I would like to beat the other forecasters to the punch with predictions for 2011. I realize it is only the middle of October but for gardening the year is just about over. To affirm that fact in less than three weeks radio stations start playing Christmas music! I do not like the sound of that either but fact here is an interesting fact. I am in the radio industry as well as gardening. I am co-host of the number one morning radio show in Ulster County. A little tid bit I found about radio ratings goes completely against what listeners say about hearing holiday music the first week of November. The radio station that starts playing Christmas music first by far wins the ratings for the fourth quarter. So while we say we do not like hearing holiday tunes so early we end up listening any way.
Organic is now passe'. Not going away but evolving into something more meaningful. In addition to more meaningful the evolution of organic into the next phase is also more durable, longer lasting and better for natural resources as well. We are beginning to hear more often the term sustainability. Sustainability is the new relevant term or re branding of organic. It is now not good enough to be organic in the market place. You now must be sustainable. There is quite a difference between the two. In many cases sustainable is not organic but leaves a smaller total footprint from raw ingredient to finished product. For example it is more sustainable for Great Britain to import sheep and sheep products from New Zealand than to raise sheep and produce products from them in England. First thought would cause one to think this can't be true because England and New Zealand are so far away. Well china is far away from most western markets yet look how much we import from them. When the climate is factored in New Zealand is just a far more productive place to raise sheep than England. I am not sure of the exact details but the "total footprint" is smaller even though a toe or two, air freight or shipping from NZ to England, may be larger.
However all is not what it seems with sustainable either. There has yet to be shake out of fact from marketing. A very strong under current amongst the green set is taking aim at certain garden practices relating to "sustainability." For instance lawns are not considered sustainable even though the functions they serve far surpass just a green carpet or status symbol in the neighborhood. In fact the "Great Campus Lawns" on universities are under attack as well. These vast open areas are gathering places for conversation, places of study, places to pass the time between classes, read a book or enjoy the sunny spring and fall days. Yes they must be mowed, sometimes watered, sometimes fertilized. And yes these practices are questionable under sustainability. But what about the social benefits and sense of community and gathering they provide. The pluses could indeed out weight the minuses.
Growing annuals, and therefore vegetables, is not considered by some to be sustainable. This claim comes from the amount of energy it takes to grow, ship, feed and water annuals every year. At first again it sounds plausible. But a look beneath the surface reveals the following. While it does take energy to grow, water and transport annuals the entire package and product is 100% recyclable. The soil, plant, remaining fertilizer can easily be composted and very seldom end up in the waste stream. The pot even if it is plastic is recyclable or at least re useable. Plastic flower pots are may times more sustainable then pots made from fiber, rice or other biodegradable products simply because they last longer. Biodegradable pots usually last two seasons. While they breakdown outdoors they must be manufactured more often than a pot lasting 10 years. This means 5 times more energy to ship and deliver them alone. Then one needs to add the energy to make them as well. Sustainability is not going away. Sustainability is to me the biggest trend in gardening for 2011 and the next several years from annuals, lawn care, vegetable and herb gardening. But since it is likely to become a run away train when it hits main stream a little forethought is in line before coupling up to this train.
In terms of real gardening trends for the future vertical gardening is hot. Container gardening, hydroponics, vertical gardening, and indoor gardening are on a collision course. It will be exciting to see what the category morphs into. I foresee a day when Grandma purchases a garden appliance/machine that can be wheeled indoors and out as the seasons change. This appliance will have a large area for storing tools, fertilizers and, growing medium underneath. A large reservoir resembling an aquarium, perhaps even containing fish, will sit below shallow trays where plants will grow. Water will circulate from the reservoir, via a timed pump, several times a day depending on the growing medium, to the plants and back to the reservoir. Now if fish are in the reservoir they will feed off plant roots. The plants will feed off the fish waste. There is no need to buy fish food or fertilizer in this set up. In fact on larger scale the fish could be harvested for food along with the spinach or herbs growing up top.
Above the plant tray an LED light system, capable of switching from red to blue color spectrum depending on growth phase, Will be automatically lowered up or down depending on plant height. This light will also be on a timer like the pump. All these things are already on the market place. What has to be done is for some product engineer to put them altogether in a neat well marketed package that the consumer will accept. Grandma will buy this "product" and not even know she is into hydroponics!
Still on the growth track: herbs, vegetable gardening, container gardening, composting, indoor gardening and hydroponics, healthier soil, canning
Slowing down: lawns (smaller but still important), Topsy Turvy, xeriscaping, drip irrigation, tick and mosquito control,
Never took off but needs to: soil fertility tests, mulching, moisture meters, ph tests, proper watering practices
Never really understood why in the first place: gazing balls, bio-dynamic gardening, organic grass seed, square foot gardening, hedge shears