Till and tell: More gardeners get into blogging

November 08, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER | SUSAN REIMER,susan.reimer@baltsun.com

At first glance, it is hard to see where gardening and blogging intersect.

You imagine a gardener outside in the sunshine, hands crusted with dirt, face glistening with a sheen of sweat, a little breathless, smiling, grateful for the solitude.

You imagine a blogger wearing pajamas, typing furiously on the computer in a home office overflowing with old newspapers. Someone with a lot to say and no one to listen to him, firing streams of words off into the ether of the Internet.

But that is exactly where they intersect - on the Internet. It is a place where the gardener can leave behind the solitude of the garden and find an audience for his enthusiasm.

"I've gardened on this third of an acre since 1985, and I never had anyone to share it all with," said Susan Harris of Takoma Park, a blogger on Garden Rant, one of the best-known garden blogs.

"I was lonely," she said.

Now she has about 1,300 people to talk to every day.

Garden blogs are popping up like dandelions. Some are connected to product manufacturers or catalogs. Some are full of advice and how-to. Some are specific to one particular microclimate. Some are diaries. And some are just soapboxes.

"We are totally not into how to garden," said Harris. "We tell readers, 'Please ask someone else.' "

Instead, Harris and her partners - Elizabeth Licata in Buffalo, N.Y., Michele Owens in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Amy Stewart in Eureka, Calif., and the new guy, Allan Armitage of the University of Georgia - sound like they are having a lot of fun, especially when they are poking fun at the coffee-table gardening magazines that make designing a garden look easy when it is not.

"It is like listening in on a fun conversation," Harris said of reading a blog. The bloggers just finished such a conversation on what to do with leaves.

"If you learn something, fine," Harris said.

Jon Traunfeld of the University of Maryland's Home and Garden Information Center will launch a blog soon, and he hopes you do learn something from it. His office fielded so many calls this growing season that Traunfeld decided there had to be another way to get information to the public.

"People want to do something about food prices, about food safety. They are into buying locally. And they are realizing they can grow a little bit of something in their own backyard," he said. "They just need someone to tell them how to do it."

Surveys suggest that gardeners tend to be older and not very savvy with computers. That is true to an extent. But they are learning fast, and starting a blog isn't hard to do.

Julia Green, who launched her delightful blog, A Maryland Country Gardener, as an outlet for her photography, gardens on about 7 acres in northern Montgomery County. The blog is a record of what's happening in her garden.

"I can share my garden with my family, but what I like most are the comments," she said.

Karen Creely manages the Garden Plot blog for the Garden Media Group, and she uses it to promote her clients' products and events.

She monitors the gardening blogosphere, and said blogs range from pretty pictures of flowers to sophisticated advice, and also offer news alerts.

"A couple of years ago, it was the bloggers who sent out the word that there was this mulch that was really bad for dogs," she said.

Creely also talks about the honesty of garden bloggers when it comes to what works and what doesn't, and their courage to debunk pros and conventional wisdom.

Said Creely: "I probably would never have thought about buying worm poop until I read about it on a garden blog."

some blogs

* A Way to Garden, awaytogarden.com

* Garden Rant, gardenrant.com

* Dave's Garden, davesgarden.com

* A Maryland Country Garden, marylandcountrygarden.typepad.com

* Kitchen Gardeners, kitchengardeners.org

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