The Chicago Journal

One Out of Three People Took to Gardening during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Study Finds

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Research from the University of Georgia revealed that the green industry—gardening and establishing plant nurseries—has seen massive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, the study’s proponents say that the boom may not persist after coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

With 4,200 participants, the study found that one out of three people started gardening in 2020 because they had to stay at home more. Others also installed new grass lawns and plant beds and started landscaping.

“You had low interest rates, so you had a lot of people refinancing, which gave them money to invest in their homes,” said Benjamin Campbell, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “You had people at home looking for something to do, whether by themselves or with their kids. That led to a huge demand for plants.”

But less than half of the participants also said that they don’t plan to continue gardening. At the same time, one out of 10 who began gardening in 2020 said that they intend to continue gardening, including 11% of Gen Xers and 13% of millennials and younger.

“We saw a lot of younger consumers come into the market because of the pandemic and because they were having to stay home,” Campbell said. “Plants have been shown to help with a lot of different things related to people’s psyche. Gardening not only gave people something to do, but it also gave them a little bit more happiness.”

A number of participants also cited food as their reason for gardening.

About 14% of respondents said they aimed to continue gardening in the future, especially with supply chain issues and worker shortages causing food shortages. In addition, there is a growing concern that supermarkets may not return to full capacity as they were before the pandemic.

Moreover, food costs are also going up, partly because of inflation. But, the cost of fertilizers and plants is also increasing for the same reason.

“Plants are not really a necessity, but if I’m thinking about building a bunker in the backyard, I’m buying seeds,” Campbell said. “If I go and buy a tomato plant, I have to keep it alive. If I have a seed, I just leave it in the bag until I need it.”

The study was co-authored by David San Fratello, a master’s of agribusiness graduate from the University of Georgia; William Secor, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics; and Julie Campbell, assistant research scientist in the Department of Horticulture. It was published by the American Society for Horticultural Science.