Growing Online THE WEB IS A FULL OF INFORMATION ON GARDENING
othing is more hands-on than gardening. You can’t grow a watermelon on the World Wide Web or prune a rose with a cellphone. But you can, in fact, learn a lot about how to garden. I rarely refer to the many gardening books on my shelf. When I want to learn about a plant or a pest, it’s easier to go online. Things were different when I trained to be a UC Master Gardener 15 years ago. We were armed with excellent University of California information that the public couldn’t readily access. My most treasured possession was a binder holding a complete set of Pest Notes, which told how to control weeds, bugs, vertebrate pests and plant diseases. I put it next to my desk, along with my classroom handouts and notes and university publications, including the California Master Gardener Handbook. If somebody asked me a question or I needed information for an article, I thumbed through the pages for the answer. UC has put much of that information online, along with many other tools to help you identify weeds, calculate water needs or select plants. A few years back, I recycled my Pest Notes and training materials. People are still encouraged to call the Master Gardener office for advice, but when
AC By Anita Clevenger Garden Jabber
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I answer the phone, I make sure that they know about the Integrated Pest Management website (ipm.ucanr. edu) and our local Master Gardener site (sacmg.ucanr.edu) before helping them sort through and interpret the information. One thing hasn’t changed. During my training, we were warned to be very cautious about providing information from nonuniversity sources. Master Gardeners are part of the Cooperative Extension system, designed to help people use researchbased knowledge. Just as there is fake news on the internet, there is a lot of bogus gardening information.
UC sites are trustworthy, but others may be unreliable, outdated or just trying to sell you a product or service. It’s also possible that the information simply does not apply to our soil types or climate. Not many places in the world have our many months of seasonal drought, mild winters and intense summer heat. All gardening is local. Farmer Fred Hoffman has compiled a wealth of Sacramento-area information on his website (farmerfred.com). Sunset magazine emphasizes regions, dividing the west into many zones based on temperature and coastal influence. The magazine
first produced its “Sunset Western Garden Book” in 1954 and continues to update new editions every few years. I still refer to the book, although climate zone maps and other information are on their website (sunset.com). Sunset has produced a Plant Finder app for the iPhone, although there doesn’t seem to be an Android equivalent. There are many garden apps, but I haven’t run across any that seem particularly useful. However, the cellphone is a great tool for looking up information and taking photos in the garden or at nurseries. You can look up plants, products or tools