“We think we’re different in a lot of ways,” says Mitch Shirts, administrator of a recently launched (3/3/07) and quite ambitious garden website, The Mulch Community. Well, we’ve heard that one before. But I do believe The Mulch offers a broader range of features than most other virtual gardening hangouts I’ve seen—not that there are that many, sadly. In fact there is only one, Dave’s Garden, that seems to have a similar range of attributes. But you know about Dave’s Garden, so here’s the dirt on The Mulch. (Unfortunately, gardening terminology lends itself to many, many narrative clichés, and I’ll use them all before I’m done with this whole blogging thing.)
Last month, Shirts left a comment on one of my posts, inviting me to join TMC. After he helped with some technical snafus, I did join, but after that it’s all been pretty easy. Through creating a profile, pulling together a plant list, uploading images, and much, much more than I’ve had time to do so far, you gradually increase your presence on TMC. As you add content, other TMC members visit you and you can instantly see who’s looked at your plant list, etc., and check them out, comment to their plant list or send them a message. You can add a blog and several galleries of images. You can also participate in TMC forums. There is no subscription fee.
Shirts, who lives in San Diego and is not a gardening professional, started the website out of a desire to have a regional online gardening community, but is now trying to go nationwide.
I just visited myself on TMC and through clicking on “my visitors” was able to instantly see the avatars of all my hits and click on them at will. This connectivity is very important to Shirts, who has as a primary objective the desire to “make it social—have a myspace feel to the members sharing about themselves, their gardening philosophies, their likes, dislikes, their gardens, their troubles etc.” Never having used myspace, I’m enjoying clicking on everyone and exploring their profiles—most of my websurfing is impelled by curiosity. I’ve started a plant list—the names (botanical and common) are easily accessed through a searchable roster (Though like all of us, Mitch has to watch out for typos). I’ve also discussed gardenia problems on one of the forums. I’m not sure what else I’ll do; I suppose I’d like to upload some image sets pretty soon. Shirts, who offers his cell phone number to anyone (not just me) who wants some personalized help, as well as answers all emails instantly, is looking into how Flickr galleries (where all my images are) can be most easily accessed from TMC. He also plans a feed for members’ offsite blogs.
This is a very new site, and needs a lot of content—particularly from outside Southern California—to truly live up to its potential. But I like its casual fun and ease of use.
I think—depending on how it develops—The Mulch may become a regular stop on my virtual gardening rounds.