How might I connect local gardeners for in time help?
The project ideas my group and I came up with were:
local bulletin board at grocery stores/garden centers
social around specific planting times (tomatoes in May, etc.)
partner with local farmers market (stand/meet up)
create an app-gardening sos
create an app specific to zone (badges, up-voting)
create a directory of gardeners in area; digital yellow pages
partner with mater gardener certification places (CCAE?)
grant to get “Take a Master Gardener” out for local food dinner or do a larger potluck
partner experienced gardeners with beginners at community garden (apprenticeship/mentorship)
digital illustrations of plants (clickable infographic)
tinder like app/ swipe R or L-do you like my garden or is this garden making use of space, etc.
I decided to prototype the app idea, but found it more useful to create a prototype of a webpage before beginning the app prototype. I jotted down a few notes as I drew it out:
when you click into website, prompts you to input zipcode, tells you your zone # (state based, focusing only on MA for now)
if you sign up as a user, remembers your zone # to connect you with other users
people are given color badges, based on expertise. Everyone starts with beginner expertise but can get other, higher badges based on answering questions correctly (based on upvoting, probably) or submitting documentation (master gardener certification, haven’t quite worked this out yet)
can check out different zones by clicking on dif parts of MA map
I found I had to fight the urge to look at other websites/apps as examples when I was working and tried to take into consideration whether the “How might we?” question was being addressed. I found myself getting caught up in thinking “can I?” as in , “can I achieve this? What would I need to get this done? Should I even add it?” I tried to silence that part of the brain and not worry too much about the how just yet. I also found that I kept wondering whether what I was doing had already been done.
1& 2) they need to ask questions/share insights that are locally based
3)they want to reference it year after year (when did I plant that last year? was it doing as well? Why or why not?)
5) they need to save $ on groceries and/or it tastes better to them
I found that my younger interviewees enjoyed sharing their plans, documentation on social media but my older interviewees wanted nothing to do with it. I got the sense that they felt it tainted the experience. In a way, I understand that. Some interviewees brought up how relaxing gardening is, as a way to connect with nature and feel disconnected from work/life troubles, even though or maybe because it is hard work. The idea of trial and error came up often, mostly because although gardeners might troubleshoot that didn’t always mean that a particular method would work for them, especially if they were not sure of where the method took place. After learning more about my interviewees, I wondered how mentorship might fit in.
My interviewees ranged in age from 30 something to 60 something. I didn’t differentiate between them in the empathy map; their personas are at the bottom of the post.
Needs & Insights
Learner 1: Rebecca is in her mid-30s and works as an operations manager at a coffee shop. She lives with 2 roommates and doesn’t have outside space to garden, but does do windowsill plants, like micro-greens (to eat) and succulents every year. She was gifted a Venus Flytrap and did lots of research on how to care for it; there was so much information that she ended up following it all and the plant died. She tends to garden by a trial and error method. She tends to look up gardening information on blogs and via youtube. She thinks that many gardening forums don’t have the information in an easy to find space; she compares it to recipe blogs which hide the recipe at the bottom of a page. She prefers visual information; if it interests her she keeps looking, if not she moves on. When she had a bigger space with a yard; there was a garden there but it became unruly and time-consuming so she hacked it down.
Learner 2: Ben is in his late 30s. He grew up helping his dad take care of their backyard garden, was more of a chore. He worked as a landscaper for a while and learned more about gardening then. Likes to share stories about gardening, particularly if people are interested. Also enjoys the social aspect of it. He looks up or problem solves information by searching garden forums online. He tends to read through it all and tries to determine whether the posters live in the same climate and whether many people give similar suggestions/tips on how to approach something. Thinks the information is likely to be more accurate if more people are in agreement. He finds gardening forums when he can’t tell if someone lives in the same type of climate that he does, as that will have a big effect on whether he should follow a particular method. Some issues that come up is that he doesn’t know how much space to leave for plants to grow; also often does trial and error after researching for methods. Mentions that one of his goals is to have a meal completely made up with food from his garden and also likes that growing his own food is environmentally conscious.
Learner 3: Genie is in her 50s and works in marketing. She grew up helping her mother take care of her garden in upstate NY. She didn’t always want to do it; but one night they went out to plant seedlings and she saw a meteor fall not too far away. She went to school for environmental education and ended up learning a lot about botany. She is on the board of Trees for Watertown.Has lived in many different types of climates and learned to garden in them. No longer goes to others with questions, as she finds she knows more. She is basically a SME. She does like a gardening catalog called Fedco, which she says has ton of information in the writing, and is a bit tongue in cheek. She says what would be helpful is to have a good library, as the resources already exist. Likes to share her knowledge and her process for figuring out issues (like how she chose a particular tree to try to propagate in Watertown). She says that gardening is a ‘hands in dirt, person to person thing’ and describes learning about it as “It’s just reading and habitual observation”.
Learner 4: Milena is in her 40s or 50s and learned to garden as a kid in eastern europe. Her great-grandfather had a farm and she’s always loved it. She used to kick off her shoes and walk in the dirt; some of her best childhood memories come from that time. She learned through observation and helped parents. If she has a gardening problem, she goes online to identify what it is. For example, she took pictures of a gross bug on her asparagus and figured out it was ladybug larva by searching online. Ladybugs are garden friends. She also goes to the Hillside Garden Center and speaks to experts there if she needs help. She’s noticed that gardening catalogs are not very useful but university websites with agricultural programs are. Youtube is more useful because she can see it and tends to go for the ones that are most watched. Shares experiences about her garden but not on social media. Noticed some of the beginner gardeners can make mistakes like not knowing how big their plants will get (shadow other plants); don’t weed very often (spreads) and create shaded areas (groundhogs will hide).
Best part of gardening to her is the homegrown vegetable tastes much better than anything from a store! It’s also a way to relax, stretch and get Vitamin D.
Learner 5: Larissa is in her late 30s, has a toddler. She tried having a community garden in her college coop, but it failed because she didn’t know that the soil needed to be enriched. She tried asking around from friends, but no one knew what the problem was.When she lived in Boston with two balconies she did lots of container gardening; kept a blog about it (to document and share) and was very into it. She references the book Bountiful Containers and You Grow Girl. She enjoyed the community forums of You Grow Girl. Since moving to Texas she hasn’t found a good resource and finds the same methods don’t work in her new climate. She is also busier so she does not keep up with it as much. She knows a lot about container gardening but wouldn’t consider herself an expert in backyard gardening. She has interest in someday becoming a Master Gardener. She teaches her daughter about gardening, but more about the connection to how that is where food comes from and in an effort to get her to eat vegetables.
create a walking/reflective/observation exercise for people to do when they are out gardening
create a digital info graphic; ex. digital image of plant, can click on different parts of the plant to learn more about it
create a poster infographic that would be pretty enough to get people to hang (maybe even frame) and put on their wall (could be a series on different plants orbasics for beginners)..expanding on that create an infographic poster to post around town (although this is a very learning passive learning experience and easily ignored)