What do you do when your apple trees host codling moth, your plants yellow or your lawn needs top dressing? What about encouraging the very useful worms in your garden?

Expert science-based gardening advice and solutions are now merely an internet connection away for New Zealand’s recreational gardeners.

The new Science Behind Your Garden website arms gardeners with information and practical solutions on pests, plant diseases, and soil health based on knowledge and research by scientists and science organisations.

“The Science Behind Your Garden project aims to bring science into the home garden and give gardeners a greater understanding of what’s going on in their garden and how the different components interact and affect other areas,” says Athol McCully. Mr McCully was a plant disease scientist before owning and managing garden centres for 25 years. He has been involved with the project from its inception.

“The beauty of this information is that it is relevant for gardeners from all walks of life, from the city patio gardener to the lifestyle gardener with an extensive garden,” Mr McCully says.

And in New Zealand, there are plenty of people who can benefit from the website with an estimated 1.4 million home gardeners.

The website, three years in germination, was originally not going to be internet-based. “We were looking at doing it in a different way,” explains Mr McCully. “We were looking at introducing it through garden centres in hard copy , but we decided in the end that the way to make it available to a much broader audience was to set it up on a website so that’s why we did that.”

The website provides information in five key areas. This includes information on the importance of healthy soil, the management of lawns and turf, and pest and disease control for fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and rose and ornamental gardens.

The website gives an integrated approach to gardening, Mr McCully says, “enabling gardeners to consider how all aspects of their garden interact and adapt to give them increased understanding and be even more successful.”

Integrated gardening means managing the garden in balance with nature, rather than routinely controlling pests and diseases with chemicals.

“The principles of integrated gardening can be even more relevant for home gardeners than commercial growers, since people are often very concerned about maintaining a healthy environment around their home,” says Mr McCully.

However, despite the arrival of this cyber advice centre, Kiwi gardeners need not be concerned that the printed gardener’s stalwart, the Yates Garden Guide, will be under threat.

“That really wasn’t the aim to replace the Yates Garden Guide because the Yates garden guide is certainly a bit of an icon out there and it’s a very important icon. What this particular [website] is doing is giving people perhaps a little bit more of a scientific background than what you might get from the Yates garden guide,” Mr McCully says.

The Science Behind Your Garden project is funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand, and carried out by the New Zealand public research institutes Crop & Food Research and HortResearch.

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