Although a handful of published reports suggest that garden-based nutrition education programs are effective in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, many of these studies have low statistical power because of small sample sizes and lack of long-term data. In this study, we used meta-analytical techniques to examine the efficacy of garden-based nutrition education programs for increasing children’s nutrition knowledge, preference for fruit and vegetables, and/or consumption of fruit and vegetables. We confined our analysis to peer-reviewed studies that examined programs that were delivered to children in the United States. We looked at the relative impacts of garden-based nutrition education programs, compared with experimental controls (i.e., no nutrition education) and nutrition education programs without a gardening component. We compared the results of our meta-analysis with those of a vote counting analysis to illustrate the importance of repeated studies and quantitative analysis. In our vote counting analysis, the majority of the outcomes were nonsignificant in the control and nutrition education groups, but positive and significant for the gardening group. Our quantitative analysis of the impacts of gardening education programs on children’s nutrition knowledge, preference for fruit and vegetables, and/or consumption of fruit and vegetables was limited by the small number of studies that reported the full suite of descriptive statistics needed to conduct a meta-analysis. Nonetheless, one striking and robust result emerged: gardening increased vegetable consumption in children, whereas the impacts of nutrition education programs were marginal or nonsignificant. We suggest two nonmutually exclusive hypotheses to explain our results: gardening increases access to vegetables and gardening decreases children’s reluctance to try new foods. Our results suggest that gardening should be an integral component of wellness programs and policies. A historical lack of funding has impeded both the broader adoption of school gardens and rigorous research on the social, behavioral, and academic impacts of gardening on children. Recently, however, there has been an increase in federal support for gardening and garden-based research projects—a trend that we hope will continue and grow.
Plantings of native flowers are often installed to increase the pollinator habitat in urban and suburban gardens. However, in many regions, it is not known which native plants are best used for pollinator plantings in gardens. Candidate plants must be attractive to pollinators, but they also must have attributes that gardeners find appealing. To identify native plants that are attractive to gardeners, we disseminated two surveys. The first asked gardeners to use a 5-point Likert scale to rate how likely they would be to garden with 23 flowering plants native to the Pacific Northwest United States. The second survey asked gardeners to use a 5-point Likert scale to rate how likely they would be to garden with a subset of 11 of these 23 native plants before and after receiving information about each flower’s attractiveness to bees (Anthophila). Using the first survey, we found a high level of acceptance of native plants by home gardeners (6 of 23 flowers had a mean “likelihood of planting” score of ≥ 4). Additionally, gardeners stated their likelihood of planting these native species increased significantly after receiving information about the bees associated with each plant. Across both surveys, gardeners who identified as “native plant gardeners” stated they would be significantly more likely to garden with all native plant species. Both surveys included an opportunity to share open-ended comments, which revealed that gardeners were most concerned with flower aesthetics and the aggressiveness of growth. Gardeners felt most positively about flower aesthetics and beneficial ecological traits. Many gardeners also commented that they needed more information or were unfamiliar with the plants. This study shows that native plants can have high baseline appeal to home gardeners. Specifically, we identified five native plant species that northwestern U.S. nurseries might consider growing and marketing as pollinator plants because of their high level of attractiveness to bees and home gardeners: globe gilia (Gilia capitata), california poppy (Eschscholzia californica), douglas aster (Symphyotrichum subspicatum), oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), and common yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
Consumer horticulture (CH) programming can result in outcomes and impacts at the individual level, such as money saved by reducing inputs, greater return on the landscape investment, healthier plants, and improved quality of life. It may also lead to community-level impacts that provide public value, such as water quality protection, water conservation, and protection of biodiversity. In addition to documenting such outcomes and impacts, it is important to quantify their economic value, connect the value to actions taken by extension audiences, and demonstrate to extension’s stakeholders a return on investment. However, it is difficult to document the economic contributions of consumer horticulture and even more difficult to document the economic impact of consumer horticulture extension programs. CH reaches individuals and communities directly and indirectly through personal gardens and landscapes, indoor flowers and plants, school and community gardens, and horticulture therapy. The economic contributions and benefits of consumer horticulture are challenging to quantify, but can be evaluated using several different strategies, including measuring the consumer dollars spent and the economy driven by consumers’ purchase of gardening supplies and landscape services. A second strategy is to examine the value of consumers’ gardening actions on environmental ecosystem services that support soils and plants, provide food and raw materials, and regulate functions, such as pollination, storm water catchment, water quality preservation, green waste reduction, and wildlife habitat and diversity. A third strategy is to focus on cultural, social, and health system services, such as education, recreation, and therapy, that result in exercise, nutrition, health, and happiness. Using a combination of these strategies, workgroups of Tennessee extension professionals are balancing the feasibility of data collection with the usefulness of the data gathered by developing realistic and robust outcome indicators that will form the basis for local and statewide reporting.
Consumer horticulture encompasses a wide array of activities that are practiced by and of interest to the gardening public, garden-focused nongovernmental organizations, and gardening-related industries. In a previous publication, we described the current lack of funding for research, extension, and education in consumer horticulture and outlined the need for a strategic plan. Here, we describe our process and progress in crafting a plan to guide university efforts in consumer horticulture, and to unite these efforts with stakeholders’ goals. In 2015, a steering committee developed a first draft of a plan, including a mission statement, aspirational vision, core values, goals, and objectives. This draft was subsequently presented to and vetted by stakeholders at the 2015 American Society for Horticultural Science Consumer Horticulture and Master Gardeners (CHMG) working group workshop, a 2015 Extension Master Gardener Coordinators’ webinar, and a 2015 meeting in Washington, DC. Feedback received from these events is being used to refine and focus plan goals and objectives. The most recent working draft of the plan can be found on the website, where stakeholders and other interested parties can register to receive updates and to provide input into the process.