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Add internet to collection of useful garden tools; Gardening.


IF you're looking for gardening advice, you can find all you need without leaving the comfort of your home.

ANN EVANS takes a look at the rise of internet gardening.

IMAGINE the scene. You're in the middle of digging up a plant in your garden to reposition it and you cannot remember if it hates the sun or thrives in a bog.

You cannot recall ever seeing it in your gardening books and you do not fancy getting changed, jumping in the car and zipping off to the garden centre.

But these days, a vast wealth of knowledge is readily to hand on your computer.

In days gone by, people looking for advice on gardening dilemmas, whether in designing and pruning or pest identification and plant combinations, have relied on the staff at the local garden centre, green-fingered neighbours, or Gardeners' Question Time on Radio 4.

But there are is also information and opportunities on the internet, if you know where to look.

You can swap seeds and plants or share information and experiences with other gardeners and allotment holders on a variety of websites, some of which are better than others.

So if it's raining or frosty in the runup to spring, you can make the most of the advice which you can tap into, or start swapping seeds and plants from the comfort of your home.

Here's a roundup of some really useful sites to get you started:

FOR easy-to-understand information from the likes of Alan Titchmarsh, you cannot go far wrong with this popular garden website which features advice sections from TV's best loved gardener.

If you buy a plant from the company, you automatically qualify for its plant aftercare service, which now includes regular care tip e-mails from Mr Titchmarsh himself.

IF you want to encourage wildlife to your garden, check out the new database at the Plant Press - an online version of Gardening With Wildlife in Mind, from English Nature, which shows the relationship between garden plants and creatures that depend on them and focuses on 300 or so distinctive and desirable species.

On the same site you will find the free online Plant Encyclopaedia, now with more than 4,500 plants and more than 10,000 photographs.

IF you want to grow seeds of vegetable varieties which are not widely available, it may be worth joining the Heritage Seed Library, run by leading charity Garden Organic.

Garden Organic has a collection of 800 old and unusual vegetable varieties, collected over the years, including several late 19th-century tall peas, including Champion of England and Ne Plus Ultra.

The library aims to conserve and make available vegetable varieties that are not widely available. You can join the HSL for an annual fee of pounds 20 (or pounds 15 with Garden Organic membership).

Members receive their choice of up to six varieties and there is also also an informal seed swap section run between members themselves.

IF swapping plants is more your bag, log on to this site as it goes live. It's a new online gardeners' market which allows members to swap, buy or sell plants of their choice, for an annual membership of pounds 12.

There will also be gardening advice, weather forecasts and a chance to discuss horticultural issues as well as seek advice and put forward your own tips.

THIS site is free to join and allows people to share their gardens online.

Members can exchange hints and tips across generations. The homepage offers a number of options, including browsing the Open Gardens section, asking a gardening question or writing a blog. As a member you can ask questions of other members and add a photograph to explain your question.

Some members use the site to document their gardening experiences outdoors. You can also use the Colour Inspiration tool where you can search for a particular shade of flower or plant, which then matches up to members' photographs posted on the site.

Co-founder Ajay Mathur says: "We are not experts on gardening but whatever pests, weather or geography you're dealing with, you can be sure one of the gardeners out there will have had similar experiences in one of their gardens."

THIS bright and cheerful site offers some really good advice on growing fruit and veg organically. It is updated monthly and is full of gardeners' own photographs of their vegetable plots, and of course detailed advice which will help you will all your growing problems.


LOG ON FOR HELP... James Arrowsmith (above) is co-founder of website which offers internet users (left) the chance to swap seeds, plants and tips and (below) two more sites offering gardening advice.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 23, 2008
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