Participant Preferences for the Development of a Digitally Delivered Gardening Intervention to Improve Diet, Physical Activity, and Cardiovascular Health: Cross-sectional Study

Susan Veldheer, Maxfield Whitehead-Zimmers, Candace Bordner, Benjamin Watt, David E. Conroy, Kathryn H. Schmitz, Christopher Sciamanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Low dietary intake of fruits and vegetables and physical inactivity are 2 modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Fruit and vegetable gardening can provide access to fresh produce, and many gardening activities are considered moderate physical activity. This makes gardening interventions a potential strategy for cardiovascular disease risk reduction. Previously developed gardening interventions have relied on in-person delivery models, which limit scalability and reach. Objective: The purpose of this study was to ascertain participant insight on intervention components and topics of interest to inform a digitally delivered, gardening-focused, multiple health behavior change intervention. Methods: A web-based survey was delivered via Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), including quantitative and open-ended questions. Eligible participants were aged ≥20 years, could read and write in English, were US residents, and had at least a 98% MTurk task approval rating. A multilevel screening process was used to identify and exclude respondents with response inattention, poor language fluency, or suspected automated web robots (bots). Participants were asked about their interest in gardening programming, their preferences for intervention delivery modalities (1-hour expert lectures, a series of brief <5-minute videos, or in-person meetings), and what information is needed to teach new gardeners. Comparisons were made between never gardeners (NG) and ever gardeners (EG) in order to examine differences in perceptions based on prior experience. Quantitative data were summarized, and differences between groups were tested using chi-square tests. Qualitative data were coded and organized into intervention functions based on the Behavior Change Wheel. Results: A total of 465 participants were included (n=212, 45.6% NG and n=253, 54.4% EG). There was a high level of program interest overall (n=355, 76.3%), though interest was higher in EG (142/212, 67% NG; 213/253, 84.2% EG; P<.001). The majority of participants (n=282, 60.7%) preferred a series of brief <5-minute videos (136/212, 64.2% NG; 146/253, 57.7% EG; P=.16) over 1-hour lectures (29/212, 13.7% NG; 50/253, 19.8% EG; P=.08) or in-person delivery modes (47/212, 22.2% NG; 57/253, 22.5% EG; P=.93). Intervention functions identified were education and training (performing fundamental gardening and cooking activities), environmental restructuring (eg, social support), enablement (provision of tools or seeds), persuasion (offering encouragement and highlighting the benefits of gardening), and modeling (using content experts and participant testimonials). Content areas identified included the full lifecycle of gardening activities, from the fundamentals of preparing a garden site, planting and maintenance to harvesting and cooking. Conclusions: In a sample of potential web-based learners, participants were interested in a digitally delivered gardening program. They preferred brief videos for content delivery and suggested content topics that encompassed how to garden from planting to harvesting and cooking. The next step in this line of work is to identify target behavior change techniques and pilot test the intervention to assess participant acceptability and preliminary efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere41498
JournalJMIR Formative Research
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Informatics


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