Recently, there was a lot of discussion over at Apartment Therapy about gardening Generation Xers & Yers. Since my gardening lovin’ soul fits squarely in the Gen X category, the article really got me thinking.
Gen X & Gen Y are terms used to define a type of American population with the intention of selling them consumer goods. One point of the AT article was to establish a better understanding of gardening Xers & Yers in order to identify consumer needs that can be addressed by the retail industry. Like many of the post responders, I don’t often find products targeting my generation out in the retail garden world.
I tried to garden in several different apartments when I was a young, poor college student. Because I was a novice gardener, nearly all of these endeavors ended in failure of one type or another. One apartment will always be memorable because of all the potted plants I’d lovingly cared for that smashed onto the parking lot. I had them on a large rickety dumpster dived plant stand that decided to collapse. Another second floor corner apartment stands out in my memory because of the mean note from the landlord about the “bugs” they sprayed in my compost bin. The note bade me to get rid of them immediately. Gardening life ain’t easy when you’re young and living in apartments!
Gardening Gen X & Gen Y folks and wanna be Gen X & Y gardeners are out there. If retailers want to know what products to produce to target them then they’re going to have to do a little digging :)
First of all, what are the characteristics that define Gen X & Y? For me they include:
- Limited time
- Little money
- Environmentally conscious
- Technologically savvy
- Creative desires
Hopefully, retailers and product developers will keep these in mind when developing gardening products and selecting products to sell in their stores. I've written about a few situations where retailers and others might find opportunities to cater to the gardening needs of Xers & Yers.
I was a good student when I was at college. I was trained to study the rules and expectations, to follow all the recommended procedures and to come away successfully completing the task by delivering a polished result culminating in an "A" grade. The fact that following recommended gardening practices may still result in failure was a shock to my student psyche!
Seeds that don't sprout, blossom end rot, and bug infestations are blows that disappoint in a debilitating way both mentally and financially. Students cannot always afford to go out and buy another set of plants, pots, etc. if something goes wrong with their product investment. And having a community of gardeners surrounding them, or at the very least, someone in cyberspace to go to when some sort of horticultural setbacks hit, is essential to helping that novice gardener learn from the experience and ease them into lifelong gardening rather than someone who tried gardening and failed. Learning through trial and error is against most students’ training. They are not expecting to fail.
What Colleges can do to help student gardeners & gardener wannabes:
Transforming some of the campus land into a free community garden. Plots should be in varying sizes so students won’t get overwhelmed by taking on the responsibility of a large plot which may turn into yet another responsibility to dread. Because of the transient nature of student life, their community garden plot becomes a permanent gardening space potentially for all four years of their education. Various programs via the community garden can help students such as garden mentors, free seedlings in exchange for work on the food bank garden plot, etc. Make the community garden a social space with picnic tables and chairs so student gardeners can hang out with each other. This makes a cheap entertainment destination for cash strapped students.
Start an herb garden with students nearby the dorms & student housing. Often student housing has some sort of cooking facility. Teach them to grow easy herbs and peppers to dress up their cheap pizza.
Sponsor a “Grow Flowers for Your Valentine” event where students learn how to force bulbs to bloom in time to give to their Valentine.
Retailers could you work with Colleges to sponser programs or offer students discounts on your products? Think outside the box.
When I was in college and for about five years afterwards, I moved a lot. Those moves turned me into an expert box packer. I could also fill up any vehicle with boxes leaving no gaps between them. I credit hours of Tetris for this skill. One thing you can absolutely count on about Gen X & Y is the fact that they are mobile.
This lack of a permanent place to call home means that either our gardening is done in pots or we must leave behind plants that are in the ground. I recall one particularly stressful move where the moving guys said only a couple of plants could fit in the truck. I could have cried. The rest would have to be left behind, given away to some unknowledgeable plant friend who would likely kill it within six months. A sad end for the plants that I lived with and loved!
What we mobile Gen Xers & Yers need:
Information about how to move our plants. Websites, magazine articles, books, apps, whatever, but some sort of info about how our plants can survive the move. I need answers to questions like:
- Should I cut the tall stalk back before trying to transport it? Will that kill/maim my plant? How long will it take to grow back?
- How long can my plant go without watering in the back of a Uhaul? Is there any way I can set up a self watering system for the roadtrip?
- How can I move a plant living in the ground? Can I just dig it up and stick the roots in some grocery sacks for the move? Do I have to plant it in a pot?
- How long can my plant survive the heat/cold and darkness of the Uhaul?
- What should I do with my plant when I get to my new home?
- How do I keep my clay pots from breaking in the move?
Please garden writers, pretty please with sugar and cookies on top write about how to move plants. Create a website that has a searchable index with how to move particular kinds of plants. Write about how to help our plants survive and thrive in the new space. This information will make us better gardeners.
Product developers, you know you can come up with some products for packing, moving, and keeping alive plants to sell to the perpetually mobile.
We need more community garden spaces so Xers & Yers can move apartments and not have to worry about moving their gardens. Their community plot becomes a consistency in their lives where not much steadiness may exist.
Create a How to Take Care of this Plant E-card website. Sometimes you have to leave your plants behind. Would love to see a website with info on how to take care of the plant, like an e-card you can send to the friend that you leave your plant with. The card contains info on plant needs (light, water, etc.) and how to take care of it. Should also be space for any special notes you’d like to add to these care instructions as well as a space to provide the plants history. Personally, I’d love to know where the plant came from and the chain of events that led to my ownership of it.
There is a lot more that can be said about gardening Gen X & Y folks but I'll leave those thoughts for antoher day.