08:05 AM

Virtual gardening classroom connects experts to growing audience

Interest in gardening increases as social distancing guidelines continue

Ohio State University experts, unable to hold in-person gardening classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are using virtual classrooms and a high-tech approach to support local gardeners.

The Franklin County Office of OSU Extension operates a virtual garden classroom to offer advice and answers as interest in gardening picks up. Timothy McDermott, extension educator in agriculture and natural resources, is leading the way.

“I wanted to make sure that I continued to provide the service of assisting backyard growers, community gardeners, teacher educators or urban farmers with their production needs,” he said. “With the digital online format, I wanted to make sure that I could still provide that content.”

OSU Extension is offering these virtual classes to any group, organization or department. Everyone, from beginner to seasoned growers, is welcome.

Classes can focus on a specific topic like combating weeds or growing an herb garden. Question-and-answer sessions are also available.

McDermott said interest in vegetable gardening, in particular, is on the upswing right now. The idea of planting vegetables in a response to the pandemic seems to be resonating with experienced and novice gardeners.

The Franklin County office also maintains a website and blog with gardening resources including instructional videos and fact sheets. McDermott says this is the perfect time to start a gardening journey. He encourages anyone interested to get a group together and join the class.

“Anything that I can do that gets people back into the garden is great and it helps provide for personal family food security,” he said. “Especially now, with what we’re dealing with and the challenges that we have, I am delighted to do that.”

The virtual gardening programming helps address the need for social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides much-needed health and wellness activities that can be done while complying with health guidelines. OSU Extension has conducted over 25 classes so far and the most frequent questions focus on personal and family food security – including produce and poultry.

“[Poultry production] is another skill that people are looking for, that they can do at home, and it provides a protein stream into their personal food security,” McDermott said.

Gardeners can subscribe to the Growing Franklin blog and visit the Franklin County OSU Extension website.

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