It might not seem as if teens and gardening have much in common, but the generation known as ‘millennials’ has taken gardening over and embraced it.
By Karla Dalley, special to We-Ha.com
When it comes to gardening and teens, what trends have emerged and what can the rest of us learn from these younger gardeners?
The biggest trend is house plants. Just this year, articles have appeared in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post about young people’s love of house plants. And they’re not shy about sharing that love!. They blog about it, Instagram it and post on Pinterest.
Stores devoted to nothing but house plants have opened up – some of them in our area. Why is this trend important? First, “house” plants are badly named. Many of them are tropical plants that are perennials in a warmer climate. That means that we can bring them in and out (if we so choose) from year to year. We can make them container plants – or part of our container plantings – and then repurpose them as “house” plants again in the fall.
What sort of plants are we talking about?
Common plants like begonias and vining plants like philodendron, Swedish ivy, regular ivy, plectranthus, creeping fig – all of those make great “spillers” (as creeping plants are known) for your containers – and then can come into the house in the fall.
For “thrillers” (or dramatic upright plants), try something like a croton or a snake plant. Surround the snake plant with succulents and you have a water-wise arrangement that you can repurpose indoors (so long as you have a bright window in winter).
Our “terrific teens” can even take these house plants with them to their dorms and apartments. Many house plants are known to help purify the air – and that’s something that might be useful in dorm living.
The next “trend” (if you want to call it that – this is much bigger than a trend really) is edibles. Millennials like to grow their own, whether it’s food, herbs, hops for brewing or specialized items in “cocktail” gardens.
There are many reasons for this trend. One is that millennials (and many other folks) want fresh, safe, healthy food. One of the best ways to get that is to grow it. Without too much effort – and without any land (more in a moment) you can grow a reasonable amount of what you might like to eat, even in our relatively cool climate.
If you’d like to do a bit more and add a cold frame to extend your gardening season, or some lights so that you can grow indoors in an unused room or basement, now the options are expanded even more. There are even tabletop kits that allow you to grow herbs or lettuce under lights right in the kitchen so that you always have a few healthy greens right at your fingertips. This is a “trend” that isn’t going away any time soon particularly with the continuing food health scares in the news.
This is also something our teens can take away with them to supplement some of their meal plans.
Smaller is Better
The final thing that we can learn from the millennials is that bigger is not always better. Just as they are embracing urban areas, they are embracing rooftop gardens, tiny backyard gardens, and other small spaces. So, if you don’t have a large garden – or perhaps you live in a condo and just have a balcony – there are whole books that have been written about gardening in such spaces now.
In one of my college apartments, I gardened through a window, in containers, on a rooftop. I grew a tomato and a rose in flower pots. The exposure was east and as I recall, the rose did well, the tomato not so much (probably because the pot was too small). But I gardened.
‘I have pretty much gardened everywhere I have lived (I am sure this comes as no surprise, since I write this column). When I lived in Hartford, I had a sunny balcony that was 48 square feet. I had a Japanese maple in a pot and I planted grass beneath it. I regularly planted tomatoes, but I also planted lettuce and green beans! I had miniature roses, and all sorts of other things – hibiscus trees that I would bring in for the winter, orchids that I would put out for the summer – I think I counted 96 plants around the perimeter of the balcony.
So small is no obstacle to planting. It can be a delight and an obsession.
Let’s take lessons from the trends that the millennials are helping to popularize and let’s get out and garden!
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