Gardening Magazine

Gardening. A Young Man’s Game.

By Plantedd @Plantedd

The Being a Man festival at the Southbank Centre started this morning and continues all weekend.  There are music and theater events, panels and talks, looking at “what it means to be a man today”.   We’ve all got our answers to that, even if it’s a stoic reproach that navel gazing for men should go no further than clearing out belly button fluff.  Gaze a little deeper though and part of what it means to be a man today might include gardening.

Man gardening

Photograph: b.gruener/Creative Commons

There are a tangle of different reasons why young men are taking up gardening.  For some men, it’s a way to grow their own veg and live more sustainably and for others, the urban grit of something like guerilla gardening or community gardens makes more sense and makes it more accessible.  The increase in stay-at-home dads – and fathers playing a bigger role in childcare generally – also means that more men are venturing into the garden.

It’s easy to make too much of it, but there can sometimes be a particularly masculine nature to how young men garden.  Areas like tropical gardening and rock gardens are disproportionately the domain of men, where discussions might go over the technical details of overwintering a banana or the obsessive pursuit to collect all the different species of Chinese primulas.  Men will also tend to be the ones using gadgets and technology.  There have been quite a few projects on the Kickstarter crowdfunding website for hydroponics kits or devices that keep an eye on how much light or water your plants are getting.

None of these different strands of gardening are part of the mainstream (yet), but that’s almost the point.  Gardening is a broad enough church to support various niches and young men are casting a hobby in their own mold – one which is confident and relaxed and takes gardening on its own terms.   It is neither looking over its shoulder for the ghosts of Victorian ladies and their cottage gardens, nor seeking approval from chest-pounding Tarzans who define their male identity in terms of sex and violence.

Still, when you move past the intellectual beard-stroking, what you’re left with is the fact that gardening is intensely satisfying.  Perhaps it’s a universal interest and young men are simply less inhibited about enjoying it.

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