By Dr. RUSSELL T. NAGATA
University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Komohana Research and Extension Center
Have you ever taken the time to recall where or how you acquired all of your gardening knowledge? Was it through a parent or grandparent that enjoyed gardening and the learning process was just working along side these individuals? Could it be that you watched the Home Gardening Channel or Martha Stewart? In my case, all of the above, a lot of years of college, professional meeting, seminars and a whole lot of trials. Each of us has a unique story on how we learned and accumulated our gardening skills and each of us is continuing to learn. Its also important to share that information.
A century ago, gardening was learned by doing alongside a parent or grandparent and learning was very hands on and through word of mouth. You probably learned to select plants from which to collect seeds for planting the next season. Lessons included the art of preserving the crop in root cellars and in canning jars, and how to maintain good soil fertility by composting, addition of manure and planting a diversity of crops. At around this time, the Cooperative Extension Service agents were starting to assist farmers and gardeners in demonstrating better methods to grow crop plants. A half century ago, one-on-one learning experiences were still the mainstay of garden learning, however, University degrees in agriculture were on the rise, and magazines and books on gardening were becoming common informational sources. In the past quarter century, numerous cable and television stations devoted to gardening were created leading to more information being readily available and greatly changed the way we gather information. It was no longer learning by working side by side with a knowledgeable gardener, but gathering information and then going out and practice what you just viewed on your own. Currently, the Internet has become the primary source of knowledge for many gardeners and this has opened up a whole new world for information. A quick search on any gardening keyword can result in tens of thousands of possible responses, if not millions of choices. Nearly anyone can add information to the Web.
With so many choices, how do you decide what to view? A good approach is to view what is available from your state or the closest Land Grant University. These sites’ addresses end with “.edu” indicating that this source of information came from an educational source. For Hawaii, this would be the University of Hawaii at Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu). Other Universities and government research labs located in similar climatic environments can also be a great source of information. For Hawaii residents, information from the University of Florida, Texas A&M University and California can be very useful to our gardening informational source. To find the best fit for information of what you are looking for, be sure to select your search words carefully and use defining characteristics to zero in on your subject matter. If you need information on growing sweet corn, don’t just search corn, search growing sweet corn in Hawaii. If you don’t find the information you are looking for in the first 20 to 30 listings, change your search keywords.
There are many great and interesting sites to be found on the Internet and only experience will help you to select the sites that provide the best and most reliable answers to your needs. Personal blogs on gardening can be helpful as they provide first-hand information on someone’s garden. YouTube is also an important source of information for demonstrating how to do specific task in the garden, like how to graft tomatoes onto hearty rootstocks for better production.
Presently, many households do not practice the joys of gardening as a family activity. Today, many of our children obtain knowledge of gardening through school based gardens where students learn about growing plants. These lessons support the advancement of science and math skills through the activities of gardening. On the Big Island, a majority of schools have at least one teacher participating in school gardening and the list keeps growing.
For those who are willing to share their gardening knowledge with students Nancy Redfeather of The Kohala Center and Project Director of the Hawaii Island School Garden Network is looking for volunteers to help with school gardens in their communities even if it is only for a few hours a month. Contact Nancy Redfeather for more information at email@example.com.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. for more information or comments. For more information on other gardening topics, please visit the CTAHR electronic publication website at http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/Site/Info.aspx or visit any of the local Cooperative Extension Service offices around the Island.