Gardening is of great interest in the United States, with 91million households, or 83% of all U.S. households participating in one or more types of do-it-yourself indoor and outdoor lawn and garden activities, spending an annual average of $387/household in 2005 (National Gardening Association, 2006).
Although this is a decline in average household spending compared with the previous year (from $449/household in 2004), it represents an increase of nine million households, or 11% that are gardening (National Gardening Association, 2005). Concern has been raised about a maturing gardening industry, along with the age of people who are gardening (White and Beytes, 2006). Competition between mass merchants and independent garden centers has offered consumers a wider array of horticultural products and gardening information from which to choose (Brun, 2004).
United States land-grant universities, through cooperative extension, have provided gardening information for many years, through Master Gardeners and other consumer horticulture programs (Meyer, 2007). Despite the size of the lawn and garden market, and the availability of information, little is known about consumer preferences and needs for garden information. Additionally, consumer's perception about the reliability or quality of gardening information, the role of universities in supplying this information, and consumers' use of the university for gardening information is not well documented. To do a better job of supplying gardening information through the University of Minnesota Extension, we conducted a survey of Minnesota gardeners to answer these questions: 1) Where do gardeners currently get their information? 2) What topics are gardeners interested in learning? 3) What learning methods do they prefer? 4) Should the university play a role in supplying gardening information? and 5) Do gardeners perceive a difference in the quality of gardening information from universities, garden centers, and home stores?
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Hudson, J., Behe, B., Ponder, H. & Barrick, W. 1997 Consumer perceptions and expectations of garden center product and service quality J. Environ. Hort. 15 12 15
Kelley, K. & Wehry, R. 2006 Consumer interest in gardening topics and preferred information sources J. Ext. 9 June 2006 <http://www.joe.org/joe/2006april/rb7.shtml>.
Niemiera, A., Innis–Smith, J. & Leda, C. 1993 Survey of garden center customer informational and marketing needs J. Environ. Hort. 11 25 27
University of Minnesota Extension 2006 Gardening and commercial horticulture programs 15 July 2006 <http://www.extension.umn.edu/topics.html?topic=5>.
Varlamoff, S., Florkowski, W., Latimer, J., Braman, S. & Jordan, J. 2002 Homeowners and their choice of information sources about gardening. J. Ext 12 July 2006 <http://www.joe.org/joe/2002june/a7.html>.