When People Say They're "Gardening" on TikTok, Here's What They Really Mean

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Jan. 31 2024, Published 10:21 a.m. ET

A woman gardening in her yard.
Source: Getty Images

For as long as there has been TikTok, its users have been using slang terms and acronyms that seem almost tailor-made to confuse anyone who doesn't already know what they're talking about. As the platform and its users have continued to grow and evolve, so too have the slang terms that surround them.

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Now, yet another new term has emerged that seems perfectly designed to confuse anyone who doesn't already know what's going on. This time, TikTok users are claiming that they're "gardening," and many people are getting the sense that they aren't doing any planting. Here's what we know about what "gardening" actually means on the app.

A man smoking a joint at the Colombia Marijuana Festival.
Source: Getty Images
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What does 'gardening' mean on TikTok?

While there are certainly some corners of TikTok that are devoted to actual gardening, there are also places on the app where the term means something else entirely.

If you see someone using the term in a setting where it doesn't seem to make much sense, the likeliest explanation is that they are using it as a way to talk about smoking marijuana in a way that doesn't get them kicked off of TikTok (see also: the leaf emoji).

There have always been many slang terms for weed, but "gardening" is relatively new, and seems to be describing the verbs around weed more than the thing itself. A "garden" refers to the place where a person smokes weed, while a "gardener" refers to a person who smokes weed.

"Garden" is a pretty intuitive leap for many to make, in part because weed has always been linked to terms like "flower" and even the term "weed" might make you think of a garden.

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One TikTok user in particular came up with the term.

Although it can sometimes be impossible to trace the origins of a particular piece of slang, in this case, we know exactly how the "gardening" trend started. TikTok user Natalie Benson (@notnataliebenson) was the first to coin the term. The first video on her page is the one where she invents the term. She created the term because her previous account had been banned for discussing smoking weed, so she came up with this clever workaround.

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TikTok considers discussions of drug use and other topics like sex too adult for its audience, which includes plenty of young teenagers. Accounts that discuss certain topics are often banned. Instead of refusing to talk about the topics, users just invent new ways to describe them that are less direct, but still allow them to communicate basically whatever it is that they want to say.

"Gardening" is far from the first term to be used this way on social media, and it seems unlikely to be the last. While plenty of users may be confused about it, there are others who understand exactly what their fellow users are saying when they say they're about to do some "gardening," even if they live in an apartment in New York City with no outdoor space.

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