Pests and diseases are the bane of the gardener’s existence. One minute there’s a healthy cucumber, the next it’s a moldy mess. Searching for reliable information can be frustrating, particularly for research-based knowledge geared for the Pacific Northwest.
For six years, Weston Miller, a former Oregon State University Extension Service community horticulturist, shepherded a project to develop a user-friendly website directed to urban and rural property managers – homeowners, renters, municipalities, landscapers – with research-based solutions to common pest and disease problems.
Working off feedback gathered from focus groups, stakeholders and community involvement, Miller incorporated household pests, weeds and invasive plants, pesticide safety and pollinators, as well as pests, diseases and other common landscape problems. Problem diagnosis and management was approached with integrated pest management (IPM) in mind. IPM is using least toxic methods of control first and turning to harsher practices if nothing else works. The goal is for that people to use less pesticides – or if they do, in a safe manner.
On the resulting website, the content – peer reviewed by the OSU Department of Horticulture – is presented in categories with information below each photo. Clicking on the photo takes users to another page that offers information about identification, look-alikes and specific solutions on control. High-quality, color photos illustrate each subject.
Miller hired a web designer to create page prototypes vetted by funders and advisory groups. He completed four rounds of professionally facilitated testing with a diversity of Oregonians, performed accessibility testing and finalized the website template and content examples. He wrote and copy edited entries with help from Signe Danler, OSU horticulture instructor, and other OSU experts.
The 50-plus page website launched in 2022 and focused on high-priority pests, pesticide safety and pesticide risk reduction methods. New content is added regularly. Since Oregon is such a hot bed for gardening with hundreds of plants that need attention, pests and diseases that gardeners and other land managers are most likely to encounter will be prioritized.
Since the launch of Solve Pest and Weed Problems, the website has received almost 13,000 pageviews. A social media post on the OSU Extension Master Gardener Facebook page garnered 748 views. A follow-up email sent to 138 stakeholders had a 64.5% open rate and another to Master Gardeners had the same open rate. Both groups expressed satisfaction with the new website.