Greenterest – a hackathon product

April 12th 2013

Last week at Sidekick we did a hackathon – three days to make one product prototype that fulfilled three criteria: people would want to use it; it would have the potential to make money; it has a purpose. We whittled tons of ideas down to three using a complex star-voting system, to be left with the ones we split into teams to make: Sidetracked, Collectist and Greenterest.


Over the three coffee-pizza-and-curry-fuelled days, my team designed and built Greenterest (working title). The initial grand plan was to make a complex 3d drag-and-drop garden designer, laden with expert advice and a database of plants matched to your soil type, conditions and sun levels. But after a few hours of head-scratching we realised that this was way too big for a hack and also relied on knowledge that we just don’t have. So instead we embraced our lack of know-how and focused on making a web app that connects amateur but enthusiastic urban gardeners with others, to learn and share in a specially-designed social network.


Greenterest homepage

The idea is it’s a bit like a Ravelry or Burda, but for green-fingered folk. I was quite amazed to find that a gardening-based social network doesn’t exist already given the general popularity of gardening, but all the current sites seemed to either cater to people who already know their loam from their mulch, or are terribly old-fashioned looking and not geared up to be socially connected. Greenterest is made for people who already Instagram their growing efforts but aren’t sure where to turn to when they get stuck.


Your Plot profile page

On the site you can create your Plot – a virtual space where you tell people about your garden, upload photos and tag your plants to find people growing similar things. It’s for anyone who grows things, whether it’s a few herbs on your windowsill or 3 acres of rolling landscaped gardens. If you don’t have a garden yet or don’t want to upload photos, you can ‘Dig’ other people’s photos and save them to your Trug – an inspiration scrapbook for your own reference.


Greenterest photo page

The hacked-together app contains just the bare minimum of functionality – you can join, upload photos and discover others – but we have ideas for loads of other features that would make this a genuinely delightful, useful site for amateur gardeners. Eventually you’ll be able to follow others and see their updates on your homepage, you can tag and follow certain plants or types of plant (veg, herbs flowers), we’ll have forums for questions and advice, and perhaps even a marketplace to trade seeds and cuttings. The possibilities are huge and exciting.


Superquick branding ideas!

I really want Greenterest to be a real thing, and I hope we can carry on developing it post-hack. My initial user-testing (a very small sample of self-volunteering Instagram friends) seemed to say it’d be a useful and fun service for urban gardeners. What do you think? Would you use it?

P.S The winning hack, Sidetracked, is a wonderful app which lets you find interesting places to stop off at on any UK train journey. Check it out here, and read about the team’s process here.

Comments (14)

  • Rhianne

    April 12th 2013 at 11:23 am

    I would yes, Thomas and I always talk about growing things but we would’nt have any idea where to start, so this would be perfect for helping with that!

  • Miss Drawingdream

    April 12th 2013 at 11:33 am

    I guess I wouldn’t use it, but I though like the idea! :-)

  • Mel

    April 12th 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I would love to use this! My boyfriend and I are starting our first garden this season, and it’d be great to have a living place to look for ideas and suggestions. I signed up before I realized it may not be continuing, but I’d love to see it grow!

  • Anushka

    April 12th 2013 at 4:13 pm

    It sounds like an interesting idea, I especially like the idea of swapping seeds or cuttings as well as being able to ask some advice from more experienced gardeners.

  • Sarah Brown

    April 12th 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Definitely definitely would use this, have had my first garden for about a year now in SW London, and so far using Evernote to document all my plants, would be great to have somewhere to share and ask others’ advice. Thanks, Sarah

  • Emma

    April 12th 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Please make this! There must be thousands of city-dwelling, small-garden or window-sill-owning, would-be-gardeners out there. With good intentions, but without the knowledge to help them past the first pitfall or failure (I may or may not be talking about my own slug-devoured potato plants here). An interesting time to do it as food prices are high and wages stagnating. Let’s hope the sun makes an appearance soon…Also, way to hackathon, sounds like it was very productive!

  • Lisa

    April 14th 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Katie,
    I think its a great idea. I have a fantastically ‘designed’ garden but struggle with the planting (and its been 5 years plus). It would be great to compare notes with others!

  • joyfulmara

    April 14th 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I would LOVE something like this. I started a p-patch (small plot in a community garden here in Seattle) a few years back and gave it up to another eager learner after my boyfriend moved into a place with a huge garden. Over the last 4 years I’ve spent a lot of time using trial and error, reading local gardening books, seeking out answers and organic tricks online, and sometimes resorting to asking questions at the local nursery. Now, many of my friends are looking for a place to start. I give them tips I’ve picked up, but it would be great to have a site like this to recommend and share my plot. Please keep it going and if you need more beta testers I would love to help!

  • Jess

    April 15th 2013 at 11:28 am

    Brilliant idea! Agree with your comments about existing gardening sites/forums – there just doesn’t seem to be anything out there already for those used to the world of blogs/Pinterest/Ravelry etc. Even though I don’t have much space to grow stuff at the moment, I’d probably use something like this to have a nosey at what other people are growing! Assume you’d change the name from Greenterest to something less Pinterest-y if you developed it?

    1. Katie

      April 15th 2013 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks Jess. Yes the name would definitely change. The product isn’t even very much like Pinterest, it just stuck while we were hacking. Ideas for a new name welcome…!

  • Ross Chapman

    April 15th 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Hi Katie,

    I like the process and the design looks great.

    Through the discovery process, you must have discussed how the site would make money? What were your thoughts?

    thanks for sharing,


    1. Katie

      April 15th 2013 at 5:08 pm

      Hi Ross, thanks! We thought of lots of potential revenue streams: charging for premium features like the marketplace, affiliate links for related products (or even integrated ecommerce), display advertising/sponsored ‘plots’… monetisation not foremost in our minds at the moment though.

      1. Ross Chapman

        April 15th 2013 at 5:09 pm

        Members could sell seedlings etc. – lots of ideas!

        I don’t see why this wouldn’t take off – what other gardening social networks are there? :-)


        1. Katie

          April 15th 2013 at 5:13 pm

          Funnily enough we just found one that launched only this week, but with a focus on vegetables only:

          We’ll be keeping an eye on it, and figuring out how we can be different.. and better ;D

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