Why don’t more older gardeners blog?

– Posted in: About this site, Blogging Art and Practice
60 comments

Image of December issue coverI was one of several garden bloggers inteviewed by Doug Green for an article on garden blogging for The American Gardener, which is published by the American Horticultural Society. I thought the article was a good overview for beginners on the topic, not going too deeply into the technology behind blogging but maintaining accuracy.

Really, you shouldn’t need to know any more about how blogging works in order to blog, than you need to know how a car works in order to drive it. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, though I’m trying to do my part.

Gardeners appear to be slower than other groups to investigate and adopt new online technologies. Stu’s tutorial on online tools for gardeners sparked some dialogue between Debra Roby, Amy Stewart, and their various commenters.

Getting Older Gardeners to Blog

I’d especially like to know what would make blogging more appealing to older gardeners. (Older meaning old enough to be my parent, and I’m almost fifty.) They have a wealth of experience to share, but are the least likely to share it online. Looking at my own parents, I can see many reasons why.

  • Limited time. We all struggle to find time to garden. Then we struggle to find time to write about it. For many of our elders, it takes more time to do everything: dressing, eating, walking–you name it. And then they have medical conditions that take up additional time to manage, as well as possibly slowing them down. And with mortality staring them in the face, time becomes a precious resource, not to be squandered. So before anything else, an older gardener has to be convinced that using the computer is worth her time.
  • Physical obstacles. Let’s face it, it takes a certain amount of geekiness to figure out how to change the text size for your monitor or browser, and many novice computer users don’t even know it can be changed. Joint pain can make using a keyboard, mouse, or trackball uncomfortable or even painful, and your local discount store isn’t likely to carry specialized alternatives. And if such devices can be found, they are often more expensive than standard replacements. Faced with these kinds of hurdles, is it any wonder many older people decide it’s not worth it?
  • Lack of familiarity. I have often found information for my mother that she couldn’t find for herself. Usually it hadn’t even occurred to her to search online (though this is getting less frequent). If it doesn’t even occur to you that you could keep an online gardening journal or ask questions of other gardeners, you’re not going to try.

I got started thinking about this when I realized that Eleanor Perenyi, author of Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden was still alive. What would it take to get her to start blogging, or even commenting on other gardener’s blogs?

More information

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

58 Comments… add one

lisa January 2, 2008, 4:19 pm

I am WAY late to this party, but I just wanted to say that I agree with the comments how many folks just don’t necessarily like to write, or have the time it takes to blog. I’m 45 and my eyes already bug me while staring at the computer screen, plus I feel that many folks (young and old) get enough out of doing something-so why talk about it? Personal security may be an issue too, although I’m pretty sure that our benevolent government can tell if you have spinach in your teeth at any given moment from any spot on earth, so who are we kidding? And as much as I enjoy blogging (1 year+), at times it seems to take on a life of its’ own and feel like an obligation. (Which is when I step away for awhile.) My blogging didn’t start until I’d read a couple, and my co-worker showed me her MySpace and LiveJournal pages, convincing me that it’s no big deal. She even showed me the html codes to create links in my text. I agree with the idea that there are a lot more folks of every age out there in cyberspace than we realize, they just don’t let on. Heh, my mom (74) says it best, “Why do people talk so damn much anyway? Isn’t anything private any more?!”

Bill Plummer December 19, 2007, 10:51 am

I’m soon to be 81 and am on line several hours per day. So why don’t I blog? I never thought of it until the article in the American Gardener. Then I realized that Kathy had sent me an email after I failed to show up at an Adirondack Chapter NARGS meeting in Ithaca. So come Februart I may get off my duff and give it a whirl.

Anne December 15, 2007, 10:17 pm

I don’t consider myself elderly or even close to it, but I’m over 60, garden almost daily, use computers around 2-3 hrs. daily, and regularly read a few blogs, especially about roses and political sites. I do know a lot of over 60-70 yr olds who blog daily about politics, 9-11, The War, and matters of impeachment. I also know several under 3o yr olds who garden, and we talk about it by cell phone or in person often. There certainly seems to be some people over 60-70 who are active in the rose arena of gardening who are also pretty active on several garden or rose sites. Certainly, really young people do not get as exposed to gardening today, just by the fact that living in apts. and zero lot line homes are not conducive to learning about gardening. I work in the landscape industry, and am a plant consultant to many rather wealthy persons who have their yards “landscaped” professionally, and then proceed to hire gardeners. Not much chance there for exposure to gardening. I don’t add my 2 cents to many blogs often because I usually don’t have the luxury of time. Occasionally I see such a glaring error in facts or I.D. about certain plants that I do respond, but I’d rather have hands in the dirt, or face to face contact in sharing about plants. Living in a warm winter climate also encourages me to spend more time in the yard and not blog about it.

Bob Ewing December 15, 2007, 11:18 am

Is gardening as an activty growing or declining, I am 60 and have been gardenngn for about 15 years.

The people I talk with locally rarely blog and that seems to be from the age of 40 up; perhaps it is the smaller rural community, I do not know.

Dave December 10, 2007, 1:06 pm

In my experience, it seems that gardening is an inherited passion. I’m a 27 year old male, and I can think of three people among my peers that love gardening – two of those people are myself and my brother. The one other person I can think of grew up with parents that grew just about 100% of their own food. I don’t know of a single person that loves gardening who didn’t grow up with gardening parents. Of course, this is just my observation – I am sure there are exceptions to the rule, but I haven’t seen that in my experience.

I do agree with Kathy on her reasons why older gardeners tend not to blog. I know my parents or grandparents would have no idea why they should blog, much less any idea where to start if they did want to blog. As a younger generation of technology-wise gardeners, I think it’s our responsibility to learn first hand from some of these older and wiser gardeners, and then we in turn can blog and share our new found knowledge with the next generation of gardeners.

Ali December 10, 2007, 7:25 am

I wonder myself sometimes, why don’t more young people garden? It’d certainly make me feel like less of an outlier. Except that I know it comes back quite easily to rental situations, crowded share-houses with unevenly divided responsibility-taking, and the fact that gardening has a lot to do with housing security, with the knowledge that you will be here in six months or two years or ten years to see that plant mature. At 24 I’m easily the youngest gardener I know “in real life”- i’m not familiar with the ages of the gardeners I know online. My peer group find my obsession with hobby fascinating & worthwhile, and I’m proud to have inspired a few portable, container-grown herb-gardens & the like, but I can’t pretend that my friends & I have the same access to resources as say my parents, who own their land and have the ability to make certain decisions about how they use it.

I really enjoy the burgeoning urban/small-space/rental gardener knowledge bases forming around the web, but I also love how much gardening gives me something in common with people of every single age range. My 85-year old across-the-road neighbour has told me she was worried by me at first, of my shaved head & facial piercings, but knew I was “OK” when she saw me out weeding the front garden Saturday after Saturday. Now we bond regularly over geraniums and tomato advice and the dire lack of diversity in supermarket produce.

But I am of the generation who relies heavily on the internet for all my gardening advice, and has done since I started (all of six months ago and going strong). I wonder if this makes me a different gardener to someone who learnt using books or television shows or by being lucky enough to have a garden mentor. I certainly think it makes me a more extroverted gardener. Every interesting thing that happens in my garden is a potential blog-post, after all.

Benjamin December 9, 2007, 8:24 pm

I live in the suburbs, though Lincoln, NE is pretty much a giant suburb of Omaha 40 miles east. Still, though young people abound out here, it’s only older folks I see messing in their yards or tending flowers or tossing comments at me from the street about my hostas. Me? I’m 31 and this summer I was outside EVERY day. But I put up a fence out back so no one would see me with my shirt off, the sculpted muscles, the sweat dripping of tight tan skin, the muscular heaves of clay soil, the dirty bad boy hands full of sweet manure. Sorry about that, it’s cold out and I’m stuck inside missing my summer planting.

Rachel December 7, 2007, 10:35 am

[Note: I followed the link here from Annie's Transplantable Rose.]

To me, it seems that gardening and weblogging are two hobbies which, if ven diagrammed, have a fairly small overlap. For what it’s worth, I turned 31 last week, I’m an Austin gardener, and I (sometimes) log my gardening on the web. I was an online journaler long before I was an online garden weblogger — I started journaling on the web when I was 23. Journaling is a hobby that seems to have a wider scope of age; I was among the youngest of the journalers that I knew at the time. Weblogging is becoming more and more popular, but mostly among a younger demographic. (That seems to be changing, for what it’s worth.)

Gardening, on the other hand, seems to be a hobby primarily undertaken by people 10 or more years older than I am. (Granted, most of the gardeners I know are older members of my family.) That demographic seems less represented by webloggers in general. My contemporaries in general don’t seem very interested in gardening, beyond putting some flowers in the ground once a year. I think I caught the bug genetically.

These are all generalizations, of course, but based on my personal experiences and observations. It’s a very interesting question!

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