116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Traditional garden tools - spades, rakes, shears, watering cans - are essential. But one of the most powerful gardening tools you have likely isn't in your garage: It's social media.
Watch a YouTube video on how to prune your rose bush. Take a photo of your giant pumpkin to share on Facebook. Find a cute painted pot project on Pinterest. Follow your favorite HGTV garden celebrity on Instagram. Get tips from other gardeners about seed starting on Reddit. Follow your local public garden on Twitter for updates on what's blooming and what's happening.
Roughly three-quarters of all U.S. adults use some form of social media, according to the Pew Research Center. And more than ever before, we're using social media platforms to become better, smarter and more publicly engaged gardeners.
Social media is unbeatable for so many things:
' Inspiration and creative ideas.
Check out the photos of gorgeous flowers or nifty path design 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 individual gardener or garden expert so their posts show up in your feed and you'll never miss a sale or a new arrival.
All platforms contain at least some written step-by-step or quick tips and points. Enthusiasts and professionals also love to create videos for all sorts of projects and techniques - from flower arranging to building a massive water garden - that are incredible learning tools.
If you've ever wondered what a plant is, post it in social media and ask. Social media also is great for taking a photo of an insect or a diseased plant to get help figuring out the problem, as well as suggestions on how to remedy it.
' Special interests.
If you are into hybridizing daylilies or creating bonsai or seeking out heirloom seeds specific to Ukraine or gardening on a tight budget, social media is an excellent way to find others who can share information and sometimes help you locate actual plants and other items.
' Swapping, buying and sharing.
Looking for a slip of a peony in exchange for one of your own? Left a big pile of irises rhizomes on your curbside? Wanting to buy a cool Asian-designed 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 to use? Facebook and YouTube are the most widely used social platform, but there are others that also can be used to make gardening easier and more fun. Each has a search function so you can plug in key words of topics that interest you.
Connect with friends and family to post your garden wins and losses. Post a question and let the Facebook mind hive answer it. Join a Facebook garden group and you'll instantly be plugged with hundreds of experienced gardeners. It's excellent for posting a photo of a plant or insect or disease you don't know, and having others identify it. It's also an efficient way to swap plants with other local gardeners. Be sure to check out Facebook garden interest groups such as Iowa Vegetable Gardening, Iowa Gardens (for organic gardening), Linn County Master Gardeners and the Iowa Gardening Lovers Exchange.
This is the place to go for visual inspiration. Use the search function to find roughly what you're looking for or follow a garden 'influencer,” celebrity, or retail business. Flip through image after image of swoon-worthy flower images; creative ideas for hardscape like trellises, arbors, fences and sheds; inspirational water feature shots,
Pinterest has all of the gorgeous shots of Instagram, but it's a little more focused on the how-to. It's a crafter and DIYer's paradise. Expect to find more instructions or links to instruction. Also expect to find a number of ads that are exceptionally annoying, but hey, what can you expect for something that is offered free of charge?
This is the platform to go to when you want to do a deep dive - particularly on specific topics. Gardeners post photos, but not as much as in other platforms. Discussion groups are called subreddits and have an r/ in front of their names. The tone is smart and funny. Groups include r/gardening, r/vegetable gardening, r/flowers, r/whatsthisplant, r/whatsthisbug, r/roses, r/orchids, r/savage garden (carnivorous plants), r/hydroponics, r/nativeplantgardening, r/beekeeping, r/urban agriculture and more.
Gardeners can find a little of everything here, but it's mainly a good place for people to share pics of their gardens and garden retailers and public gardens to stay in touch with gardeners. Use the search function with words like 'Iowa” or 'garden” or type in a possible hashtag of what you're interested in, like #iowagardening, #nativeplants, #bonsai, #lawncare.
The biggest reward of gardening with social media is fun, learning and connecting. Share your best garden triumphs, your worst failures and everything in-between. Stay positive and non-judgey and the feedback you receive will be (mostly) the same.
There are drawbacks, of course. Will the social media overlords be harvesting data on your every move and feed you annoying ads on that topic? Absolutely. Will there be haters who inexplicably are furious that you cut down your blight-ravaged apple tree? Yes.
But especially now, during a pandemic, social media can serve as an emotional boost that connects other gardeners and friends and can help us learn in a way no other media can.
Veronica Lorson Fowler is co-publisher of The Iowa Gardener website at theiowagardener.com.