Greetings, Granite State gardeners!” The warm, energetic voice says. “It's hard to imagine anything more appealing than picking a piece of ripe fruit on your way to the kitchen without having to so much as get dressed or even go outside. That's the dream. But can it also be a real green thumb life?”
The voice belongs to Nate Bernitz, UNH Extension’s public engagement program manager, and he’s introducing an episode of Granite State Gardening, which can be listened to on Extension’s website or downloaded on podcast apps like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, free of charge.
This episode starts off with a discussion about what fruits can be grown indoors. After Bernitz shares an article suggesting that 12 fruit trees, including lemon and avocado, can be grown inside for an edible yield, he asks podcast cohost Emma Erler, UNH Extension landscape and greenhouse field specialist, to weigh in.
“I think that list might be a little too good to be true,” she says. “I have certainly seen maybe all of those plants except for the mulberry grown successfully indoors. But by indoors, I mean a greenhouse and a heated one…But if you're talking about growing inside the average home, maybe not so much.”
Why a Podcast?
Extension’s Infoline has been answering home and gardening questions for years by phone and email, but when the pandemic forced cancellations of in-person programs, a need for more online content became apparent.
At first, Erler and Bernitz created Facebook Live videos on the UNH Extension Yard & Garden Facebook page through which they conducted interviews with Extension specialists and guests from other New Hampshire organizations. While the videos were well received and generated lots of engagement with new and existing followers, as the pandemic stretched on, the pair took stock of trends and noticed that with so much learning being consumed through screens, people were eager to let their eyes rest. Producing a high-quality podcast seemed like the perfect next step.
“You can literally listen to it while you are gardening or mowing the lawn, doing laundry, the dishes … It can fit into everyday life,” says Bernitz.
Some of their subscribers had never listened to a podcast before and followed the duo over from Facebook Live. “Interest in gardening has grown noticeably over the past year, from brand new gardeners to experienced gardeners picking up the hobby again,” says Erler. “Demand for UNH Extension’s expertise and unbiased recommendations has increased too.”
The pair talk about an array of gardening topics, including spring vegetable gardens, composting, fertilizers, weed management and insect pests. Episodes are crafted with both commercial growers and backyard gardeners in mind.
About hosting, Erler says, “It takes some getting used to. I have to pretend an audience is there. It helps that we’re talking about topics that I’m excited about.”
Bernitz enjoys getting to interview guests, including Extension specialists. “I like to help spotlight other people and help facilitate content experts,” he says. “I can channel the audience and ask questions that I think they might have.”
Because gardening is so dependent on the seasons, it is important for Erler and Bernitz to think strategically about the challenges gardeners are facing at the moment. “It’s been important for us to produce content that’s timely,” Bernitz says. “We talk about topics we haven’t covered on a Facebook Live yet or want to cover in a different way. We want to put content into people’s pockets when they need it.”
There is also a delicate balance of being broad enough to appeal to lots of people, but specific enough to address relevant questions. “If it’s too theoretical, it’s not really going to sink in,” says Bernitz. “We try to cover a range of topics that directly relate to their experiences.”