What is a garden center?, part 2

Thanks for the responses to my last post. I wanted to address a couple of them, since I have also asked some of these same questions. As to Christian's concerns about an unsavory type of person buying this equipment, I am sure it happens. I wonder if nursery people back in the 70's had the same concerns about the long-haired hippies that we're coming in looking for organic supplies for their gardens back at the commune. Remember, it was not that long ago when "organic" was considered esoteric, and the realm of the " medicinal tomato" growing hippies. "Why carry organic?", nursery people would say. "It's for the hippies, and they will never be as good a customer as the 50 and 60 year old ladies we have now." Victor say's, "hydroponic use will become a distant memory if pot ever becomes legal. Until it does I believe that there is money to be made in 'indoor gardening'. Nothing wrong with selling hydroponics. Herbs and veggies are grown to some extent but the big movement to hydroponics is really about hiding an illegal crop." Hydroponics are used at Disneyworld to produce all the vegetables served in their restaurants. It is the source of "hothouse grown" tomatoes and lettuce you buy right now in the store. Hydroponics is here to stay. The question is about the home market for hydroponics. If all of gardening was about producing a bountiful selection of produce we would be out of business! It's about having a hobby. Most of us garden as a hobby, just like setting up a model train set in the basement. What practical reason does a grown man or women have a model train set? It's a hobby that fires up the imagination, and someone is making money selling model train sets.

Chris say's, "We have the same type of occasional customer in Cleveland. They are always looking for products to take care of their ‘indoor tomato plants’( wink, wink, nudge, nudge!)" So Chris has occasional customers looking for products for their "indoor tomato" plants. What does he sell them? Or are the asked to shop somewhere else? Realizing that there are more of those customers out there in Cleveland, where do they go now for their fertilizers and supplies?

I realize that here in northern California things may certainly be different than the rest of the nation (hey, quit that laughing!). As an example I Googled hydroponics in our zip code. Four pages of hydroponic shops come up in a 45 mile radius. Well over 40 shops! We are not blind to what the different reasons hydroponics can be used for. Any nursery person, or garden center that sells a bag of potting soil could very well be helping someone grow, "medicinal tomatoes", including those 50 and 60 year old ladies shopping at Christian's nursery.

Often the exciting new technologies, and resources that we take for granted start in the fringes of the gardening world. Remember, real change takes place in the fringes. Organic gardening, now all the rage, started with hippies living in the hills growing "whatever". We, in the nursery business pretty much ignored this movement as being "out of the mainstream". Some people saw the potential and jumped on the bandwagon. They are now called "visionaries". "Oh, please tell us how to sell organic fertilizer and pest controls", we ask.

One of the things that keeps me interested in this business is pushing the envelope. When the wizard say's, "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," I want to look. In an urban setting where land for gardening is sparse, hydroponics will become an important way of producing safe, healthful food. It already is, whether you know it or not. During the winter when people suffer from the lack of light, having a indoor hobby that grows healthy food, and at the same time helps to wipe away the winter time blues is important. Just like the person who spends hours working on that train set in the basement, hydroponics can entertain someone for hours on end.

Hydroponics, like water gardening, orchid growing, home wine making, or growing "wicked plants", is not for everyone. Home Depot and it's like are there to service "everyone".  We need to find the niches that they don't address. That of course, is not for everyone.