Why More Young Men Are Getting Into Gardening

Gary, Gary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Wait, that’s not how the old nursery rhyme goes. Who is Gary, and what’s he doing in the garden? Chances are Gary is a young guy, somewhere between the ages of 18 and 34. Not only is Gary interested in gardening, he’s likely to spend 100 dollars more than the average gardener on the supplies needed for a garden that will turn his buddies green with envy over his green thumb.

Gary is one of the growing number of young men cultivating a sound body, a keen mind, better mental health, and other benefits by getting down and dirty in the garden.

Man vs Myth

Gardening? C’mon, that was my grandma’s hobby! It’s true that for many young men, gardening conjures up images of older women in floppy straw hats. They should check out the 1963 movie classic, “The Great Escape.” When British POWs need to get rid of dirt from an escape tunnel’s excavation, they surreptitiously distribute the soil into vegetable gardens tended by the prisoners. The camp commander suspects nothing because English men are known to be enthusiastic gardeners. So, gardening helps facilitate one of the largest prison camp breakouts of World War II. Talk about manly!

Still, even among men who garden, the stereotypical age pushes the middle years and beyond. That’s changing, thanks in part to two things younger men have been known to embrace enthusiastically; beer and grilling.

Hip Hops

The craft beer and home brewing revolution is tailor-made for the young man with a green thumb and a discriminating beer palate. Hops are a key beer ingredient, and the fresher, the better for a home brew’s taste. With that in mind, some beer-loving gardeners are growing their own hops, either at home or in community gardens specifically designed for homebrew aficionados. Growing hops at home is easier than it sounds, not to mention a great conversation starter for visitors.


The Thriller on the Griller

Lord of the Briquette. Big Kahuna of Barbecue. Sultan of Shish Kebab.  Whatever title you prefer, on countless patios and decks from coast to coast, grilling is a guy thing. It’s almost a rite of passage for young men to get their first grill, missing only a ceremonial passing of the apron and tongs from one generation to the next.

While many young men remember the outdoor grill as Dad’s Domain, they’re not ready to turn completely into their dad just yet, so they’ve added a new wrinkle. They’re embracing trends in foodie culture, growing their own vegetables, adding color to the yard and the grill as they toss the veggies fresh from the garden onto the barbecue.

All in the Family

For some younger men, the attraction to gardening goes deeper than beer and grilling. As parental roles evolve, more dads are staying at home. U.S. Census Bureau figures show that one-third of American fathers whose wives work outside the home take care of their children on a regular basis. Keeping young kids engaged and getting them out of the house can be a challenge for any parent. Stay at home dads are discovering that the garden opens up new worlds of engagement, education, and dad to kid bonding.

Growing a Healthy Body and Mind

Joining a softball league, playing pick-up basketball, hiking mountain trails; they’re all popular activities that illustrate how seriously young men take their health and fitness. Gardening might seem to pale in comparison to the workout you get on an elliptical, a treadmill, or with weights, but there’s a lot more to health than burning calories and sculpting six-pack abs. Medical experts cite both physical and mental benefits associated with gardening.

Life Lessons

The rise of young men as avid gardeners started before COVID, but the pandemic contributed to the surge. As men spent more time at home, many wanted to become more self-sufficient and create more stimulating outdoor spaces. The garden became a place where men could enjoy the satisfaction of growing food for themselves and their families, form closer connections with loved ones, and explore sides of themselves they may not have known they had. For many young men, growing a garden means growing up.

Photo credits

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Photo by Daniel Hooper on Unsplash

Pat Woodard

View posts by Pat Woodard
Pat Woodard is a freelance writer who takes occasional breaks from high country hikes in Colorado to chase golf balls, rainbow trout, and full-bodied red wines. He's also a longtime radio and television broadcaster, documentary producer, and runner-up on “Jeopardy.”

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