How Does Your Garden Grow?


by Nell Bartusch


Nell is an assistant trainer and voice mail administrator at SDSU. She has raised four fine sons and now has three grandkids (if you have an hour she'll show you their photos). In her spare time she prefers being with her family, reading, remodeling her condo, putzing around with her plants, and watching television (only educational TV, of course).


Instructional Objective The learners will be able to associate at least five plants with the best growing conditions for the plants after playing one game.


Learners/Context The learners are hobby gardeners or students in neighborhood gardening classes. They can be of any age, but adults who are actively involved in gardening would benefit the most. The game is not intended as a tool for teaching or supplementing college-level classes where the students aim is to make horticulture a career.

The game is designed to be played at any time the learners desire and is intended to increase the learners' general knowledge of plants.


Rationale Home gardening is the fastest growing hobby in the United States. People are signing up for courses through their neighborhood Extensions, colleges, and garden clubs. Saturday television schedules include more viewing for plant-lovers.

How Does Your Garden Grow? helps novices quickly learn gardening terminology and growing requirements in a challenging yet entertaining way. The game brings the entertainment benefits of Scrabble and Monoply to the learners while challenging them to digest increasingly more facts about plants.

A challenge will motivate learners. According to Malone et al, one of the four factors of intrinsic motivation is that the pursuit be challenging. This game provides the learner with many variables, and consequently no two games will be played in exactly the same way. Plants grow under a variety of conditions; many factors can affect how they grow. The game mimics these variables of nature through the interaction of weather, soil, location, and the plants' requirements. Therefore the game is a challenge to the learners. Learners are, therefore, motivated to digest increasingly more information about plants as they play the game.


Game Design

Boards: Three boards are included. Two boards consist of one “garden," each plus some green area and the third has two gardens and green area.

A garden is a black rectangular shaped portion of the board with 40 squares set up in rows. Inside each square is a growing condition such as “drought resistant.” All four gardens are identical.

Plant disks: There are 200 green disks each labeled with a different plant in the form of the Latin name, the genus, and the common name (when one is commonly used).

Nature cards: The game has 35 nature cards. The cards contain instructions for the player to follow and thematically tend to be act-of-god events that occur outside a gardener’s control, such as an early frost or perfect rainfall. Often however, they contain bonus points for gardeners who follow environmentally sound practices.

Die: One die with four green sides and two black sides.

  • RULES:

    Two to four players may play How Does Your Garden Grow?

    The object of the game is to achieve the highest score.

    To set up the playing area for two players, the board with two gardens is opened with a garden in front of each player. When there are more players, merely add on an extra garden section for each player.

    The nature cards are placed face down on the center “lawn” of the board within easy reach of all players.

    For a two player game, 100 plant disks are turned face down in a “nursery” area convenient to all players; 150 plants are used for three players, and the full 200 for four players. Each player selects five pieces to start. No strategic reason exists for keeping the plants hidden from opponents.

    The length of play will vary according to the players’ expertise, however the average game will last anywhere from one to two hours.

    The first player to roll a black side on the dice, begins, and play continues to the right.

    To begin play the dice is tossed. The result of the toss determines play. If a green side lands up, the player “plants” as many of his plant disks as he is able. If a black side lands up, the player draws from the pile of nature cards and follows instructions.

    Planting: Just as most gardens are planted in rows, when the player rolls a green on the die, he can plant his plant disks on a qualified square in the row, either horizontally or vertically (but not diagonally). Play can start on any square in the garden, but after the first tile is played, they can only be played adjacent to each other, either vertically or horizontally. Players may play as many plant disks in consecutive order as they can, either up or down, or left or right. When they can no longer place any more plant disks their play is over, and they replenish their supply by selecting the same number of tiles from the “nursery” as they played. If players cannot plant anything, they draw one plant disk from the nursery to add to their collection, and play proceeds to the next player.

    A "qualified square," that is, a square on which a plant disk can be played, is one that specifies either a condition or situation which matches the plant as determined by the editors of the New Western Garden Book (1979). A player may be challenged by his opponents for a planting he has made. If the challenge is upheld (the opponent is correct), the player must give up the move and end his turn. If the challenger is wrong in his challenge, play continues uninterrupted.

    Play continues until no more disks can be planted.

    Scoring: One player is designated score keeper and records each player’s moves. When play is ended, the score keeper totals everyone's score.

    Points are scored both from the plant disks and the garden. All plant disks display a number from 1 to 5. They are ranked with 1 being a common plant, and therefore easiest to identify, and 5 being more difficult. Scores are calculated as follows:

    2+: The player adds two to the value shown on his plant disk,

    4+: The player adds four to the value shown on his plant disk,

    Double: The player doubles the value shown on his plant disk,

    Triple: The player triples the value shown on his plant disk, and

    Bonus: This is a “free” square and the player can play any plant disk.


  • Design Process I knew my board game was going to help people learn about plants, but the development process was quite slow and "painful." The challenge I faced was how to incorporate all the variables involved in learning more about plants, (plant name, common name, Latin name, ideal growing conditions, weather needs, best placement and use) while taking it a step beyond the one-card-with-all-the-facts concept. My first ideas included all planting zones in the United States. The variables were overwhelming, and all ideas lead to dead ends. I did not want to resort to the concept of having one player question another player.

    Once the squares-like-a-garden idea hit me, the development and design process began to work. The design still have several evolutions to go through, such as the idea of each player having his own garden rather than having the board as one big garden where each player interacted with opponents. I was not sure until the very end, how unexpected events and normal growing conditions were going to work together, along with the plants' individual needs. I wanted the game to be entertaining as well as educational so I added risk through the nature cards. They represent havoc for plants like sap sucking bugs or benefit for growers like perfect weather. The nature cards also raise the consciousness of the learner to environmentally sound gardening by rewarding good practices and penalizing irresponsibility.

    If I were able to redesign the board, I would use different materials. Although I like the organic feel of the fabrics, they were difficult to work with the way I used them. I would chose a less bulky material that would still have the soft look and feel of the fabric.


    References:Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine. (1979) New Western Garden Book. Menlo Park, CA: Lane.

    Malone, T.W. & Lepper, M.R. Making Learning Fun: A Taxonomy of Intrinsic Motivations for Learning (pp. 223-250).


    Last updated by Nell Bartusch on October 19, 1995.

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