When the ground is frozen and plants are dormant, gardeners enjoy a respite from active outdoor work. But that doesn’t stop them from dreaming of warm days ahead.
Books and catalogs brim with images of perfect landscapes, but websites and blogs deliver the real dirt on gardening. An informal survey of local master gardeners provided a list of go-to websites that can help you plan for your garden.
The most frequently mentioned website was that of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Especially helpful is its plant finder: www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/plantfinder/plantfindersearch.aspx.
Martha Swiss noted that users can find information on 6,400 plants, searching the database by Latin or common names or through the advanced search feature, by leaf or flower colors, soil and sun preferences and other attributes. They include a plant’s ability to survive challenging locations and whether it’s plagued by deer and other pests.
“It’s easy to use and the information it provides about each plant includes size, habit, attributes, cultural info, problems, how to use in the garden and pictures. There is also an audio tool for pronunciation of the Latin name, as well as comments and starred recommendations by horticultural professionals,” she says. “Even though Missouri is in a different part of the country than we are, with somewhat different soils and native plants, we share the same USDA hardiness zone.”
If your New Year’s resolution includes moving toward greener gardening practices, both Mother Earth News (www.motherearthnews.com) and Rodale’s Organic Gardening (www.organicgardening.com) are print publications that have informative websites on topics including organic gardening, recipes, homesteading, livestock, wildlife, resource conservation and environmental news.
You can virtually get together with a bunch of like-minded gardening friends by visiting www.gardenweb.com and http://davesgarden.com. These sites take you directly to topics that interest you, but be aware that they have comments from serious gardeners and amateurs alike. Be sure to cross-check cultural recommendations with more professional-based sites.
The Garden Professor’s Blog (http://blogs.extension.org/gardenprofessors/) is a site featuring posts by four horticulture professors. One of the founding members of the blog, Linda Chalker-Scott, will speak at the annual Garden & Landscape Symposium of Western Pennsylvania on April 18. One terrific feature of the site is “ask an expert,” which allows you to post a question and get a science-based answer from an extension agent.
If you like your blogs opinionated, check out www.gardenrant.com. The site was created in 2006 by four passionate gardeners and covers lots of ground, some of it controversial, all of it interesting and informative. Whether you’re up for someone challenging the conventional wisdom of “gardening for winter interest” or find using chemicals in the garden helpful or horrifying, this site will keep you entertained.
We have our own home-grown blogger in Jessica Walliser who writes for the Savvy Gardening blog (www.savvygardening.com). Jessica is one of four contributors to Savvy Gardening. All are professional writers as well as dirt-digging gardeners, making the blog both informative and a great read. Each has expertise in different aspects of gardening, whether it’s gardening for the budget-minded, growing vegetables outdoors 12 months of the year, loving ornamental gardening and design, or knowing which bugs are beneficial versus damaging in the garden.
Finally, check out extension.psu.edu, the website for the Penn State Extension. The range of topics covered on the site includes plants, pests, conservation, farming, food preservation and more. You can find a complete list of classes being offered locally by area master gardeners as well as special events such as our upcoming Garden & Landscape Symposium and garden tours.
Carol Papas is a Penn State master gardener. Columns by master gardeners sometimes appear in place of the Garden Q&A by Sandy Feather, a Penn State extension agent.