Editor's note: Photos are available. Please contact Candace Pollock at (614) 292-3799 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW CARLISLE, Ohio -- Spring is here and the garden in your front yard is beckoning. But with literally hundreds of plants and flowers to choose from, a trip to the local garden center can be an overwhelming experience, especially if your knowledge of plant selection and care falls short.
Jim Jasinski, an Ohio State University Extension educator in Champaign County, has developed a computer tool to help make a garden center visit more informational and educational, and consequently, more enjoyable.
Jasinski, a specialist in Integrated Pest Management (IPM), took a $3,500 Outreach and Engagement grant and spent 18 months creating the Gardeners' Tool Shed -- a kiosk with an iMac computer and a printer that can spit out a wide variety of information on plant care with just the tap of touch-screen buttons. The kiosk is currently being evaluated at MeadowView Growers, Inc., a garden center in New Carlisle, Ohio, located off state Route 235.
MeadowView general manager Earl Robinson, Jr., sees the Gardeners' Tool Shed as an invaluable tool not only to inform the customer, but also to educate the employee on a host of gardening topics to provide visitors with that extra touch of customer service.
"One of the reasons people come to MeadowView is to get that one-on-one with certified technicians. Information is a big thing and this kiosk is a big piece of that," said Robinson. "If people can understand more about plants and you can help them in choosing what plants will work where, then that just gets them more enamored with plants and more excited about gardening. Then they'll want to come back to your place of business."
Jasinski said that the Gardeners' Tool Shed evolved from the need to educate the consumer on pest management, pest biology, and the different treatments available to control insect pests. It then grew into a general gardening overview covering lawn care, pests, diseases, the basics of vegetable gardening, vegetable crops, herbs, bulb gardening, annuals, perennials, rose gardening, ornamental grasses, backyard fruits, water gardening and house plants.
"Gardening is such a hot area. People are always hungry for information," said Jasinski. "Customers look to garden center specialists to find out more about plants, the best place to put a plant or how to care for them, and sometimes those specialists are not always available. This kiosk is not meant to replace the person, but provide that additional knowledge when talking to a person is not an immediate option."
The Gardeners' Tool Shed has only been in place at MeadowView for one week, but Robinson sees the potential of what the tool can offer.
"It's pretty incredible. It's so user-friendly. Even someone who is not computer literate wouldn't be intimidated to use it," said Robinson. "If you want to know more about roses, you can just touch the screen and learn how to grow them right then and there. If you don't have time to read the material, you can print it out and take it home with you."
Robinson sees the technology as attracting a younger generation of gardening enthusiasts -- individuals who are already potential customers when they participate in MeadowView's agritourism activities in the fall. With that kind of economic view, Robinson sees the Gardeners' Tool Shed as a valuable business tool that could provide information on seasonal products, as well as regularly inform customers of item discounts.
"Once people know that it is here and they get accustomed to using it, the kiosk becomes an invaluable asset," said Robinson.
Depending on the outcome of evaluation process, Jasinski hopes to place the Gardeners' Tool Shed in other garden centers throughout the area by making available for purchase the hardware and computer software to build the kiosk.
For more information on the Gardeners' Tool Shed, contact Jasinski at (937) 484-1526 or e-mail email@example.com.