Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 7/28/2006 9:55:01 PM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Reading garden books has always been a favorite pastime of mine, and I still keep my most useful references close at hand. But I have to admit that more and more I find myself doing research on my computer.
The amount of information about gardening on the Internet is nothing short of awesome, and I guess it’s no surprise that the high-tech world of the computers and the Internet has met up with the earthy world of gardening. After all, computers are in such common use these days, and gardening has for a long time been America’s favorite leisure activity.
A growing number of gardening information sites are on the Internet that can provide answers to gardening questions, display color illustrations of plants, help with garden planning and sell you a wide variety of plants, garden supplies and tools. There are gardening magazines available online, bulletin boards where you can communicate with gardeners from all over the world and much more.
If you don’t have a computer with Internet access at home and you’d still like to check out these online opportunities, ask at your local library or check out locations where you can pay a fee to use a computer that is linked to the Internet. More and more opportunities are opening up to use public computers. Also, don’t forget you may have a friend or relative who has access to the Internet and will show you how to explore gardening sites.
Finding exactly the information you want can be challenging. Unless you know the address of a Web site, you cannot access it or see the information it contains. But chances are you don’t even know what's out there about a particular subject, much less how to find it.
If that describes you, the good news is that you are not alone. That’s why there are helpful tools called "search engines." These search engine Web sites are starting points for locating other useful sites when you are trying to find information on the Internet.
The popular search engines include Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com) and Google (http://www.google.com) , but there are many more. Once you contact one of these sites, you can type a word or words that describe what you want to find into the "search box" on the page. Your search terms can be a broad as typing in the word "gardening" or as specific as a plant’s common name like "crape myrtle" (or, even better, type in the Latin name if you know it).
If you type in the name of a plant, you will be provided with any sites that mention the plant. Some of them will not be all that helpful or useful, but some will include excellent information on the plant and how to grow it. Other sites also may provide a source for mail ordering the plant.
Virtually any topic that relates to gardening can be researched using a search engine and the Internet. You could type in "composting" or "controlling nutgrass" or "growing tomatoes." The choices are limited only by your interest, and the search engine will find sites that provide information on the topic you requested.
If you have a particular company that you want to contact, type in the company’s name and any other address information you may have, such as the city and state where it’s located. Many companies that sell seeds, plants or gardening products have online catalogs, and it is easy to shop and order what you want right from your computer.
Sometimes you have to try a number of words or combinations of words to narrow your search. If you enclose the words you type into the search box in quotation marks, only sites that have the words exactly as you have typed them will be presented. If you type in several words and don’t enclose them in quotation marks, any site that contains those words will be presented. Of course, that means you can narrow you search or limit it to more specific things by enclosing the words in quotation marks.
Here’s another good bit of advice. While surfing the Web it is easy to forget where you have been, and since you are not actually typing in the addresses of the sites you visit, it is easy to forget how to go back to a site later. To solve this, if you find a site you think you will want to return to later, bookmark it, add it to your list of favorite places or at least write down the address.
The LSU AgCenter has an excellent web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. The site includes information on a wide variety of subjects, but gardeners will particularly enjoy the monthly gardening tips, horticulture hints newsletter, gardening publications and Get It Growing. Once you are at the LSU AgCenter home page (www.lsuagcenter.com) , to access a wide variety of online gardening information, click on the Lawn & Garden button. To access the Get It Growing Web site, where you can read gardening articles, watch gardening TV segments and listen to gardening radio messages, click the Get It Growing button you’ll find in the Lawn & Garden section or go directly to www.lsuagcenter.com/getitgrowing.
The amount of gardening information out there is staggering, and with your computer, it’s only a click away. Of course, while you’re surfing the World Wide Web, keep in mind that gardening information appropriate for one part of America (or the world) may not necessarily be good for Louisiana. Beyond that minor drawback the benefits of accessing so much information so easily are wonderful.
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.