(UF/IFAS) — COVID-19 has prompted many people to start gardening, and it is no passing fancy. Recent research shows that approximately 80% of those who started gardening since the onset of COVID-19 will continue this hobby in 2021.
Growing in the outdoor garden is one thing. Maintaining plants indoors at home presents other challenges and opportunities.
Recognizing the growing popularity of indoor growing, University of Florida scientists Celina Gómez and Paul Fisher, UF/IFAS faculty members in environmental horticulture, recently co-hosted a webinar virtual. There they introduced new varieties of plants and how home gardeners can grow them indoors.
Their program focuses on the development and production of edible plants for gardening. Home growers can eat these crops, but the plants probably won’t produce enough fruits or vegetables for an entire family, said Gómez, an assistant professor at UF/IFAS.
“I consider them both ornamental and edible crops, as they are generally grown for the sake of growing a plant – like most ornamental plants – with the added benefit that they will produce a fruit or vegetable at harvest and consume, like most edible crops,” Gómez said.
Several factors have led to the increase in home gardening: food insecurity and the pandemic are two of them.
“People are gardening partly to make sure there’s enough food on the table during times of so much uncertainty,” Gómez said. “Mental and physical wellbeing is also a big driver of the ‘pandemic gardening’ movement, as people seem to experience positive health benefits when gardening both indoors and outdoors. During the lockdown, people had more time to spend at home and many turned to gardening to keep busy.
Many people who want to start growing fruits and vegetables at home are turning to social media. Thus, Gómez led researchrch recently, it shows that about half of the people who have used the Reddit platform have been given the wrong information on how to grow hydroponic plants indoors. She and her team turned to Reddit because those who use the platform and its “subreddits,” thematic or community-focused discussions, are hobbyists, most with no formal training in horticulture.
“Much of the advice given to consumers via Reddit is based on experiences that may not be enough to educate someone about growing plants hydroponically,” she said. “Another important reason is that because indoor gardening is a relatively new horticultural trend, there isn’t a lot of easy-to-understand information available to consumers.”
To truly educate indoor home gardeners, UF/IFAS researchers will continue to host seminars and webinars, upload YouTube videos, and provide research-based recommendations to help interested consumers learn more. learn more about home gardening. here is a link to their recorded presentations from a recent day in the field.
“We can also use social media platforms like Reddit to connect with consumers, in sub-reddits like AMA (‘Ask Me Anything’), where it’s not uncommon for scientists to connect with users of Reddit to answer questions within a pre-set time frame,” Gomez said. “We are writing updated UF/IFAS extension materials on these new and growing gardening trends, which may also be helpful. “
For now, Gómez and UF/IFAS professor Fisher will continue to test new cultivars for compact vegetables. In other words, they are bred for urban agriculture.
“We will also expand our research into hydroponics and indoor gardening to evaluate different qualities and amounts of light that can help maximize the yield and quality of fruiting vegetables,” she said. “Our hope is to hold another field day in 2022 and make it an annual event.”
For more information about indoor gardening efforts at UF/IFAS, contact Gómez at [email protected]