installation, the long-term expense of water will far exceed those costs over time. Attention should be spent on the plants that your landscape team is recommending. “Every homeowner needs to support the natural world,” Elmore says. “The time for just pretty flowers is over. You need to support your wildlife with nectar plants, host plants, water, nesting and shelter, and trees.”

6. Less water is better

“We are contacted by homeowners that want to shift away from water-intensive landscaping to less water-intensive, more sustainable gardens,” Elmore says. A good portion of his work these days is replacing water-demanding bluegrass lawns with more sustainable native habitat gardens. His company is also seeing a small shift by local communities to require less sod and more sustainable landscaping for new home developments.

7. Newer technologies make gardening easier

While the practice remains a hands-on experience for homeowners, advancements in technology have made it more accessible, efficient and enjoyable. Van says a popular trend for irrigation systems is switching to a Bluetooth-enabled sprinkler system. “This feature allows you to control your sprinkler system wherever you are,” he says. Bluetooth and wi-fi enabled smart irrigation systems automatically adjust watering schedules based on plant breeds, soil moisture levels and weather predictions to promote healthier plant growth and conserve water. Additionally, remote monitoring systems, like sensors and cameras, send real-time alerts to smartphones, allowing users to address issues promptly.

Related: Elevating Outdoor Spaces

8. Cost and time are important factors

For Wisniewski, cost is always at the forefront of the early design meetings. “If we can avoid large structures or hardscapes, the cost can stay low,” he says. “Once we start designing patios, decks, pergolas, outdoor kitchens and such, the cost goes up while the design takes longer and is far more involved.”

The level of maintenance is also high on the priority list. “Today’s gardeners want to be involved in the fun stuff but unplugged from the minutiae,” he says. “Creating a palette of plants that play well together and don’t need daily maintenance but also require enough work to get you out there on the weekends to get your hands dirty is a fine balance that is worth focusing on.”

He believes homeowners should understand the ebb and flow of how the site changes throughout the season. “In a strange way, the site will tell you what it wants to be,” he says. “Like nature, it shouldn’t be forced or too complex. And although there will be countless revisions to the design, it should always feel like it was always there, and it just took our team to discover and create it.”

9. Smart solutions to space constraints

While the majority of gardeners are homeowners, one doesn’t need a large yard to reap the benefits. The average garden size per household, according to BiggerGarden, is 12 feet by 8 feet or 600 square feet.

New approaches to home gardening that Van is seeing include solutions to small spaces and raised beds for people who love gardening but don’t want to deal with pests and weeds.

Interest in container gardening increased by an impressive 200% between 2021 to 2022, according to the National Gardening Association. Container gardening, which includes hanging gardens, offers a low barrier to entry, especially for anyone looking to dip their toes in gardening before committing to a garden bed.

Related: Smart Irrigation for Residential Landscapes

In addition to container gardening and raised beds, vertical gardening allows homeowners to take advantage of their space in all varieties, such as fences, trellises, hanging containers and pergolas. Square foot gardens, traditionally one-foot by one-foot areas, typically maximize their footprint by planting different crops in each square according to a specific spacing pattern.

“Square foot gardens are great for those who love gardening but have a smaller space to work with,” Van says. “It is one square foot and allows you to grow in the small space with the right planning of plants.”

As homeowners continue to prioritize being active players in sustainability, the dynamics of landscaping will continue to evolve and flourish.

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Author

  • Emily O'Brien

    Emily O’Brien is a regular contributor to several news, lifestyle, and entertainment websites. Throughout the past decade, she's worked on numerous magazines, serving as the senior digital editor of Old House Journal, New Old House, and Period Homes, and as the managing editor of Traditional Building. She’s also the former editorial director of Boulder Lifestyle and Cherry Creek Lifestyle. Whether she's interviewing Olympic athletes, small business owners, dessert cookbook writers, or world-renowned architects, she's passionate about shining the spotlight on good people doing remarkable work.

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