One of the sunnier silver linings to living in a pandemic may be the rapid bloom in at-home gardening.
A National Gardening Association survey indicates an unprecedented 18.3 million people across the U.S. picked up a new hobby growing fruit and vegetable, herb, and flower gardens last year, and nearly 90% say they intend to maintain or increase their level of gardening in 2021.
"We know a big percentage of people have really embraced the benefits that come with gardening. People are getting outside, getting fresh air, a little bit of exercise, and the satisfaction of growing their own fruits and veggies," says Scott Allshouse, President and CEO of the Sarasota-based organic gardening product line, Earth's Ally.
"All different age groups are gardening now, and so many people are asking for safe products because they don't want to use harsh chemicals around their families and pets," Allshouse says.
Earth's Ally synthetic-free formulas provide bee-safe solutions
"People shouldn't have to make the choice between products that are safe or work. The biggest thing we fight daily is the perception that 'if it's safe for me and my family, it won't work as well.' We have proved, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you don't have to make that choice anymore," Allshouse says.
Allshouse helped found Earth's Ally in 2017. Prior to that, he worked in the "big food" industry for more than two decades with household names like Pillsbury, Heinz, and Campbell's Soup before joining a small Miami, FL-based company, Buddy Fruit, that produced natural, additive and preservative-free 100% fruit snacks for kids.
"[Buddy Fruit] was my transition to thinking about ingredients and safety a little differently. … I started seeing the shift toward organic products back in my food days -- clean ingredient statements; commitments to responsibly sourced ingredients -- and I thought, this is not a fad. This is a trend that isn't going away," Allshouse says.
To bring safe and effective formulas to home gardeners, Allshouse says the Earth's Ally team researched which products heavy-hitters in the organic agriculture industry use on their own farms, scrutinized those product ingredients in independent labs, and partnered with external scientists for Earth's Ally own product research and development.
The result is a line of “Field-tested, Farmer approved" OMRI-Listed
formulas that control pests, disease, and weeds -- but are bottled in quantities sufficient for the home gardener.
"We spent a lot of time discovering which [ingredients] work best -- ingredients you'll find in your kitchen -- to make something you're not afraid to have around your kids, grandkids, and pets," Allshouse says.
In lieu of synthetic chemicals, for instance, Earth's Ally herbicide is powered by the bee-safe alternative, sea salt. Bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 40% of the global food supply, Allshouse says -- hence Earth Ally's commitment to saving them. Furthermore, he notes, Florida gardeners must also consider the state's uniquely close-to-the-surface water table when they use weed and grass killers, insecticides, and disease control products on their lawns and gardens.
"Safe products in Florida are even more important than in some other places. What we put on our gardens can easily get into the water supply -- so we also have red tide and other things to consider," Allshouse says.
Earth's Ally partners with Lowe's for nationwide distribution
In April, Earth's Ally announced a distribution partnership with Lowe's
that will bring its line into all 2,000+ Lowe's stores nationwide by spring, 2022. Earth's Ally products are currently available in-store at all Lowe's Florida retail locations, as well as for online purchase from Home Depot and Amazon.
Allshouse anticipates the growing gardening trend will only continue to blossom. His advice to gardeners who are taking their first stab at sowing the soil is to lean into the learning curve.
“It's OK to have some stumbles along the way -- just keep at it. ... Whether you're starting a new garden or taking yours to the next level, there are lots of great resources out there," Allshouse says.
Check out the Earth's Ally blog for pollinator-friendly gardening tips and resources. See the National Gardening Association survey.