I recently had the chance to interview Lisa Marini Finerty, co-founder of a new social network called YourGardenShow. Instead of giving you all the details upfront, I’ll let Lisa describe the site herself. She also shares some insight on gardening and its relation to the environmental movement.
The Green Lens: First of all, tell us what YourGardenShow is all about.
Lisa Marini Finerty: YourGardenShow.com is a free social network for gardeners to record and share gardening experiences in a fun, easy and intuitive way. We want to give gardeners a way to spread their green thumb wisdom. I’m a master gardener and a co-founder of the website along with my husband Tom, an Emmy-Award winning producer.
There is a new audience for environmental advocacy; with the worldwide recognition of “An Inconvenient Truth,’ we have seen increasing numbers of people who recognize that good stewardship of the planet can’t be kicked down the road to subsequent generations. First-time gardeners interviewed last year in England came to gardening, yes, for personal benefits like better, less costly food — but even more came for better environmental health of the planet.
YourGardenShow is a community where people can exchange information about growing successfully, using best practices. We believe in crowd sourcing information, but we have seeded the site with the best data we could obtain.
Our website features an expansive 6,000 vegetable database developed by Cornell University and a 5,900 ornamental plant database powered by Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the U.S.A. There is editorial strategy in deciding which topics to introduce – we have sustainability experts who have authored the plant databases and care instructions, we have sustainability professionals in charge of media responsibility, and our advisory board and founders include committed environmental activists — some for over 35 years. We believe that we will be valuable if we can magnify the influence of good practitioners in addition to good practices.
Gardening can be done as an individual, but when reinforced by a group or community, such as a community garden, or now with YourGardenShow, it becomes more enjoyable and deepens the experience and commitment.
How can your site benefit people trying to green their lifestyles?
The best resource we all have is human experience — our own and others’ — and the combination of people and tools on YourGardenShow.com will hopefully result in more and deeper conversations between more and more experienced learners about the land that they steward. We believe that more and better gardeners mean better public health for all of us.
How does your site help beginning gardeners? What about more experienced gardeners?
Gardening is one of the most profound areas of literature — it spans the continuum from the absolutely traditional (“doing it the way it was done from time immemorial”) to the most innovative, where scientists are combining genes to “patent” plants. The first recorded observations of horticulture began 3500 years BC, and they haven’t stopped. YourGardenShow is a platform that can be used by both ends of the traditional to innovative spectrum.
My husband and I live in an area of Italy where people had to live by their agricultural wits during most of the 20th century; they have a lot of lessons about sustainability to impart! In our village in Italy for example, we have a festival which celebrates eating bread after WWII – which keeps vivid among the new generation the memory of the preciousness of food.
We wanted to find a way to record the secrets of local gardeners and farmers who might not otherwise have a way to document their legacy. But we realized that gardeners with local secrets exist everywhere, and we needed to build a community that would not only respect local wisdom but would also want to record it.
What kind of role do you think social media play in the sustainability movement?
People will continue to seek to find and participate in trusted communities — for their work, their recreation, their consumption of all things.
Gardening continues to be popular despite our increasingly busy lifestyles. How do you explain that?
There is something perpetual that you tap into when you interact with plants. Gardening is as creative an art form as there is, from the start and as it evolves. We especially need this outlet in a busy world.
Finally, do you have some gardening tips you’d like to share with us?
One of the interesting aspects of gardening is phenology, which links a sequence observation of the natural world to timing of agricultural occurrence. “Plant corn when the daylilies bloom” or “target crabgrass when the forsythia blooms” is about the phenomena at a certain soil temperature. Phenology is what people use who don’t otherwise have measuring tools — like thermometers, calendars — or written records. It is what the Old Farmer’s Almanac tracks. These phenology sayings are great since they teach folks to observe relationships in nature. The more of us observing what is going on in the natural world around us, the better we will be prepared to recognize and adjust to a changing environment.
Many thanks to Lisa and the rest of the YourGardenShow team for providing the Green Lens’s first interview!
Anyone else with an innovative green project they’d like to share, is welcome to send me a message.