Data from the National Gardening Association survey shows that we break out along these lines:
- 2% of us consider ourselves Master Gardeners.
- 7% are Garden Enthusiasts
- 31% are Casual Gardeners
- 23% are Reluctant Gardeners
- 15% Just Cut the Grass
- 23% Couldn’t Give a Damn. (Translation: they probably don’t even have a yard.)
They go on to dissect each group and analyze why they don’t garden more. Although the percentages vary, it boils down to time, money, and space. The report cites a dizzying array of information that consumers lack–information that, if only we grasped it better, would cause us to garden more. Gardening is good exercise. It improves our property values. It reduces stress. And crime. It improves community connections. And the school performance of children. Oh, and I loved this one: "There’s a study that indicates that walking in a garden helped women recover from breast cancer."
Here’s what bothers me about this stuff. You either love gardening or you don’t. You either laugh when a spider drops casually out of your hair as you sit pulling weeds, or you shriek in horror. You either long to be knee-deep in a pile of aged horse manure or you hold your nose. You either get goose bumps when you see those tiny white shoots emerging from a root crown in spring or–or you get goose bumps from something else! I don’t think anybody ever sat down and analyzed the data about what gardening would add to their lives and made a rational decision about whether to go dig in the dirt.
But that’s just what the garden industry wants us to do. Familiarize ourselves with the data, and then hand them our credit cards. I read statements like this, and it just makes me want to crawl into the chicken coop and hide: "If a box of Cheerios is good for your heart (it tells you so right on the box), why doesn’t the plant packaging say that plants and gardening can reduce stress?"
Yeah. That’s gonna work.
Part Three: What Now?
Make it easier. That’s what this whole thing boils down to. Make gardening less time-consuming. Less confusing. Eliminate the hard work. Sell fool-proof plants. Sell plants as decor, not plants. If they think it’s decor, they’ll buy it. It’s as if making the gardening experience even more bland will somehow draw people to it.
I dunno, folks. I want it to be tricky. I want it to be interesting. I’m OK if it doesn’t always work. I’m OK with taking a while to figure something out.
Come on. I know some non-gardeners. I bet some of you do, too. Would a label on a plant saying that gardening reduces stress make them go outside and start digging? Would anything?