Won’t you be my neighbor?

Departments - Straight Talk | Honest insights from an IGC expert

Encourage front-yard gardening for community-building.

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March 5, 2020

Creating a front-yard garden gives customers’ homes more curb appeal and offers them a chance to make friends with more neighbors.
PHOTO ©TOMAZL, ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

Front-yard gardening isn’t a new trend. Many of us in the industry have been encouraging consumers for years to engage in edible landscaping and ornamental gardening in their front yards. When it comes to edibles, you’ve got to grow where the sun shines, even if that’s your front yard. However, the reasons why many hobbyists are shifting to grow more in their front yards are evolving. It’s not just cucumbers gardeners are looking to harvest from their front yards, it’s also a community. Front-yard gardening for friendship is in.

It’s no secret that it’s much easier to become socially isolated in the age of social media. Neighborhoods are not what they were in the last century and many of us have little to no meaningful relationships with our next-door neighbors — even if we live in dense urban environments. This type of disconnection can breed mistrust, conflict, intolerance and a general feeling of isolation.

Loneliness and depression are on the rise in our society. According to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America, anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old. Twenty-five percent. That figure shocked me. ADSA also reports that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with almost 75% of people with mental disorders going untreated in developing countries. Business Insider warns that millennials are “lonely, burned out and depressed” and is a group headed for what they call a “health shock” due to decline in mental health.

This is not good, folks.

Many younger plant and garden consumers and apartment dwellers are actively seeking a more human community with fellow plant lovers in the form of plant swaps and other group meet-ups. Face-to-face interaction is now something they seem to crave. I suspect a sense of isolation contributes to the surge in plant-related socialization.

A common remedy offered for combatting anxiety and depression these days is to immerse oneself in nature. Forest bathing and nature hikes are commonly recommended to soothe the modern-day anxious soul. But not all of us live near a beautiful, hikeable forest or have the time or ability to flee the city or suburbs on the regular. But many of us do have a front yard in which to plant and grow. So why not turn our front yards into our own nature oasis and plant community meet up space? I think this is a landscape trend we all should endorse and encourage.

From plenty of personal experience, I’ll tell you that the minute you start growing more plants in your front yard, incorporate edibles into your ornamental landscaping or put in some raised vegetable boxes, you’re going to meet new people. The curiosity sparks will start to fly amongst your neighbors, as will the questions and conversation. I’ve met most of my neighbors, in all my neighborhoods, through front-yard gardening.

PHOTO ©VLADIMIR VLAIDMIROV, ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

I will even go as far as to say — again based on personal experience — that front-yard gardeners can be effective crime deterrents. We’re visible on our property regularly and are active observers of activity and patterns of behavior on our streets.

Due to social pressures, one also tends to be a bit more attentive to tidiness and weeds in a front-yard garden. All of your neighbors can see it 24/7 after all. That means gardeners probably spend a bit more time out in their front-yard gardens tending and cleaning. The more time spent out front, the more interactions you’re bound to have with your neighbors; and the more friends you can make. And, just think of the curb appeal effect on the entire neighborhood.

Not to mention, getting out in the garden is great for your physical and mental health. Most of us need to get more exercise these days, but it doesn’t always need to happen on the treadmill. I find gardening to be an incredibly effective anxiety-reducing activity. It’s amazing the positive effects that getting out into the garden and doing a bit of raking or planting can have on your mood and overall mental state. And your biceps.

Landscape design and gardening trends are currently moving towards a less formal style, with a bigger focus on food and wildlife support. A growing tolerance for a looser and lusher garden style creates the perfect opportunity for a boost in front-yard gardening.

As more homeowners loosen their emotional grip on having the perfect monoculture lawn or boxed hedges, now’s the time to encourage your customers to grow outside of the backyard box; and in the process, they can make some new front-yard friends.

Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies. lesliehalleck.com