Average age of gardeners on the Web is increasing

The Middle Ages

December 30, 2007|By SUSAN REIMER

This is gardening's hot-stove season, when, just as in baseball, planning and daydreaming replace the action in the field.

Soon, garden supply, seed and flower catalogs will fill the mailboxes so recently vacated by Christmas cards.

But increasingly, experts say, gardeners are turning to the Internet for everything from purchases to conversation, from advice to landscape designs.

This should come as no surprise. The Internet is the go-to resource for just about everything. But what struck me was this:

The average age of the gardener is between 40 and 44 years old. Aren't the fine points of Internet searching and virtual living the province of the Gen-Xers and the Gen-Yers? The kids who are too busy with friends, careers or young families to garden?

"Younger people are more likely to go on the Web," said Craig Humphries, director of consumer research at Scotts Miracle-Gro, which will launch a comprehensive new Web site in February. "But that is becoming less and less true."

Humphries quotes studies that show that 80 percent of the 30-somethings are regular Web users, but 70 percent of those 55 to 60 are, too.

"The average age of the gardener is 44 years old, and 75 percent report they go online to get information, advice and to share gardening conversations with others," Humphries said.

Phil Gomes, vice president of Edelman me2revolution and an Internet consultant to Scotts, said there are some differences between the generations in their Internet use.

"Aunt Tilly may not understand the finer points of HTML. All she needs to know is the box that nephew Billy set up for her gives her a window on the world."

Gomes says it makes sense that gardeners, who tend to be older, have more time for this activity and be more passionate about it, would have a strong online presence.

His research has shown that online communities that have the most staying power are those that have the strongest connection to an offline activity. That certainly describes gardening.

The other reason people use the Internet, Gomes said, "is to get some kind of a break, a tip, a hint, a trick, an idea. Gardening sites do all of that."

Humphries sees the Internet as a way to "grow gardening" among young people. Though perhaps pressed for time and without a lot of gardening experience, they are beginning to understand what "curb appeal" means to the value of their biggest investment, their home.

And gardening blogs, chats, videos and pictures are showing up on sites favored by young people, such as YouTube, Craigslist and MySpace.

The Internet has become so much more for gardeners young or old than a way to buy the odd plant the local nursery doesn't carry.

There are how-to videos, garden tours, book reviews, photos, product evaluations and advice on disease and pest control. There are ways to exchange plants and seeds with other gardeners, describe gardening successes and find solutions.

And there are now easy ways to find bloggers and experts not only in your temperature zone, but in your state or even your ZIP code - fellow gardeners who will have tips and advice on problems specific to your microclimate.

Gardeners can find growing schedules for vegetables and flowers by simply inputting the dates of the last and first frost in their area.

If the Internet is a way to "grow" the gardening community, it is also going to be a key element in preaching to the converted.

"The boomers are the gardening community right now," Humphries said. "But there are a lot of things competing for their time. People have only so many ways to spend their spare time and their money.

"The cruise lines know about the Internet, too."

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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