American Nurseryman Magazine - Horticulture Magazine and Horticulture Books - Add a Little Character to Your Garden Center - April, 2013 - FEATURES

American Nurseryman Magazine - Horticulture Magazine and Horticulture Books - April, 2013

FEATURES

Add a Little Character to Your Garden Center

An entertaining and educational marketing program and product teaches children how to grow their own vegetables-and provides unique sales opportunities for garden centers.
By Jenny Hooks

Hal has visited approximately 500 independent garden centers nationwide. He shares his zest for growing vegetables. He spices up the way garden kits are sold. He has the potential to change the lives of millions of children across the country. And in his spare time, he performs the salsa.

Not bad for a little jalapeño pepper.

Thanks to a unique gardening program called Growums®, Hal E. Peño is just one of more than 70 garden-loving characters that actually shows kids and adults how fun and easy it is to successfully grow their own food. A division of Preferred Commerce Inc., West Palm Beach, Fla., Growums has cultivated a way to get today's tech-focused youth out into the sunshine - and growing - by combining real-life gardening with an entertaining cartoon cast that invites children outside via their computers and a unique garden-starting kit.

"Here at Growums, we feel that by providing children with a remarkable experience to grow their own garden, along with the help of fun characters who coach them in a fun online experience, the kids will be attentive and successful in their real-life gardening adventures," explained Growums founder and president Michael Ferraro.

A garden in a kit

That remarkable experience grows right along with the entire Growums line of gardening products, starting with the Growums Garden Kit. Designed for kids ages 5 to 12, each kit contains everything a child needs to start a complete vegetable and herb garden, whether it's in the ground or in a container: four types of seeds, eight seed-starting pellets, eight Growums character plant tags and a plastic watering tray that makes starting your garden as easy as pouring water. Six types of garden themes are available - Pizza, Taco, Stir-Fry, Salad, Herb and Ratatouille - and each stars its own colorful cast. The Ratatouille Garden, for example, mixes it up with Belle Peppa, The Great Zucchini, Eggbert the eggplant and Tomas the tomato, while the Herb Garden sings in flavorful tune with Frank Cilantro, Elvis Parsley, Regan O. and Baby Basil.

Retailing for $9.99 each, Growums® Garden Kits have everything kids need to start their own homegrown
vegetables and herbs.

Retailing for $9.99 each, Growums® Garden Kits have everything kids need to start their own homegrown vegetables and herbs.
Product images courtesy of Growums®

The basics behind the kits may seem simple, but the growing impact they produce means so much more. "When I was a kid, I started growing vegetable plants for my dad's garden center using the same type of seed-starting pellets used to grow Growums today," Ferraro said. "It was magical to see this small, dry object soak up water and grow to create a place for me to put my vegetable seeds. A few days later, I had little plants! I still remember how cool it was. Today, kids don't often have that opportunity. We want to give them that life-changing experience - to give them gardening knowledge and skills, a chance to live a healthy lifestyle, a way to fight obesity, an opportunity to help the environment, and time to have fun with their families."

The earlier children have positive gardening experiences, the
more likely they will become loyal garden center customers
as they grow.

The earlier children have positive gardening experiences, the more likely they will become loyal garden center customers as they grow.
Photo scourtesy of Jenny Hooks

Virtual instruction for a real experience

So how does this family-owned company do that? By reaching its young, computer-savvy target audience through today's most popular line of communication: the Internet.

What makes Growums kits different from any other on the market (besides the lighthearted character support) are the "edu-taining" instructions behind every one: Each garden kit comes with a special code that unlocks a virtual growing world at www.Growums.com. Once a child receives a Growums Garden Kit, the family can go online and register that kit for free, using the code inside. From there, the fun-loving Growums characters come to life in a series of short, animated instructional videos, showing kids and their parents how to start, plant and properly care for their gardens as they grow. For example, before Jimmy adds water to his Growums seed-starting pellets, he and Mom can watch a short, animated video on explaining why adding water (and keeping pellets moist at all times) is so important, as well as what to do in case a pellet doesn't fully expand.

The full Growums® garden display contains 144 kits.

The full Growums® garden display contains 144 kits.

This virtual guidance doesn't end once the seeds have germinated. Growums helps children keep track of each stage of their garden's progress, so families won't get lost along their growing way. (Friendly e-mail reminders with video links help keep parents on the right gardening path.) Growums characters, including Hal E. Peño and Captain Eggplant, discuss every growing aspect, such as watering techniques, sunshine requirements, the importance of fertilizing and mulching, how to help put an end to insect problems, how to stake plants, and more.

And when the kids can't be out in the garden, having fun practicing what they learned through the Growums videos, they can have fun on the Growums website playing a number of free vegetable-themed games, like "Tomas's Tomato Tumble" and "Iceberg's Seed Savin'." They can also go to the Apple App store and try their hand at keeping crazy gophers from destroying virtual gardens in a game called "Gopher Madness." These games (and more) all feature the same Growums characters that appear in the company's real-gardening product line. Growums is the only known children's gardening program that offers such an entertaining, interactive learning platform.

Growing sales, too

But it's not just families who benefit from the Growums line and its clever online guidance. Growums also runs a fundraising program that helps schools and organizations net a 50 percent profit, as well as a state fair program that gives students an opportunity to be recognized for their growing efforts by competing with other area schools for Blue Ribbon status at local or state fairs.

Growums® teaches children that the best food is picked straight from the garden-not from the grocery store.

Growums® teaches children that the best food is picked straight from the garden-not from the grocery store.

Garden center retailers who carry Growums products can yield great rewards from the program as well: The structure of the horticulturist-approved video content shows kids what they need for each step toward a successful food garden and encourages them (and grownups) to visit their local garden center to purchase the additional products needed to keep their plants healthy and fruitful, from mulch and fertilizer to containers and plant stakes. This means extra potential sales throughout the growing season for independent garden centers, plus a way to attract and welcome young new customers to the world of gardening. Some garden centers have even held "Growums days," focusing on kids, homegrown food and the Growums product line. (See sidebar for ideas on how some garden centers have successfully promoted Growums in their stores.)

Thanks to Growums, now more than 600,000 families have harvested great food and entertainment in learning how to successfully grow their own vegetables and herbs. What's more, it shows kids how cool it is to grow food, promotes healthy living, helps the environment, brings families closer together and teaches children important gardening skills that can last a lifetime.

Together Growums and independent garden centers have an amazing opportunity to show kids and their parents how fun and rewarding gardening can be - and help them all become healthier for it. Why not help your bottom line grow healthier, too?

For more information on Growums® and its products, contact Dan Marra, Growums executive vice president, at dmarra@growums.com.

Jenny Hooks is the managing editor of Learn2Grow.com and Growums®, divisions of Preferred Commerce Inc., West Palm Beach, Fla. She can be reached at jhooks@learn2grow.com.