Cory Dunn has been gardening for years, but never this much.
After seeing food shortages at her local grocery stores due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 27-year-old mom of two kicked her family’s edible garden up a notch.
She decided not to worry about landscaping or planting flowers in her Colorado Springs yard. Instead, she started growing everything from tomatoes to broccoli to snap peas.
“For my family, it’s more about being self-sufficient, which is something that has always been important to us,” she said. “But seeing the food shortages due to COVID really pushed us harder to get our garden in and make it a priority.”
Dunn isn’t alone.
As people spend more time at home, the pandemic has created a spike in edible gardening, according to a national survey from grower Bonnie Plants.
The survey found that 30% of those who plan to grow their food are gardening for the first time, with the majority of people listing COVID-19 as the top reason they chose to grow their own herbs or vegetables.
In Dunn’s case, “the extra time due to COVID was just an added bonus,” she said.
The survey showed that younger people are driving the edible garden frenzy. Nearly 2 in every 5 Americans younger than 35 are now growing their own herbs or vegetables.
Amy Enfield, a horticulturist for Bonnie Plants, calls those numbers “insane.” But the rise of gardeners happened for a reason.
“People were concerned if there was going to be accessible produce in the store,” Enfield explains.
“People started fearing there would be no fresh produce, so what better to do than grow it at home?”
And why younger people? Enfield says “there’s a nurturing aspect” about gardening. And a comforting aspect.
To cater to younger people living in small houses or apartments, Bonnie Plants is releasing a new collection of plants that are specially designed to produce high yields in small spaces.
“A lot of young gardeners don’t have the room for large, in-ground gardens, so we’re focusing more on compact spaces where people can grow container and vertical gardens,” Enfield said.
Susan Spencer, who owns Spencer’s Produce Lawn & Garden Centers, has “noticed a definite increase in people being interested in vegetable gardening.”
Her shop has been busier than usual with customers buying raised garden beds and vegetable seeds.
Along with the concern about shortages, Spencer says people also have come into her shop looking for a new hobby.
“They have more time on their hands and they’ve been at home more,” she said. “They’re looking for something to do.”
Extra points if that something doesn’t require leaving the house.
“Your garden can become a safe haven,” Spencer said. “Especially when you can’t go anywhere else.”
Phelan Gardens also has seen extra business. Andrew Cronk, the shop’s manager, said the store has doubled its regular sales. Phelan has nearly sold out of its vegetable supply several times.
“Everyone’s trying to grow something,” he said. “There’s this massive influx of people getting into it. They’re realizing it’s a way to be sustainable on their own.”