(08/05/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU AgCenter consumer horticulture specialist is asking Louisiana gardeners to participate in a 10-minute online survey about gardening during COVID-19.
“Everyone is a gardener in some shape, form or fashion, so anyone 18 years or older can participate in this short survey that will help us understand how the pandemic of 2020 has affected consumer gardening in Louisiana,” said Heather Kirk-Ballard.
The survey is online at https://bit.ly/lsugarcensurvey. Its intended audience is anyone 18 years old or older who gardens. “It’s a consumer survey,” Kirk-Ballard said. “That could be gardening at home with fruits, vegetables or flowers; in containers or indoor plants. Almost everyone’s a gardener.”
During the pandemic and its stay-at-home orders, the number of first-time gardeners has seen an exceptional increase across the state as well as on a national level, she said.
Due to quarantine requirements, people have time on their hands, unlike two years ago when the 2018 National Garden Survey conducted by Garden Research reported 12 million Americans said “I’m too busy to have much time for gardening.”
With people being forced to stay home, many have discovered they had time to garden.
This spring Kirk-Ballard conducted a survey of independent retail garden centers, mass merchandiser garden centers and feed and farm supply stores in Louisiana, who reported a 30% increase in sales over the same time last year.
Retail garden stores and local co-ops reported that vegetable crops, seeds, garden soils, mulch, fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and related supplies “are flying off shelves,” she said.
And among AgCenter extension agents “gardening questions are coming in left and right,” Kirk-Ballard said. “Phone call, emails and text volumes have increased statewide, and the demand for AgCenter expertise has been growing exponentially.”
In early May, Kirk-Ballard contacted AgCenter agents across the state and asked them to keep a record of the number and types of calls they were getting pertaining to gardening and plants.
“Most every parish agreed that the volume of gardening calls had gone up with an increase in new gardeners,” she said.
Through the survey, Kirk-Ballard hopes to discover how many people are gardening for the first time and how many others have increased their gardening activities. She also is asking what motivated them to garden and what type of gardening are they doing.
“We’ve seen a resurgence of victory gardens, and retail nurseries across the state and nationwide are selling out of vegetable transplants and vegetable seeds,” she said. “And across the nation, there is a shortage of canning jars. I’ve personally experienced it.”
The survey also asks how people are finding gardening information — through internet searches, social media, the LSU AgCenter or neighbors.
Finally, Kirk-Ballard wants to find out if people will continue to garden when things go back to “normal.”
She will use the results to inform wholesale growers and retail outlets so that they can meet consumer demand.
“As the consumer horticulture specialist, it is my desire to understand the gardening habits and buying habits so that I can help bridge the gap from retail store availability to consumer demands,” she said.
Kirk-Ballard expects to learn many lessons from the way life has changed during the pandemic—how to disseminate information to first-time gardeners in a timely manner, how to meet and conduct learning activities from a distance and how to coordinate research remotely.
“I can see a major shift in the future to home plant deliveries and increased online plant shopping if the industry is successful in fulfilling these types of orders during this time,” she said. “This is going to change many facets of the green industry.”