A web or resources for gardeners Online: The Internet is a turf rich in information for those who love their yards.

September 20, 1998|By Nancy Taylor Robson | Nancy Taylor Robson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It's a paradox. Few pursuits are more low-tech than gardening, yet gardeners are plugging into the high-tech world of the Internet in droves, at least to judge by the number of gardening Web sites on the information superhighway.

Despite the seeming contradiction, gardeners' attachment to the World Wide Web makes perfect sense. For millenniums, we have sought new and better plant varieties, tools, fertilizers and connections with like-minded people. Now we can have them, unimpeded by barriers of time or space - and nonpolluting.

The Internet offers gardeners a wealth of resources, including discussion groups with other gardeners and forums where we can pick the brains of horticultural and botanical experts around the world without ever leaving our homes. The Net also has listings for everything from community gardens and seed guilds to magazine articles, regional gardening events, university research, state extension services, books, newsletters, individual gardeners' wonderfully esoteric Web pages and catalogs for every garden product under the sun. We can even buy beneficial bugs online.

The key to finding things on the Web is figuring out: a) what you really want and; b) how to put it into words that search engines will respond to effectively. While a query for citations on "gardening" through search engine Excite brings up an overwhelming 74,701 matches, honing the search request with specifics, like "herb" or "tools" plus "gardening" helps cull the detritus and save a lot of time.

However, semi-aimless meandering along unexplored Internet paths can lead to serendipitous discoveries. While wandering on Excite, I found a link to "gardening quotes," which produced a fantastic list of quote categories that eventually brought up things like: "We came from the earth, we return to the earth, and in between, we garden (anonymous)." It may seem odd when seen on a computer screen, but it's a reality check that recalls the earthy connection between human and humus.

The Internet is a great marketing tool for seed and plant companies. Many have creative and informative Web sites, which, in addition to their catalogs, include tips on cultivation, recipes and pest control, and odd tidbits of gardening wisdom. Seeds Blum (http:

www.seedsblum.com), which sells heirloom seeds and gifts, has a Web site that offers information on heirloom seeds, plants, vegetables and fruits, and on their cultivation and history, in addition to the entire company catalog.

Bookmarking favorite sites

Bookmarks are a timesaver for sites you want to revisit. Just be sure you bookmark the home page of a site that will enable you to rummage around its various linked pages. For example, to revisit the richly stocked Web site of Shepherds Garden Seeds, bookmark: http://www.shepherdseeds.com, rather than the recipe for stuffed peppers, which will bring up only that page, not access to the whole site.

Periodically cull your bookmark list. Sometimes site addresses change; others vanish into the etherworld.

Be careful with e-mail

Some sites ask questions or request input to which you may be tempted to respond through a handily provided e-mail box on the page. Bear in mind that e-mailing anyone automatically gives them your return (e-mail) address. As the result of a single e-mail to Heirloom Seeds (heirlooate.usaor.net), I now get an e-mailed copy of their weekly garden newsletter. At Heirloom, you can easily (and effectively) request deletion from that e-mail list. (Heirloom's Web site is http://www.heirloomseeds.com/.)

Other places are not so accommodating, and will bombard you with e-mailed advertising and cybergarbage.

Sites

Choosing sites can be like trying to figure out what restaurant to eat in when you're in Paris. My favorites are clearly organized and visually attractive, contain a variety of links to other gardening categories or sites, and change frequently enough to warrant return visits.

One very helpful site is Cindi's Catalogue of Catalogues (http://www.cog.brown.edu/gardening), which lists 39 topics, including aquatic plants, carnivorous plants, natives and wholesalers. Each topic is a link to catalogs covering that subject. Option No. 40 enables you to view the entire Catalogue of Catalogues.

Other sites to try:

http://www.gardening.com/

http://www.gardenweb.com/

http://www.surfinglinks.com/garden.htm

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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