This is an in-between time for gardening in the Midwest. Most garden crops have been harvested, the garden cleaned, spring-flowering bulbs planted, and the lawn mowed for the last time. The garden catalogs have not begun to arrive and its far too early to start seedlings for next year. This used to be the time to reflect on the last garden season and dream about the next.
Today, gardeners can spend these "in-between months" learning more about gardening techniques and new cultivars without opening a seed catalog, magazine, or book. Gardening information on the internet is "growing" faster than ground ivy (Creeping Charlie). There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sites on the web related to gardening and horticulture. Simply typing the word "gardening" as the keyword in a search brought up 558 sites!
Gardeners can find all kinds of valuable information on the web. For example, I learned from the World Class Giant Pumpkins home page that the world's largest pumpkin in 1996 was grown by Bill Greer in Picton, Ontario and weighed 1,006 pounds. The largest pumpkin in Iowa this year, grown by Bob Ruff of Garnavillo, weighed 742.2 pounds. This home page also gives inside tips on how to grow those giant pumpkins.
There is gardening information available for just about all interest areas. The problem is finding the best sources of information. Simply using a "search engine" and typing in the keywords may yield far more information than you were really looking for, requiring a great deal of time to sort through the material. In my opinion, the best gardening websites are those that have "hot links" to other pages which offer related or additional information. Below is a list of websites I have found that offer a wide range of gardening information.
Horticulture in Virtual Perspective, Ohio State University is ranked as one of the best links on the Internet. Its databases include a list of 5,000 horticulture fact sheets and many hot links to other valuable resources, such as seed and nursery companies and plant associations.
The Virtual Gardener is like a gardening magazine. It offers a complete palate of information including articles on specific plants and techniques, advertisements, classified ads, and book features. "Plant Profile" offers brief descriptions of plant species and cultivars. The Virtual Gardener also contains a section titled "Talk Back" where answers to questions are posted. They answer horticulture questions from all over the world. I found the answers to be too brief and not always accurate. The editors often ask readers for assistance answering the question.
The Neighborhood's Gardening Launch Pad is appropriately titled. It launches gardeners into cyberspace by linking them to hundreds of sources of gardening information. One search engine rated it in their TOP 5% of websites. It lists sources of information on just about all gardening topics, from ponds to herbs to roses. It will even connect gardeners to the websites of the extension services in all 50 states!
Gardenscape provides information from and for the professionals in the gardening, landscape, and nursery industries. This page links members of the Mail Order Gardening Association, and provides a list of Garden Companies, Educational Resources, Gardenscape's List of Magazines, and Garden Related Organizations.
The National Gardening Association home page provides information on gardening, children's gardening activities, information on their organization and magazine, and garden industry news.
GardenEscape is a unique site on the Internet. It asks gardeners to become members (free of charge) by selecting a personal password. This enables them to shop for garden supplies and enrolls them as members in a "Virtual Garden Club" for on-line chats.
The Dutch Flower Bulb Industry home page is devoted entirely to the providing information on the descriptions, culture, and folklore of spring flowering bulbs.
The Consumer Horticulture at Iowa State University home page provides Iowa gardeners with a much useful information, such as timely gardening tips, gardens to visit in Iowa, upcoming horticultural events, new gardening publications, a link to ISU Extension garden publications, garden companies, garden column and newsletter, and information about the Iowa Master Gardener Program. A nonframes version is also available.
A few mail order seed and nursery companies are also developing web pages enabling gardeners to learn about their new cultivars or place their order through on-line shopping:
- W. Atlee Burpee and Company
- Dutch Gardens
- Bluestone Perennials
- Klehm Nursery
- Garden Supply Company
- Gourmet Gardener
Plant associations are also developing home pages to give gardeners the latest information on their favorite plants. Below are a few excellent sources of information:
- African Violet Society of America
- American Bonsai Society
- American Conifer Society
- American Daffodil Society
- American Fern Society
- American Hemerocallis Society
- American Iris Society
This article originally appeared in the November 8, 1996 issue, pp. 170-171.