By Veronica Lorson Fowler for The Gazette
Traditional garden tools – spades, rakes, scissors, watering cans – are essential. But one of the most powerful gardening tools you likely have isn’t in your garage: it’s social media.
Check out a YouTube video on how to prune your rose bush. Take a picture of your giant pumpkin to share on Facebook. Find a cute painted pot project on Pinterest. Follow your favorite HGTV gardening star on Instagram. Get tips from fellow gardeners about seeds on Reddit. Follow your public garden on Twitter for information on what’s in bloom and what’s happening right now.
Around three-quarters of all adults in the US use social media, according to the Pew Research Center. And more than ever, we are using social media platforms to become better, smarter, and publicly engaged gardeners.
Social media is unbeatable for so many things:
• Inspiration and creative ideas. Check out the photos of beautiful flowers or nifty pathways or the clever rabbit fence they built themselves. Or post your own and sit back and enjoy the likes and comments. Or, follow a retailer or an individual gardener or horticultural expert so their posts will appear on your feed so you won’t miss a sale or newcomer.
• How one. All platforms contain at least some written step-by-step or quick tips and points. Enthusiasts and professionals also love making videos for all kinds of projects and techniques – from arranging flowers to building a giant water garden – which are incredible learning tools.
• Identification. If you’ve ever wondered what a plant is, post it on social media and ask. Social media is also great for taking pictures of an insect or diseased plant for help pinpointing the problem, as well as suggestions on how to fix the problem.
• Special interests. If you’re hybridizing daylilies or making bonsai, or looking for Ukrainian heirloom seeds, or gardening on a tight budget, social media is a great way to find others who can share information and sometimes help you find actual plants and other items .
• Swap, buy and share. Are you looking for a slip of a peony in exchange for one of your own? Did you leave a large pile of iris rhizomes on the side of the road? Want to buy a cool Asian hand tool but don’t know where to find one? A social media interest group or local group is the place to post.
Which platform should I use? Facebook and YouTube are the most widely used social platforms, but there are others that make gardening easier and more fun. Each has a search facility that lets you enter keywords on topics that interest you.
• Facebook: Connect with friends and family to share your gardening gains and losses. Ask a question and let the Facebook ghost answer it. Join a Facebook gardening group and you will be instantly connected with hundreds of expert gardeners. It’s great for posting a photo of a plant, insect, or disease you don’t know about and having others identified. It’s also an efficient way to swap plants with other local gardeners. Make sure to check out Facebook gardening interest groups like Iowa Vegetable Gardening, Iowa Gardens (for organic horticulture), Linn County Master Gardeners, and the Iowa Gardening Lovers Exchange.
• Instagram: This is the place for visual inspiration. Use the search feature to find roughly what you’re looking for, or follow a gardening influencer, celebrity, or retail company. Leaf through picture by picture of unconscious flower pictures; creative ideas for tough landscapes like bars, arbors, fences and sheds; inspiring water feature shots,
• Pinterest: Pinterest has all of the great shots from Instagram, but it focuses a little more on the guide. It is a paradise for craftsmen and DIY enthusiasts. Expect more instructions or links to instructions. Also expect a bunch of ads that are exceptionally annoying, but hey what can you expect for something that is offered for free?
• Reddit: This is the platform to go if you want to take a deep dive – especially on specific topics. Gardeners post photos, but not as often as on other platforms. Discussion groups are called subreddits and have an r / in front of their name. The tone is smart and funny. Groups include r / gardening, r / vegetable garden, r / flowers, r / whatsthisplant, r / whatsthisbug, r / roses, r / orchids, r / wild garden (carnivorous plants), r / hydroponics, r / nativeplantgardening, r / Beekeeping, r / urban agriculture and more.
• Twitter: Gardeners can find a bit of everything here, but it’s mainly a good place to share pictures of their gardens and horticulturalists and public gardens and to keep in touch with gardeners. Use the search function with words like “Iowa” or “garden” or enter a possible hashtag you’re interested in like #iowagardening, #nativeplants, #bonsai, #lawncare.
The greatest reward for gardening with social media is having fun, learning, and connecting. Share your best gardening successes, your worst failures, and everything in between. Stay positive and unbiased and the feedback you get is (mostly) the same.
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There are downsides, of course. Will the social media overlords collect data with every move and give you annoying ads on the subject? Absolutely. Will there be haters who are inexplicably angry that you fell your ravaged apple tree? Yes.
But right now, during a pandemic, social media can serve as an emotional boost that connects other gardeners and friends and can help us learn in ways that no other media can.
Veronica Lorson Fowler is co-editor of the Iowa Gardener website at theiowagardener.com.