It Starts with a Square

Trendy & Tasty: Gardening In 2021

BY Regan Hewitt

Throughout the past year, we all searched for hobbies that kept us engaged and relaxed in equal measure, so it’s no surprise that gardening hit new heights during 2020. “With so many people staying at home, there was a surge in pastimes such as gardening and cooking that provided a sense of calm and accomplishment when we weren’t able to get out and do [our] former favorite activities,” said Angelo Kelvakis, Rise Gardens© Director of Research & Development and Master Horticulturist. 

First spurred by the sudden lack of produce and ingredients at the grocery store early last year, home gardeners kept up the practice and the trend has only grown. Within just a few months of lockdown, seed companies across the United States saw a double or triple increase in sales, reported Reuters©. 

Source: Rise Gardens

Few people are actually harvesting enough veggies and fruits to feed their families full-time, but they are stretching what they buy from the grocery store and using it as a teaching opportunity for their kids. Whether you’re high-tech gardening indoors or getting dirt under your fingernails outside, the act of gardening is family-friendly, soothing and environmentally sustainable, so its popularity practically explains itself. 

“People are drawn to gardens instinctively as a way to reduce stress and bring moments of joy into our lives. There’s nothing like the feeling of seeing a seed sprout and turn into a beautiful, nutritious plant that can feed our families,” explained Kelvakis. 

So whether you prefer to stay in the air-conditioning or feel the sun on your brow,  here are some ways you can catch up on this gardening trend: 

Indoor Gardens

One of the most popular recent inventions is the “indoor garden,” where you can hydroponically grow veggies, herbs and flowers. “Hydroponics is a technique of growing plants that uses water instead of soil in order to get nutrients to the plants. In soil, microorganisms break down complex organic chemicals into forms that plants can take up. In hydroponics, because we don’t have those same microorganisms, you supply nutrients in their simplest form which plants can immediately absorb. This is one of the reasons why hydroponics can grow food faster than soil,” said Kelvakis. 

Source: Rise Gardens

Some options can even fit on the kitchen counter, so fresh produce is always top of mind! Most indoor gardens provide you with 4-6 seed pods at a time, allow you to fill a reservoir tank for watering and provide automatic perfect light via an attached UV lamp that hovers above the seeds.

Kelvakis recommends growing produce with cooking in mind. “When you are able to grow greens like red and green lettuce, kale, chard and arugula, you can make some tasty salads,” he said. Lettuce greens, a variety of herbs — from basil to chamomile — and small tomatoes are easiest to grow indoors, as they can be harvested and eaten fairly quickly.

Indoor Gardening Options: 

  • Rise Gardens©  
  • AeroGarden® 
  • The Farmstand by Lettuce Grow®  
Source: Rise Gardens

Outdoor Gardens 

Backyards are places for fun and relaxation but they can also be highly functional spaces to grow a variety of veggies for the upcoming season. When starting to plan out a backyard garden, gardener Ben Powers recommends tracking the sunlight in your yard, figuring out what you want to grow so you can determine the right growth schedule and paying attention to the quality of your soil. “I initially tried to start a garden in 2020 and didn’t pay attention to the soil quality — it totally failed, but I learned a lesson about quality and fertilization,” Powers laughed. MiracleGro© also recommends keeping in mind where your water source is located. It’s easier to bring a hose to a garden bed than to carry a heavy watering can! 

A 2019 study of home gardens, conducted by the University of Tennessee’s Department of Plant Sciences, revealed that bean varieties, okra, cucumbers, squash varieties, collards and pumpkins all grow fairly well throughout the state. Powers said, “I’ve found success with mustard greens, lettuce, yellow squash and leafy greens like chard, cabbage and bok choy.” 

However, there are also outdoor options for people who don’t want to get too dirty. Collierville resident Cindy Richards uses Tower Gardens® by JuicePLUS+©, which combines aeroponic and hydroponic gardening to achieve near perfect results. “The roots are suspended in air and fertilized water is pumped through. There are no weeds and you use about 90% less water than in the ground. Your produce grows twice as fast and you get twice as much,” she explained. 

Outdoor Gardening Options: 

  • Elevated garden bed
  • Tower Gardens® by JuicePLUS+©  
  • Vertical gardening trellis

Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, starting small or building big in the backyard, gardening can bring you joy, fresh food and a sense of satisfaction. “These [veggies] are riper and more nutritious than grocery store produce,” Richards said. “It’s a healthy thing for me, that’s why I do it.” 

So, don’t feel overwhelmed and just ease into it! “[Starting a garden] can seem like a lot,” said Powers, “but don’t hesitate. You can always figure it out. Don’t overthink it.” We hope you find advice and inspiration from this article — now get out there and start growing! 

Gardening Tips & Tricks

  • Start small and experiment! Powers recommends using a 4×4 garden bed at first and utilizing the “Square Foot” gardening method, which simplifies the gardening process by dividing the bed into a grid and allows for planting seeds closer together. “It shades out weeds and creates a microclimate,” he said. 
  • If you don’t want to break the bank on testing local soil or buying enough premium topsoil to fill an entire garden bed, alternate topsoil with yard waste, such as dead leaves and grass clippings. 
  • Visit a local garden center! Local employees and owners will be able to advise you on what grows well in your area, the pros and cons of different gardening styles and so much more. Powers recommends buying your seeds here as well. 
  • Invest in gardening books and digital gardening journals, such as Territorial Seed Company’s Garden Planner©, for tracking growth, sending planting reminders and more. 
  • Have fun with it! Whether you’re aiming to be a “market gardener” who sells food at a local farmer’s market or simply trying to have fresh salads each day of summer, never let the stress of your vision get in the way of enjoying your garden.

story | Regan Hewitt

September/October 2021 Tour Collierville Magazine