It’s long been the Australian dream to own a backyard, one filled with soft green grass, beautiful flowering plants, a vegetable patch, deck and if you’re lucky a pool. However, with land block size falling and apartment blocks rising, Australian’s have been thinking outside the planter box to incorporate a garden space into their everyday living. Perhaps never have we appreciated these natural spaces, indoor or outdoor, more than in the last year.

While lockdown continues for some, Spring has sprung, and Aussies are waking up to smell the roses, by getting out into their gardens for the sake of their health. This month at Ekas we asked our Select Opinion Leaders about their spring gardening habits and the benefits they are feeling from spending time in and amongst their garden spaces.

You Don’t Need to Be an Expert to Discover Your Love for Gardening

With no lack of inspiration, from the great weather, landscaped public gardens, and long running shows such as Better Homes and Gardens, it’s no surprise Australians enjoy spending time in their garden. Nearly all Australians surveyed have access to an outdoor area at home, even if in the form of a shared space (4%). The majority have use of a backyard of some size (72%), and most also have access to a grassed area as part of their home (78%).

We asked participants to rate their skills as a gardener, and on average those surveyed scored themselves a 3.1 out of 5, with most describing themselves as somewhere between novice and an experienced gardener. Interestingly, while a majority aren’t self-described expert gardeners, nine out of ten Aussie adults do some form of gardening, whether it’s tidying the yard, tending to flower gardens, growing fruits and vegetables, or caring for indoor plants.

When it comes to why Aussies are in their Gardens and spending their time growing and maintaining, it seems besides from relaxation, the most common uses for outdoor spaces in Australia are entertaining (43%), eating (42%) and family time (42%). Particularly for Aussies under 30, other popular pastimes in the garden include listening to music (52%) and reading (44%). All of these are contributing reasons to why Aussies are in their garden and making it a space they want to spend their time in.

Not Just a Hobby for the Retired – Gardening Benefits All Ages

Gardening is an activity that can be done regardless of a person’s age, expertise or experience, and our survey found that gardening in Australia is a pastime shared by all age groups. Gone are the days where gardening was considered a hobby for older people – while Aussies under 30 are most likely to be restricted to a small courtyard, balcony, or simply indoor plants within their home, 60% of this age group are still gardening at least once a week.

Older Aussies are also still getting the benefits of their gardening activities. One self-described avid gardener described that this pastime made them feel “20 years younger, and at 86 that is a good feeling!”. Those with families have also described using the garden as an activity to do with their children, especially vegetable gardening.

Spring is Here, the Trees Are Re-leaved and So Are We…

It’s been a long and difficult year for many across Australia, and with many Aussies still predominantly confined to their homes, the warmer weather is a great relief and excuse to get out into our outdoor spaces. Most Aussies find that gardening helps to relax the mind and offer an escape from the day-to-day (86%).

“Gardening has a very calming effect on me, it lets me turn my mind off for 10 minutes each day and be surrounded by nature”

(Male, 20-29 years old)

Our poll found that of those spending the time doing garden work, 86% find enjoyment in the practice. We asked our participants to describe in more detail the reasons why they enjoy gardening – the response describes everything from feeling productive and a sense of accomplishment, to being in touch with nature and feeling environmentally conscious.

 “I enjoy working outside, and gardening gives me a sense of control and pride in my work. It makes me feel content.

(Female, 20-29 years old)

Sensory fulfilment was also a big feature, with Aussies describing the physical sensations of spending time in their gardens as invigorating, inspiring and calming, simply by being in the fresh air, sunshine, by the pleasant smells of their garden and by what they can see.

“I feel less stressed, connected with nature, grounded, empowered, humbled, and awed.”

(Female, 50-59 years old)

Now is the Time to Spring into Gardening Projects

As of this September, our survey found most Aussies are participating in gardening activities once or twice a week (44%), or more frequently (27%). As a result of the current covid restrictions in various locations and the warmer weather 58% of Australians say they’ve become more active in the garden than in previous years. With over half of Australian’s surveyed stating they are working on a spring gardening project.

“It’s a good time for gardening now – in the Spring everything is starting to come to life, and you feel like you can see results of your hard labour”

(Male, 40-49 years old)

Spring is an inspiring month for gardening – 77% of Aussies usually think about starting a new garden project around this time of year. In fact, 56% have already started a new garden project this Spring! Most are adding to their existing garden with new plants (73% are doing this), but over a third are completely re-doing their gardens (36%).

Veggie patches are very popular – over half of Aussies now have a veggie patch (56%)! Herbs are the most popular choice for veggie patch gardeners, and as a result, 43% of all Australians are currently growing their own herbs!

The next most common veggie patch plants are tomatoes (67% of have these in their patch), followed by lettuce, spinach, or another leafy vegetable (55%) as well as chilli (47%). Growing lemons is also very popular – 52% of home fruit & veggie growers have a lemon tree!

“I get a lot of pleasure from my vegetable garden. I love buying the plants and planting them and watching them grow, then I can pick the fresh crop”

(Female, 30-39 years old)

To Save Water or To Save Your Plants… That is the Question

Growing your own veggies seems like a sustainable choice and building diverse and healthy gardens can be a big help to our environment. However, maintaining gardens can also be a strain on natural resources, especially water.

Australians are of course very familiar with drought and water saving techniques, and we found currently 95% of Australians believe saving water when it comes to the garden is important. Most Aussies say they only use the amount of water needed to keep plants and the garden healthy (73%), but a significant number are prioritizing keeping their garden green and lush over strict water usage (16%), though they do state they try to minimize their water wastage.

Currently there are water restrictions or water saving regulations in place in all states and territories, except Queensland and the Northern Territory. Around 3 in 10 Australians are mainly using watering cans in their garden care (28%), while 5 in 10 are predominantly using the hose (49%). Approximately 1 in 10 are using a sprinkler to water their garden – most commonly in either NSW or VIC (46%), despite only being allowed to use this system between certain hours in much of these areas.

Most Aussies are trying to do the right thing when it comes to their water consumption in the garden – we found 61% are using water saving techniques, such as only using a watering can, collecting rainwater or grey water, or using mulch or water crystals to prolong moisture in soils. Our participants shared some suggestions for simple ways to up your water saving game:

  • Never empty the left-over water from your watering can, save it to use next time.
  • Put large containers outside when it rains to collect water for plants
  • Collect water to use in the garden from the kitchen, such as from washing vegetables
  • Check the weather conditions on a regular basis and don’t water if it’s due to rain

Making the Best Plant Choice for You and for the Environment…

One great way to reduce water consumption in your garden comes from the choice of plants to use – ground covering plants can assist in retaining moisture in soils, and native plants that are best suited to the climate are less likely to require additional watering.

When it comes to deciding on types of plants for the home garden, we found the most common consideration among our participants to be how much maintenance the prospective plant would require (65%), even more important to most than the price of the plant (50%).

Eight out of ten Aussies also believe in the importance of choosing Australian natives for their gardens – luckily natives can be some of the most drought resistant and easily maintained options. Natives can also provide colourful and unique flowers, with flowering plants being important to most of Australia’s home gardeners (83%).

Australians Keep Soils Healthy with Food Waste and Elbow Grease…

Another way to be environmentally conscious using the garden is to compost. Around half of Aussies are currently composting food scraps to use in the garden (50%). We found the top motivators for composting are to assist the garden (83%), to reduce waste (85%), and for the environmental benefits (73%).

Of the half of Australians who are not yet composting, around 22% say they are likely to start in the future. For many, a lack of space for a compost bin is the main barrier to their starting the exercise (38%). Hygiene issues are also a consideration – 37% of this group have concerns about unwanted odors, and 36% about unwanted pests (36%).

Convenient and effective as they may be, weed killers and other garden chemicals are not the most sustainable option – but we found that most Aussies are sticking to the tried and tested, pulling weeds out by hand (70% are using this method).

Time To Get into the Garden!

If you haven’t given gardening a try this Spring, perhaps it’s time to get outside and see what inspires you. An activity with range – it requires little skill or knowledge but has so many benefits – fresh air, sunshine and physical activity from gardening can be great for our bodies, but possibly the most impactful is the benefits to how we feel…

“Gardening makes me feel positive about the world as I watch the plants grow and flower”

 (Female, 30-39 years old)

Happy, productive, in control, creative, peaceful, invigorated – however your garden makes you feel is unique to you and your garden and the best part is that all it takes to find out is to step out and try!

Ekas spoke to 571 members on it’s panel Select Opinion Leaders in September 2021

Ekas Research
Ekas Research jaxon@ekas.com.au

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