Gardening and the Internet
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Reading gardening 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 on the Internet about gardening is nothing short of awesome.
It is no surprise that the high-tech world of the computer has met up with the earthy world of gardening because computers are in such common use and gardening is Americaís favorite leisure activity. A growing number of gardening information sites on the Internet 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. Gardening magazines available online include forums where you can communicate with gardeners from all over the world and much more.
If you donít have a computer with Internet access at home, ask at your local library. More and more opportunities are opening up to use public computers. And donít forget that you may have a friend or relative who has access to the Internet and will show you how to explore gardening sites.
Finding the information you want can be challenging. Unless you know the address of a site, you cannot access it or see the information it contains. Chances are you donít even know whatís out there about a particular subject, much less how to find it. You are not alone, and that is why there are helpful tools called search engines. These search engine Web sites are starting points for locating useful sites when you are trying to find information on the Internet.
Several popular search engines are available, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Once you connect with one of these sites, you can type a word or words into the search box, describing the information youíre looking for. It can be as broad as typing in the word "gardening" or as particular as a plant common name like "crape myrtle" (or, even better, type in the Latin name if you know it). If you type in a plant name, 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. And other sites may provide sources where you can obtain a plant through mail order.
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. 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 companyís name and any other address information you may have, such as city and state. 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 donít enclose them in quotation marks, then any site that contains those words will be presented. So, to narrow your search it often helps to enclose the words in quotation marks.
Hereís a good bit of advice. While surfing it is easy to forget where you have been, and because you are not actually typing in the addresses of the sites you visit, it is easy to forget how to go back to that site again 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 website 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, to access online gardening information click on the Lawn & Garden button. And to access the Get It Growing site where you can read gardening articles, watch gardening TV segments and listen to gardening radio messages, click the Get It Growing button.
The amount of gardening information out there is staggering, and with your computer, itís only a click away. Keep in mind that gardening information that is appropriate for one part of America (or the world) may not necessarily be good for Louisiana. Generally, gardening information from states right along the Gulf of Mexico will apply to Louisiana gardening as well.
Beware that not all the information you find will be accurate. Whenever possible, focus on state university extension websites for correct information. But otherwise, the benefits of accessing so much information so easily are wonderful.
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