Understanding preferences and challenges of home gardeners is valuable to the consumer-horticulture industry. Citizen scientists in Florida were recruited to grow compact tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants started from seed, as transplants, or as flowering plants in a 16-week experiment. Participants, who had various gardening experience levels, were provided with a kit containing all materials needed to grow plants to maturity. Project engagement was encouraged with monthly online meetings and a social media page. A survey was delivered at the end of the project and completed by 117 participants. The survey aimed to evaluate participants’ preferences, challenges, and experiences with each plant product. Plants started as seed or as flowering plants were equally preferred among participants and were rated higher than transplants. However, participants were least satisfied with the yield, rate of plant growth, fruit taste, and care required to grow plants started from seed. Ninety-one percent of participants said they would be willing to pay more for flowering plants than for transplants. Across plant products, pests and flower/fruit drop were reported as challenges by up to 85% and 18% of participants, respectively. Results from this study highlight the potential of using citizen science to assess gardening experiences and preferences, which can support stakeholders who cater to the consumer-horticulture industry.
Citizen science is a participatory research method that enlists community members as scientists to collect data at a scale that would not be possible for researchers on their own and in research contexts that are difficult for researchers to reach. Although the contribution of citizen science to scientific data collection is well-known, a new area of research investigates the impact that citizen science programs have on the citizen scientists. Gardening can support healthy dietary patterns, food access, and food system resilience in urban communities. Leveraging home gardening can be a good way for cooperative extension and community groups to support the health and wellbeing of their community members. However, to reap the health and community benefits of gardening, individuals need to adopt the behavior of gardening. In this study, researchers from University of Florida conducted a home gardening citizen science program between Mar 2022 and Jul 2022 for the purpose of assessing whether participating in a citizen science home gardening program increases the likelihood of participants’ future home gardening. Researchers used a matched pretest and posttest evaluation design to assess whether participation in this program affected the citizen scientists’ (n = 112) beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of home gardening. Citizen science program participants improved their attitudes and beliefs about home gardening but had limited improvement in their self-efficacy about home gardening after participation in the program. A 1-year follow-up survey found that program participants had adopted new gardening behaviors and reported benefits of participating in the program beyond gardening. These results highlight the value of citizen science to facilitate intentions to home garden and show the importance of information and program support to ensure the success of program participants.