Recently my colleague Dr. Heidi Kratsch and I examined trends in horticulture across the western United States and in Nevada. Water conservation and education on pesticide alternatives have always been of concern in the past and of course still are important to consumers and the green industry (i.e. nurseries, landscapers, parks managers, etc).
However, one of the things we discovered was because of the economic downturn people want to grow their own food and support local agriculture. This didn't surprise us, because our free class series called "Grow Your Own" is well attended. There is a lot of interest in alternative food production methods more conducive to urban farming. If you grow a tomato or two, you are a bit of an urban farmer! People want to know how to produce food at home and want to learn about season extension techniques. Top-rated horticulture trends, both nationally and regionally, are firmly based in a need to learn basic survival skills during a time of economic uncertainty. These include skills our ancestors took for granted, including home food production, storage and preservation of food.
Of course, there is a new generation of gardeners out there with fresh ideas and needs. Many new gardeners embrace technology and have a faster pace of life. They are combining landscaping with fruit and vegetable gardening to create edible landscapes that make the best use of their time and water resources. Many live in urban areas and require growing strategies that allow them to produce food on the smallest footprint of land - in small urban yards, on balconies, in containers, and vertically along walls and other structures. Today's gardeners also think locally and want to share their bounty with their community. They may devote part of their harvest for donation to food pantries, and they support local food producers by frequenting farmers markets and supporting community gardens and community-supported agriculture operations.
In addition, climate change has captured people's attention and people are concerned about the environment, particularly in an arid state such as Nevada. People want appropriate gardening and landscaping practices that will result in improvements in water quality, water conservation and protection of wildlife and pollinator populations. People want new plants introduced that can survive with less water in poor soils. They also want information on reduced-risk pest control products and practices that require fewer chemical inputs.
If you have gardening questions, give your local office of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension a call at 887-2252 or 782-9960.
• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at email@example.com or 887-2252.