The last few years have seen an influx of new gardeners. The National Gardening Association reports that the number of new vegetable gardeners increased 10% in 2008, and a whopping 19% in 2009. By all appearances, the trend is continuing in 2010.
Unlike previous generations, most of these new gardeners truly are brand new to gardening. They didn’t grow up learning to garden from their parents. That can make for a pretty daunting learning curve. Where to put the garden … how to prepare the soil … what to plant … seeds or transplants … how to fertilize … how to handle insects and pests … which is weed and which is a plant. With so much to learn, it’s amazing we have any new gardeners at all.
It’s likely that you too have lots of new gardeners among your customers. Do your catalog and website talk way above their heads? Take a look at all your marketing messages through the eyes of a newbie – someone who has never heard terms like xeric, indeterminate, deadheading, or rhizome – and see what you can do to make them more approachable.
A few years ago, I was reminded how much we assume by a conference speaker who reported that the overwhelming majority of new gardeners don’t know the difference between an annual and a perennial. While you should never talk down to your audience, avoid the common mistake of using unfamiliar terminology without an explanation. Striking that balance can be a real art, but one that will pay off in the long run.