Plantcite – Researching novice gardeners in Vancouver

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Plantcite began with our dream of a living, breathing demonstration garden (detailed here and here). The intent is to help novice gardeners quickly and experientially learn more about plants that thrive in our climate.

This personal project was kicked off by diving deeper into the world of the customer. Our interviews and field studies helped us better understand what it means to be a novice gardener: context, behaviors, pain points.

Some highlights of our research:

Why do non-gardeners garden?

  • It’s tactile (getting into the dirt).
  • Rewarding seeing what will happen (you never know what it will do).
  • Having your own unique/novel interesting plants.
  • It’s creative.
  • Property Ownership: Improve aesthetics (“pretty to look at”); privacy; pride of ownership.
  • Environment; Growing your own food (part of her interest in cooking and local foods).

What are some typical novice gardener feelings and behaviors?

  • Time spend gardening is limited to around 3-4 hours/week; entirely seasonal (spring-early fall).
  • Usually the initial enthusiasm isn’t quite matched by actual effort. So there’s initial excitement in spring but summer comes around and things don’t quite go as originally envisioned.
  • Only occasionally talks to a few friends & family about gardening, but mostly it’s a solo activity.
  • Faces some unique challenges with gardening in their space…finds it hard to overcome these challenges because thinks there’s a lack of information.
  • Very much about trial and error and learning. Over time, has realized that this isn’t the right way and has good intentions for better organizing/planning, but still falls back to “old ways.”
  • Will sometimes fall prey to impulse purchases. Has regretted some past plants as a result—either they didn’t do well or didn’t end up liking them and grew bored. So tries now to research them a bit more.
  • Now will try to plant things more likely to do well in gardening space so it will feel successful. Will also think about with things with high yield, beneficials, things that are unusual/hard to find, expensive to buy etc.
  • Hasn’t quite figured out overwintering/winter gardening (admits this is probably due to lack of motivation).
  • Doesn’t really talk about gardening much. Often doesn’t realize when acquaintances/neighbors etc share the same hobby…will only discover it by accident.
  • Since this is a casual hobby, it doesn’t necessarily warrant joining an official organization/club or investing a lot of time into it. Doesn’t have a huge appetite for learning just for the sake of learning; will only seek out information as it’s needed.
  • Aware of community gardens but rarely looks at them and hasn’t ever really considered joining one—thinks it’s for someone else.

What are some pain points?

Beginner gardeners:
  • Determining what conditions you’re growing in: soil, light etc
  • Matching the right type of style/plant for your lifestyle/level of commitment/budget/space (i.e. what is realistic and what you’re capable of)
  • Choosing the right plant for space/conditions/region/time of year
  • Choosing healthy plants
  • Edibles: care/harvesting
  • Small space/container gardening
  • Figuring out what you like
  • Planning and Timing for seeds/transplanting/maintenance/harvesting
  • Pest and Weed Management
  • Planning & Designing a Layout
  • Diagnosing the problem
Intermediate gardeners:
  • Planning and Timing for seeds/transplanting/maintenance/harvesting.
  • Pest and Weed Management
  • Determining what conditions you’re growing in: soil, light etc
  • Natives/perennials for intermediates
  • Drought resistant/Irrigation
  • Overwintering/Winter protection

How might a digital tool help solve these pains?

  • Plant database: Help with researching plants: basic “tag” info, conditions it likes, care, common problems
  • Recommender/Product Discovery: Finding a specific plant for a situation; Finding/Discovering unusual plants
  • Problem Database:Diagnosing/troubleshooting tricky conditions; poorly faring plants
  • Design: Designing/Layout of garden; inspiration gallery
  • Community: Creating connections with likeminded neighbors
  • Product procurement: Buy/trade/swap plants and/or crops

We collected A LOT of data. This affinity map gives a bit of peek into the process:

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