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Site Seer: Garden sites bloom on the Web

From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman

In this story:

(CNN) -- Gardeners, take heart. Yet another long and dreary winter is over, and it's time to start planning in earnest for a harvest of mouthwatering tomatoes and prize-winning peonies.

There's nothing like advice from more experienced gardeners to help you avoid beginners' mistakes that could spoil your entire season, and there's almost no better place to get answers than the World Wide Web.

Since the last time I tackled this topic for "Site Seer," a few things have changed.

The Ardent Gardener site from GardenNet, once my favorite, has been down for upgrades since last summer and has yet to return. Retail gardening sites have sprouted like weeds. And one of the regional sites I reviewed, Atlanta Garden Connection, has joined a "Web ring" of garden sites from all over the world.

A Web ring is a group of sites that share a similar theme; each site is a link in the ring.


 Online shopping for green thumbs

At this time last year, I couldn't find any major U.S. seed retailers online. This year, Park Seed Co., White Flower Farm and Burpee are just a few of the old-timers making their way to the Internet.

Although it is possible to order some items from these companies online, their focus is giving advice and encouraging gardeners to get on their mailing lists. By contrast, Garden Escape's main mission is to sell the more than 7,000 products in its Garden Center to visitors, luring them with vibrant photographs and seamless design.

You can choose from 23 kinds of astilbe in its perennials section, seedlings of vegetables like artichokes that may be difficult to find in your local garden shop and a wide variety of hand tools.

The site doesn't restrict itself to sales. The latest issue of its magazine takes a look at creating a kitchen garden. A message board lets you brainstorm with other gardeners. And both the glossary and frequently asked questions files help you look for your own answers.


 What grows best in your region?

You may have learned how to garden at your grandmother's knee, learning the habits of plants in her backyard victory garden. But if her garden was in Oregon and yours is in, say, Phoenix, a lot of the things you learned won't work there. The soil in Arizona is sandier, the air is drier and hotter, and you may have a lot less shade. What to do?

Seek advice from somebody with the same weather -- and dirt -- that you have. Sites like Washington State Gardening Unlimited, Ohio State University WebGarden and the Atlanta Garden Connection are just a few of the excellent sites on regional gardening.

You might go there to find out what ornamental bushes do well in your area, learn whether there are specific blights affecting your food crops or look up a checklist of yard-care chores by season.

However, each site does have features that cross regional boundaries. The Ohio State WebGarden site, for example, has a handy online image database where you can search for information on more than 250 different ornamental plants.

web ring logo

 The Atlanta Garden Connection

Gardening Unlimited, an Oregon-based site, incorporates Extension Agency information into its layout instead of treating extension agents like a separate species, as many sites do.

The Atlanta Garden Connection, in preparation for its April 1 launch of a members-only subscription area, has completely changed its layout. While this doesn't make it any easier to find gardening articles, it's still easy to find the calendar of gardening events. And its link to the new Garden Web Ring couldn't be easier to find, right at the bottom of the page.

If I didn't mention a site in your region, you may wish to scroll through the links; sites focusing on Massachusetts, northern U.S. locales and even Canada and New Zealand are part of the Web ring.

Joe & Mindy

 Kozmo the cat gives a garden tour

I like Joe & Mindy's WebGarden as much now as I did last year.

This site shows off their real garden (their cat Kozmo is the tour guide) and has many inspiring pictures. There also is a bulletin board where you can seek advice from experienced gardeners or dole it out, if you know enough already.

The strongest part of the site, though, is still that list of links. They're broken down by category -- from general gardening to specialties and from day lilies to sunflowers. The site is well-organized and comprehensive.

If you need something and don't know where in the Web to find it, go there.


Related sites:

  • Park Seed Co
  • White Flower Farm
  • and Burpee
  • Garden Escape's
  • Washington State Gardening Unlimited
  • Ohio State University WebGarden
  • Atlanta Garden Connection
  • Garden Web Ring
  • Joe & Mindy's WebGarden
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