During lockdown, seed sales may have soared, but what was our inner motivation for embracing the hearty thrill of the back yard?

Independent research by Forest Garden*, the UK’s largest supplier of wooden sheds and fencing, may have uncovered the truth behind the national lockdown obsession of Spring/Summer 2020.  It seems many of those new gardeners were simply looking for peace.

Here’s what the survey discovered:

‘Gardening helps my mental health’

More people agreed with this phrase than any of the other choices offered in the survey.

43% of respondents agreed – with the highest percentage being young men aged 16-24 (46%).  Here’s a group you may not normally expect to see engaged in gardening, perhaps using this engrossing activity as a way to combat the pressure of social isolation.  More people in the West Midlands (52%) and East Midlands (49%) agreed with this statement than in any other UK region. 51% of housewives/house husbands agreed, perhaps suggesting the need to escape from domesticity. 43% of those with under 16s in the home also agreed, reflecting the pressures of being holed up with one’s family life during lockdown.

Kathryn Rossiter, CEO of the gardening-for-health charity Thrive, said: “This survey shines a welcome spotlight on how gardening has been one of the heroes of the Covid-19 crisis.

“It shows that at a time of great uncertainty, many more people have discovered gardening as a positive activity for health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally.

“It backs up extensive research which shows the combination of physical exercise, meaningful activity and time in nature that gardening provides can reduce stress, anxiety and depression by giving us a sense of control, purpose and achievement.

“I hope that they will continue to enjoy these benefits as we ease back to more normal life.”

Lynsey Grinnell, head of marketing at Forest Garden Ltd, said: “It was fantastic to see UK gardeners using their extra home time in such a sustainable way.  And it’s heart-warming to discover that all this gardening has given a sense of peace during such an extraordinary period in all our lives.”

 ‘Gardening keeps me fit and healthy’

36% overall agreed. Amongst the over 65s, though, gardening becomes a very popular way to keep fit (with 47% agreeing). The fittest gardeners are in Northern Ireland (51%) and the West Midlands (47%).  63% of those who gardened for fitness also said it helped their mental health.

During lockdown, a quarter of men surveyed spent up to three hours more per day in their gardens than they normally would.  That equates to 300 hours over 100 days. In confectionary terms, those men would burned off more than 500 Mars Bars**.

 ‘Gardening provides fruit and vegetables for my table’

Whilst most British gardens have an abundance of shrubs and flowers placed there to look attractive (64% according to the HTA), more than a quarter (27%) of respondents interviewed specifically about their lockdown gardening behaviour had gardened to grow edibles. The figure rose to 34% amongst the over 55s. And in the South West, 41% agreed with the statement.  Of the many hundreds of products offered for sale by Forest Garden, its most popular lines during lockdown were Grow Your Own products such as wooden raised beds, planters and greenhouses.

 ‘Gardening is a family activity’

22% agreed with this statement nationally. Londoners (27%) and those in the East Midlands (also 27%) were the most family orientated.  As you may expect, 43% with under 16s in the house used gardening as a family pastime – and (worth noting) an equal number of this group gardened for their mental health during lockdown, suggesting the need to escape from the pressures of family life.

Lynsey Grinnell said: “This research re-confirms what we, and dozens of other companies in the garden sector, have noted during lockdown: a massive increase in interest in outside spaces. Whilst our homes are our castles, for those lucky enough to have their own outdoor space – whether a tiny terrace or expansive plot – our gardens have been giving endless enjoyment and have been a focal point for family life.” 

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