Web 2.o in the Garden


potential is enormous.  I love the idea of going to one groovy,
tricked-out, wikified, user-generated, digged and dug site that will
tell me what garden center to visit next time I’m in Portland and
whether kelp meal really is the cure-all I’ve been led to believe it
is.  I don’t make a motel reservation without reading twenty reviews by
people who have slept there, sampled the free coffee, and shaken hands
with the cockroaches, so why should I buy a plant without doing the
same thing?

It’s happened with travel, it’s happened with music, it’s happened with food and restaurants.  Chowhound
lets me know where to get a yummy breakfast in Sacramento or a fabulous
cheap meal within a block of the New York apartment I rented on Craigslist.  And as much as I refuse to buy from Amazon,
favoring my local independent bookstore instead, the "Customers Who
Bought This Item Also Bought" section leads me in exactly the direction
I want to go.  Here’s a quirky book about an obscure subject written in
the first person–what would be another quirky book about an obscure
subject written in the first person?  Those anonymous customers,
leaving behind their contrails of individual tastes, point me to the
very book I had been dreaming about. 

So why aren’t we rating
and ranking botanical gardens, magazines, plants, seeds, fertilizers,
and HGTV celebs on one massive, socially networked mash-up? 

I kind of wish we were, but I’m kind of glad we’re not.  You?



  1. Okay, I’ve read all the links and still don’t get what the added value would be from all this networking, beyond what’s already on Daves Garden – the plant profiles and ratings of mail order sources.
    I love the original Mulch.com, a gardening site/forum/etc. for the San Diego area, though as they’re trying to take it national I suspect it’ll lose what works best about it. Gardening is regional!

  2. I want to spend all my free time gardening, not in on the computer setting up a site. I don’t want to get sucked into any more grdening blogs because it takes up time that I should be (insert daily task of your choice). I have always wondered if you ladies have any children, work outside of the home, hire maids, or are just way better than I am at organizing and utilizing time.

  3. I read this garden blog and one other on a daily basis with my coffee in the morning – I don’t think I could fit many more into my routine. Like the above poster, I too think most gardeners want to be outside. for me, gardening is a solitary act ( for the most part )a journey of sorts. Sure I run in the house from time to time to look something up in my well worn Gardening from A – Z, but I generally like to find my own way.

  4. I can see everyone’s point here, but I tend to come down on Amy’s side–a multifunctional site would be cool. And I enjoy what The Mulch is trying to do–but it’s not quite it. Neither is Dave’s and I do not like paying.

    It would need to be self-supportive, with plenty of ads, as the places Amy mentions have.

    None of the sites we have do this:
    “So why aren’t we rating and ranking botanical gardens, magazines, plants, seeds, fertilizers, and HGTV celebs on one massive, socially networked mash-up? ”

    If a site is truly useful, people make time to visit it and use it. I think we have a few that have particular uses, but none that offer everything. I do not know if it is possible.

  5. It really comes home to me every time I try to sign up for another directory or service, and find myself trying to categorize my website, and none of the categories fit. If I’m lucky, “Home and Garden” is on the list, though I wince at thinking of the garden as another venue for decorating. Even on BlogHer, I had to choose between Environment and Hobbies, neither of which were more than tangentially pertinent.

    Garden blogs do not exist in enough numbers to rate their own category. I am still not sure whether it’s because gardeners are technology averse or because they represent a miniscule percentage of the population. Yes, I’ve seen statistics purporting huge numbers of gardeners, even claiming it’s America’s number one hobby. But face it, everyone who cuts their own grass considers themselves a gardener, and most of them won’t be blogging about it.

    I agree with Eliz, that social bookmarking won’t take off with gardeners until gardeners find it useful–more socially useful than the garden clubs, plant societies, and garden forums they currently enjoy.

  6. I think I’ll sorta echo what Amy and Susan said. I would like to see The Mother Ship of All Gardening Sites, but I’m leery of adding any new sites at this point unless it’s a site that references other existing sites. The sites we already have need more attention from gardeners.

    Dave’s Garden is a fantastic site for plant info and mail order nursery ratings, and they seem to be delving into local nursery ratings as well. Or maybe not. I just checked and see the nursery ratings are now being referred to another site. Hmmmm.

    Wikipedia’s great. Sunset.com’s great. Fine Gardening… yada yada bla bla…

    Yelp.com is my choice for local nurseries, restaurants, services, etc.

    Amazon, Timber Press and other publishers keep me coming back for book reviews and recommendations.

    We already have a gazillion garden supply and plant catalogs and Dave’s Garden tells us who’s safe to order from and even where we can buy a particular plant and even who has it for trade!

    Add GardenWeb to the mix for forums and seed/plant swapping and you’re pretty well set.

    I can see the value in ONE site that references all the above cool sites and more. I’ve tried to do that on a regional scale with SacramentoGardening.com. So, would this site be international? It probably should be. Would you be able to click on a world map, then your continent, then state, then city? That’d be really cool. You should be able to save the option of going directly to your state or city or even zip code.

    Ok, here’s an example of why we do need a master site for avid gardeners… This morning my friend sent a link to a nursery near Corvallis, OR, where she’s hoping to relocate. She said, “This looks like a fun place to visit.” I replied, “It looks a little provincial.” Then I remembered an article about a really cool looking nursery that had a piano outside… and tons of flowers… zinnias? Tulips? Anyway, I think it was in Oregon. Was it? Does anyone know this nursery? Then it occured to me (can anyone say undiagnosed but probable adult A.D.D. on three cups of coffee?) that my friend should find out where the coolest nurseries are in Oregon and then move nearby. Crazy idea? No. She really likes nurseries and can move anywhere in Oregon.

    I checked Yelp.com, but you can’t search by state. I checked Corvallis, where she thinks she wants to go, and nobody’s Yelping nurseries in Corvallis.

    If I could go to an avid gardener bookmarking site, click on Oregon, then find avid Oregonian gardeners’ fave arty/funky/unique nurseries, I could help my friend find what she’s looking for. So far, Google is not helping. I’ll try GardenWeb next.

    There are a lot of passionate info junkie gardeners out there, but I doubt any of them, maybe with the exception of that Dave guy, also happen to be software engineers. There’s also the money issue. Who would sponsor the development of such a site? People should only do so much for passion.

    Maybe what we need in the gardening world is a gardening site set up like a blog directory, but organized regionally and that isn’t restricted to just blogs. It could include the bookmarking sites, tagging sites, MySpace pages (ha ha), magazines, book publishers, message boards, university resources, photo sharing sites, etc.

    Until that happens, I guess I’m stuck with my own addled brain, bookmarks, and iGoogle. 😉

  7. I need to revisit The Mulch and see if I can acclimate there. I am currently a beta tester for MyFolia.com and it has a number of promising features. The one I use the most is a sort of online database to track what I’ve planted and how it’s getting on. It’s hooked up with Flickr so you can illustrate your database and journal entries with pictures you’ve already taken and tagged. It’s a social site so you can “favorite” someone’s garden or plant. You can comment on their journal entries and other things. But it’s not as hooked up as that BlogHer post would like. Yet.

    Though I’m fairly tech-savvy, I’m still behind on some Web 2.0 phenomena. And if *I* am, that means a lot of gardeners are because the gardeners I meet around here tend to be older and not into the Internet.

    One Web 1.0 area that gardeners are behind in is web video. I’ve been off work for quite some time recovering from surgery. I was chafing at the bit to get out and garden but couldn’t due to pain. Even holding a book for a prolonged time hurt. It would have been nice if there were more free how-to videos on the web. I combed YouTube , Google Video, etc. trying to find some but the pickins were slim. (Monkeysee wasn’t up yet.) The Garden Wise Guys was a lifesaver for me during that time.

  8. Angela, why not the forums at Davesgarden.com? When I was looking back at this year’s Mouse & Trowel Awards, I noticed GardenWeb’s were selected over Dave’s and I wondered why. Can anyone articulate what makes them better?

  9. I like the fact that gardeners are different. I never use wikipedia for anything and even Dave’s site is only an occasional look at a picture or two of a plant I’m trying to get a better look at leaves and/or seed heads or what ever.As an information site I find it lacking.
    Libraries and Librarians are still earning their keep as far as I am concerned.
    Government and university sites have been the most useful tools.
    I don’t use feeds.
    I read blogs for pleasure/leisure,
    as well as
    nature blogs,environmental blogs,
    sustainable living blogs and science blogs that pertain to the search at hand.

    As a researcher one place fits all just doesn’t cut it

  10. I think an all-inclusive site would be very helpful for new gardeners. When I started gardening this summer I needed all of this information and I needed it quick. I was amazed there wasnt an easy to find website that would tell me where the great garden centers in my area were located and what people thought of them. There is so much information that new gardners need and it’s painful trying to gather it from all over the web. I did find Dave’s site but I have to say that I was very skeptical of it simply because it doesnt look very “official”. By far the most helpful thing I’ve found on the internet was gardening blogs.

  11. Tibs, I came to know of both GardenWeb and Daves Garden when doing web searches a couple years ago. In both cases, I’ve run across areas where you cannot enter unless you are a subscriber. I ended up joining Dave’s because the Plant Files are such an excellent resource. GardenWeb is a little slickly corporate for my taste. Not to say that Dave’s Garden doesn’t have bits that annoy me, because it does. Dave’s has very recently added a feature where people can rate their local garden center/nursery/botanical garden, etc. It’s called Go Gardening. Previously, you could only find out about nurseries via Garden Watchdog and those were limited to nurseries that did mail order. I don’t know if this is a feature only available to subscribers or not. When I punched in Corvallis, OR, I got 14 listings. Three of which have actually been rated by members.

  12. I recently finished editing a book called How to Do Everything With Your Web 2.0 Blog (by Todd Stauffer) and I have to admit I was impressed at how much more there is to do with a blog to get your thoughts, ideas, questions, and muddled rambling out there even deeper into the blogosphere. I just got my comp copy of the book in the mail last week and as soon as I can find the time(!) I plan on sitting down with it to map out some steps I can take to pump up my blog a bit. Why not? What else is one to do while it rains?

  13. Spidra,

    The Go Gardening section on Dave’s Garden appears to link to a site outside of DG: http://gardens.com/go/

    Awhile back, it had a DG interface with feedback from DG members. This new site seems no different from many Yellow Pages types of directories and I’m not impressed.

    If I go to DG, I’d rather stay on DG and get nursery feedback from DG’ers.

    I did a test on Go Gardening for nurseries in my Sacramento, CA area zip code and there was only one one-line review… by a person in Sparks, Nevada.

    I’m guessing DG decided to abandon the nursery ratings. Yelp.com is great, but tends to be urban-centric and I think word is still getting out. Still, it’s a great resource and the quality of writing is, at times, pretty impressive.

    I’ll check out the MapMuse link. Thanks.

    As for garden video, that’s a tricky one. If you thought blogging text and pictures was time-consuming, try video editing.

    I’ve had all kinds of nifty ideas for gardening videos, but I don’t really feel like posting videos for humanitarian reasons and at the expense of getting dinner on the table. Independently wealthy? Got maids? Retired? Never sleep? Then by all means, start posting garden videos to your blog. 😉

  14. I agree that DG’s forays into Bloom.com and Gardens.com are annoying. I heard that DG was bought but I haven’t been able to find out by whom. I can assure you that DG members are still adding ratings to Garden Watchdog, though. So at least mail order nurseries have a ratings area.

    I forgot to mention that looking for ways I could “garden” while disabled led me not only to look for garden videos but to podcasts. And though I had read about the Wiggly Wigglers podcast before, I hadn’t followed up. So FINALLY I downloaded it and I’m very grateful that stircraziness from surgery recovery finally led me to discover this delightful podcast.

  15. Fantastic post Amy. Many of these suggestions are already being incorporated into my Garden Blog Directory update which is due out soon – really soon. I plan to have the beta version available to a few select bloggers within the next week or 2 at the most.

    Some other suggestions I will begin to incorporate as the site grows. This has been some wonderful dialogue for gardeners wishes. I hope we can deliver some of these brilliant ideas…

  16. After reading the BlogHer post, the Wikipedia definitions of the Web 2.0 and the discussion here I don’t really get what the problem is. Many garden bloggers and gardening sites have all the latest tags, feeds, links, social networking, forums and data bases. I don’t see how gardeners on the web are slow adopters of new technology. If it is the actual numbers of self described gardeners uploading content on the web compared to knitters that just may be how it is for any number of reasons. Maybe the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

    If some think there is a lack of the “Master Gardening” site that has everything, be careful what you wish for. There is such a thing as information overload and I for one probably would not go to a gardening site where it was difficult to wade through a subject as broad and as regionally specific as gardening to find what I wanted.

    I am a member of DG and only use a small portion of what is on that site. Too much is too much, and a mega site like some of you are talking about sounds like too much to me. The search engines that are available now are probably more efficient to find a subject of interest that I may be looking for than to wade through some mega gardening site. A site that big would need it’s own search engine.

    Or maybe I just don’t get this whole Web 2.0 thing.

  17. Along with many of the above posters, I just don’t have the time to blog AND garden. My dream job would probably be writing about gardening, but, ironically, following that dream would mean giving up gardening. I suspect many of us are in that boat.

    What I would like to see is an expansion of garden podcasts; unlike reading blogs, listening to podcasts can be done while actually gardening. There are a few good podcasts available which explore interesting aspects of horticulture, along with lots of call in shows that get hung up on lawn questions and how to get gift Amaryllis bulbs to rebloom.

  18. First, before I forget: to angela in Sacramento. I’m the guilty poster from Sparks, Nevada who wrote the one-line description of a nursery in your area. I was probably feeling taciturn that day. That would explain the single sentence.

    But honest–I worked in the garden center business for three years, am a Master Gardener, the granddaughter of an avid gardener in Carmichael and Citrus Heights (my late gramma), and do look over any nursery with a critical plantoholic’s eye.

    Now on to other stuff: I use Garden Watchdog a lot, and “go” to GardenWeb from time to time. Like many others here, I prefer to be out in the dirt rather than sitting at the computer typing about my adventures with dirt. I save networking,blog entries and the like for once I’m cleaned up again and good and sore all over.

    But if I overdid it, and I often do, treating gardening as an extreme sport with all the painful consequences, then I prefer to wrap myself up on the couch with old-fashioned printed material in the form of books and catalogs.

    I did some garden-related social networking at my last job; there were several other “extreme gardeners”, and we swapped plants, catalogs and ideas. Perhaps I’ll seek out other avid gardeners in my neighborhood (or more accurately, anywhere within reasonable walking distance).

  19. The Internet is only a communication medium and there are an increasingly interesting number of ways to use this medium – from Web 1.0 through Web 4.0 and beyond.

    Much of the conversation here has been about what you – the providers of information – (writers/bloggers etc) think “should” happen on the Net with gardening sites.

    What you’re not mentioning is what your readers want nor what the “average” gardeners wants from a gardening website experience. Turning the question upside down will provide another viewpoint.

    Some of the forum comments and associated references have been to “new” versus “old” technology and how “new” is somehow better. My reality is that there is only “useful” and “non-useful” technology for a specific purpose. Technology either meets a need or it doesn’t. I simply don’t care about “new”; tell me how it meets a reader’s need.

    Websites have been mentioned as difficult to process – too many choices kill the decision making process and frustration with many choices shuts down the visitor. “Don’t make me work” for the info (and there’s a book by this title out now) is your visitor motto.

    Some have written about finances. Content costs money to produce – that’s a given. Recovering those costs is a sound business practice for a writer. If you meet and need and bring value to the relationship, then you have to find a way to recover those costs. As traditional print magazines are finding, relying on advertisers is a limiting experience. With a single income stream, your fate is always hand to mouth and at the whim of the advertising agency. But as always, bring real value to a reader (from their point of view) and the money will be possible.

    In summary, tribalization of the Net continues quite nicely. You bloggers are happy in your niche, videographers are viewing over in youtube, photographers have Flickr, social networks abound, gamers play happily, and forum users still flame away loyally.

    The average gardener looks for solutions to whatever their need happens to be.

  20. Lisa,

    Small world! Oh, and nothing against you, your review, or Sparks, Nevada. It’s the overall lack of nursery reviews and the abrupt outclick from Dave’s Garden to a rather commercial and anonymous-feeling website (Gardens.com) that bothers me.

    Yelp.com is already a great resource in major metro areas and is becoming increasingly active in growing cities like mine.

    If Stuart is creating a site that consolidates the best online gardening resources with rankings, etc., I look forward to checking it out.

    I got pretty good at searching for info before Google came along, but then when it did, searching became even easier and I dropped my old search engine. Progress is good. Consolidation can be good if it’s a timesaver.

    Ooh, could you imagine if Google put some time into a dedicated gardening search engine, decorated all pretty-like with flowers? Would they call it Gardenoogle? Gardoogle?

    Doug, you make an excellent point about being rewarded for bringing real value to readers. Reminds me of a guy who writes these hilarious reviews on Yelp. I keep thinking he should be getting paid to write instead of giving it away on Yelp for free.

  21. My beef against an all-inclusive site would be whoever has the power to organize and run it would (a) need money and (b) almost certainly have an agenda that arose from keeping the money coming.

    In the same vein, I hesitate to visit Stuart’s GardenBlog directory because I had to invoke Adblocker just to view the site without waiting a half-hour for Google analytics scripts to load. A lot of people won’t even go that far; if a browser grinds away trying to load a site, they just dump out and go somewhere else. That isn’t exactly appealing to a universal audience.

    I blog because the capabilities of blog software are more than just about anything else available right now. I want to record information about my garden, with photos, in an organized way that I can get to without doing text searches in a word processing program or flipping through the pages of a notebook, and I can get to this information from the office or from home.

    Writing with an audience in mind helps me to organize thoughts, but I don’t specifically blog for readers. TypePad gives you the option to publicize the blog and I turned that off. If readers find the blog helpful, they’re welcome to visit, but it’s mostly for me.

    I think a lot of garden bloggers do the same thing, and in my opinion, Internet features are driven as much by content producers, who are also users, as by plain vanilla surfers. You only have to go to YouTube or political blogs a few times to realize that. What the Internet definitely isn’t about is an elite set of “content producers” courting an audience in the same way a magazine editorial staff works. AlterNet, TruthOut, and Common Dreams now have comment boards for all of their articles. The New York Times discontinued its subscriber-only Web content model.

    On the other hand, many people, me included, won’t subscribe to Dave’s Garden forums. I won’t because I’m not paying for what amounts to people airing their opinions (and getting into arguments over them).

    Garden Watchdog can be helpful if people are specific about their experiences, but some gardeners go there just to blow off steam and post a negative rating, which doesn’t tell you much. The same thing happens on PlantFinder, where someone will assert that Plant X is invasive and several others will step up to say it behaves perfectly well — all mostly without mentioning under what conditions each behavior occurs. I don’t find that helpful at all.

    Most gardens are so site-specific that advice from other gardeners isn’t really helpful.

    What I look for in a blog is how gardeners think about their own gardens and solve their own problems. That’s helpful.

    But “social networking”? Not so much.

  22. A quick correction Firefly.

    The Garden Blog Directory has NO advertising nor does it rely on Google Analytics to track it so you shouldn’t have any problems with your Adblocker.

  23. Dashing out the door- haven’t had time to read all the comments- but I wanted to say that since I got into gardening all of about six months ago one of the things I’ve really missed is a good, solid, global Web 2.0 gardening forum/blogsite. As a total newbie I LOVE reading about other people’s gardens. I love tracking them through time- going back to see how that marvellous harvest started out as a seedling, and what pests attacked it along the way. Just being able to click from an insightful advice post in a gardening forum to that gardener’s blog & photos easily & reliably would be marvellous. Never mind being able to link up by area- it’s been a pain finding anyone at all blogging edible gardens in Sydney, Australia. It’s not about killing more time in front of the computer, it’s about feeding my garden ‘porn’ addiction (more flowers, more veggies- oooh look at the size of that pumpkin!) and gathering information from the best source- other gardeners & their living gardens. Maybe it’s cos I’m 24 and am young enough to have had to turn up my nose at MySpace, but man, I lust after the idea of a good networking garden site.

  24. Oh, I missed my train anyway. I wanted to add- I think that blogging is an amazingly natural gardening tool. It surprises me that there aren’t more garden blogs around. Every gardening book I’ve ever picked up tells me to keep a garden diary. Not sure I’d bother with pen & paper so much, but taking a few minutes to tell the world how my garden’s going also tells me, next year when I’ve got no memory of what was happening, that my first green tomatoes showed up on October 18th this year. That’s not some newfangled thingamajig destroying the art of gardening, it’s the same tool people’ve been calling a ‘garden journal’ or ‘garden diary’ forever, only with photos & comments (and less likely to get buried in the pile of paper on my desk).

    Or maybe it only seems that way to me because the internet has been the handiest gardening tool I’ve yet picked up in this big new adventure. Frustrating at times, trying to constantly translate Northern Hemisphere zones & conditions to a local climate, but incredibly useful.

  25. I am like other garden bloggers whereas I don’t have the time to blog about my garden, and Garden.

    I would also like to see more garden podcasts, more about gardens and not lawns. I have no time to do it all.

  26. Personally I have no interest in ONE central gardening site. I like to read about gardeners personal involvement with their gardens. I only have time to keep up with a handful but that group changes a little over time. Also I follow a handful of bloggers who are more “naturalists” instead of “gardeners.”

    I don’t usually go to bloggers or amateur sites for “information” as much as “entertainment.” I think of them as friends and like for their personalities to show through.

  27. Oh, I also wanted to make another point.

    The number of gardeners is not as big as people make out it is. So many people who shop at garden centers are really just DIY home improvers. For them putting in a flower bed is not a “hobby” or a “craft” – it is a Saturday project along the same line as installing a ceiling fan in the den or organizing the garage.

    My wife and I are gardeners and she is also into quilting and knitting. In our small town the number of people who are belong to one or more of the quilting or knitting clubs vastly overwhelms the number in the one small garden club.

  28. http://www.mygardenplans.com is a great 2.0 site for gardening. It allows people to share and rate gardens online. It also has a wiki-style plant database where anyone can share and vote for their favorite plants. I think this site has the HUGE potential and just might be the next “YouTube” for gardeners.

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