Self Serve Gardening

runktrun(z7a MA)May 17, 2011

As part of a generation whose gas station attendants not only washed your windshield but supplied you with tiger tails or drinking glasses I must admit I hate self serve gas stations (particularly in bad weather) and avoid at all cost the self cashier line at the grocery, pharmacy, etc. So I never thought I would be intrigued by the possibility of my phone scanning a plant tag bar code which would then offer me detailed information and in some cases instructional video.

So what do you think about the idea of scanning plant tags for extended information? Do you think it will be a useful addition to the nursery industry or do you see a possibility of fewer human employees? I wonder who will be the information source for these enhanced plant tags? What is your reaction to the article?

Here is a link that might be useful: The Bar Code That Tells You How Much Water, Light and Fertilizer

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Oh--THAT kind of self-serve gardening. I thought you meant the slug, rabbits, and cutworms helping themselves. Mine do that already.

As for the article, I suppose I could get used to having to scan for information if I had to, but I dislike having more and more things in life linked to barcodes and electronic devices. And there's really no info. I would need at the point of purchase that wouldn't just as easily fit on a small label stuck in the soil. I prefer those, as I can take them out and keep them when I get home.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 5:25PM
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absolutely not!! Unless they give me a smart phone with a built-in self-created tag printer. I love my tags even the ones that I don't quite believe. I even need the tags in the garden center as I browse. If I scanned it in Aisle-2 and put it in my cart, you think I can remember what it said in Aisle-6? let alone when I get home!

I attach all my tags to 4x6 index cards(with date/place/size of purchase and where planted) which is my garden lifeline of info. The tags are the starting point for the index card creation.

KEEP THE TAGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 5:47PM
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Great find, Katy!

This spring, the trees in containers sold at Lowe�s garden centers began carrying tags that could be scanned to view a two-minute how-to video on the specifics of tree planting, including what soil to buy. One of the main reasons for container tree returns is unsuccessful planting...

Something tells me that watching a 2 minute video on planting trees will have absolutely NO impact on the rate of returns due to unsuccessful planting.

This idea is a step that's ALMOST in the right direction. What I'd like to see, though, is a tag that encodes a definitive id for a plant, that you could scan and then plug in to a web site that YOU CHOOSE. I want to read about that plant using a site like MOBOT or Paghat's Garden. I don't want to know what the grower or vendor wants me to know, I want to know if the plant has invasive tendencies, loses its foliage color in shade/sun, spreads, is really marginally hardy in my area, blooms only sporadically, or is susceptible to pests and diseases. Something tells me that Lowe's isn't going to provide that kind of information!

The technology to do this is almost there, though, and bar code tags is a start. Projects like the Encyclopedia of Life, which assigns IDs and provides web service interfaces - will probably be able to take this concept and run with it. The trick is getting all the new cultivars into the EOL and then getting web sites at places like botanic gardens to interact with the IDs.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 9:01PM
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The tags are useful for immediate ID purposes, but I would NEVER
trust the specs they provide. . .they are usually way too conservative,
and as DtD suggests, I always check a reliable site like MOBOT for
specifics. It's amazing how many plant tags will state: "Full Sun",
when it's a plant that will do perfectly well in partial shade. . .
folks who have no way of knowing better are missing out on a lot
great plants. Now, if they'd like to have a few scanning stations set
up around the nursery where I could instantly research a plant at
the site of my choosing. . .I know, I know, just bring my I-Pad. . .
but I'm a pre-electronic age dinosaur and I don't adapt as fast as I
used to. . .:-)

And wouldn't that two minute "instructional" video quickly become a
means to promote additional products, boosting the nursery's cash
stream but not necessarily educating an unsophisticated customer?

Am I a little cynical? Yeah, I guess so. . .but after the floods of down-
right false information that I've heard dispensed at nurseries, I don't
even trust the tags! Which is why I'm constantly collecting nurseries. near and far, looking for REAL plant people - those are the kinds of places
worth the trip, tags or no tags. . .


    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 11:44PM
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that reminds me of another good low-tech "tag" option. Uncanoonuk Mt. Perennials in Goffstown NH has a good system for the take-home aspect of it. When you get to the cash register, they print out a useful spec sheet for you on that specific plant.

For the plants in the field they have those waist high stakes with a big card in it with basic spec info as well as REAL plant people walking around and available to ask questions.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 8:23AM
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"I want to read about that plant using a site like MOBOT or Paghat's Garden. I don't want to know what the grower or vendor wants me to know, I want to know if the plant has invasive tendencies, loses its foliage color in shade/sun, spreads, is really marginally hardy in my area, blooms only sporadically, or is susceptible to pests and diseases. "
I'm with DtD and Carl on this. Those plant tags are for promotion purposes and never give the full picture. I guess for Lowe's where the staff tends not to know much about gardening, this might be a help to some customers, but they won't get the whole picture. I'm not sure I'd necessarily trust Lowe's video on how to plant a tree either. One of my local garden centers hands out sheets on each plant they sell giving detailed cultural information, so if you buy 5 varieties, they hand you 5 sheets of paper that the computer has just printed, 1 for each plant. They will also talk to you about the plants, but this way you don't have to remember everything if you are a novice. And I would even check their information, though I am sure that it's much better than your average plant tag.

I actually have started taking my I-Pad when I plan to go nursery shopping (my cell isn't smart and I'm not sure I could read anything that small even if it were,) and it has been helpful. Last week I could not for the life of me remember the name of an annual that one of my local nurseries used to carry but I couldn't find last season or this. I popped out to my car, did a search and found it. I then asked the owner to bring it back next year. Now, I don't know if he will, but at least I could make an intelligent request rather than just "a medium blue flower with small slightly fuzzy leaves," which got me a blank stare last year. I've been able to check pruning type on clematis. Since many type 2's just don't do well enough here to be worth buying, I've been able to resist a few in full flower knowing that they were type 2, thanks to Clematis on the Web.

Last month I went shopping with a friend and she was checking prices in a big box store (Target?) with their in-house scanners for customers. This was helpful since often I can't find an item's price on the shelf, and I can see that it might have other useful information for an item like towels such as fabric content or matching bath mats. However, living things don't really fall into the same category. So I can't really see myself using this at all for plants.

. . . and this doesn't even address the issue of missing or just plain wrong tags in the plants at the big box stores. At least at my local nursery, if a tag is missing the owner will know the plant without the tag and be able to give me information.

I tend to visit everywhere that sells plants. Last week I was at Lowe's and watched folks walking out with some so-so looking specimens of annuals, while I had just come from a local nursery (happily one that tends to be quite busy usually) that had less expensive and better looking versions of the same thing. I don't know how to solve this . . . I'll talk up nurseries to friends and to anyone who asks, but somehow can't bring myself to just walk up to a stranger who has already made a purchase.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 8:25AM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

Your great comments led me to google this further and I stumbled on a PR piece promoting 2D tags. The following really excited me;
"Sending somebody to a retailers website on a mobile phone is a waste of time," Cissel says. "Today, each of these retailers has got to have multiple [Web] formats. Do they need a mobile site for every [mobile phone] carrier? If the answer is yes, its a tall mountain to climb. Our desire is to house the content for them, if they so desire."

Perhaps we have been hung up on the fact that the box stores are the first to use this and their tag information could be questionable. But what if each nursery owner can chose their own additional information source MOBOT etc. or create their own region specific tag.
I can think of multiple nursuries that have free instructional classes throughout the season to post those on youtube and then the 2D tag acts as a gateway. David Epsteins Growing Wisdom videos speak to the possibilities of this actually improving the nursery experience.

Hmmm...what do you think? Would a nurseryman invest the time to create his own informational tag and then pay a host site for the benefit of not having to repeat the same information 1000 times a day?

Here is a link that might be useful: Greenhouse Grower

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 9:28AM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

I forgot to mention that David Epsteins vast library of videos is from Weston Nursery. I wonder if they have begun using these 2-D tags?

Here is a link that might be useful: How to repair a broken branch

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 9:51AM
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