Overall, it was a good year, with an explosion in vegetable gardening, and a renewed emphasis on sustainable gardening and sustainable living, period. But will there be a lasting impact? Is it all just hype that will quickly fade? I don’t really know, but after looking at Ranter posts from the last year, and soliciting the help of fellow garden bloggers Idaho Gardener, May Dreams Gardens, Red Dirt Ramblings, and Mrs. McGregor’s Daughter, I have compiled a list of the good, the bad, and the sort of ugly from 2009, sorting them into instances of WIN and FAIL.
WIN: Over 7 million NEW households joined the edible (vegetables, herbs, and fruit) gardening movement in 2009, according to the Garden Writer’s Association Foundation’s annual trends survey.
WIN: In an inspirational move, Michelle Obama plants a vegetable garden at the White House, aiming to encourage healthy eating and to educate kids about where their food comes from.
FAIL: At the same time, American newspapers and magazines, long a major resource for seasonal and regional gardening information, had a tough year. 428 magazines folded (about twice the number that launched), including many home and garden titles. Garden writers lost their jobs as either their newspaper folded or they were laid off. Notably, NPR, an island of subsidized stability in the scary world of traditional media, laid off its garden correspondent Ketzel Levine.
FAIL: Late blight affects tomato and other food crops throughout the Northeast, but the unkindest cut may be when some agricultural observers blame it on the increased numbers of home vegetable gardeners, claiming they were unknowingly buying infected plants from big boxes and not seeing the problems.
WIN: Chickens become the new pugs, as coop tours and support associations proliferate for newbie urban chicken owners. In a fight I personally witnessed, Buffalo legalizes city chicken keeping; cities across America become friendlier to chickens, urban farms, and other means of urban home food production. In Buffalo, we even have aquaponics—tomatoes and tilapia growing in the same strawbale greenhouse.
WIN: Bloggers gain recognition as a force to be reckoned with in garden media, with companies such as Botanical Interests, Proven Winners, Cobrahead, Fiskars, Troy-Bilt, and Timber Press reaching out to bloggers and other social media to facilitate honest public discussions of their products.
FAIL: Gardeners still don’t get much respect in the big bookstore chains (the gardening books are by the restrooms in Barnes and Noble and most of them are about cannabis anyway), garden centers still carry too many useless (and tacky) tchotchkies, and garden bloggers still lack their own bloggie category.
FAIL: Greenwashing becomes a common marketing tool, as companies figure they can continue to sell quick-fix sprays and potions, as long as they’re “natural.” The point they miss is that sustainable gardening depends on long-term changes in the way we garden, not just a new spray to aim.
WIN: Nonetheless, we are getting more sustainable. We’re starting to care more about producing delicious food than emerald-green lawns, and even native plants are gaining some traction as team players in the perennial garden.
Despite the serious crop problems I’ve noted, it was a good year for gardeners in many ways, and it’s getting better every year for garden bloggers. Thank you for reading, and please add your own WINS and FAILS in comments. I will be choosing from them and sending the winner a free copy of Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own by Bob Flowerdew—our final giveaway for the year. I will choose a winner Friday at 1 p.m.
Happy New Year!