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Carol Vorderman internet column: Dot.common or garden; GUIDE TO BEST GREEN SITES..

EVEN if this unsettled weather stops you getting out into your garden, you can still learn lots of valuable ground-breaking tips by surfing the net. LAURETTE ZIEMER puts on her gloves and wellies and digs deep to discover the best of the green-fingered sites.

THE site for Carol Vorderman's television show Better Gardens is a fertile hunting ground for tips and advice.

At you'll find in-depth articles on topical subjects and factsheets giving the lowdown on garden makeovers from the programme.

Find out how to get yourself and your neighbour on the programme and enter a variety of competitions.

A section soon to be launched will focus on soap stars' makeovers. You can chat online to fellow gardening enthusiasts as well as speak to the experts from the show like Sibe and Toby Musgrave.

Each of them has their specialist area - what Sibe doesn't know about alpine rock gardens (see small projects) isn't worth knowing. The same goes for Toby's knowledge on shaping lawns. There are top tips on a wide range of subjects from laying a patio to creating mosaics.

For example, planting trees:

1. The best time to plant trees is in early autumn, when the soil is warm and moist. But if planting in spring, keep your trees well watered throughout the summer.

2. Before you start planting, dig lots of well-rotted manure (available from garden centres or farms) or well-rotted garden compost into the soil. This helps to retain water but also allows moisture to drain away easily, as most trees don't like wet roots. They also slowly release plant nutrients into the soil.

3. When buying trees, try to find a specialist tree nursery whose staff can advise you about what species will best suit your garden.

4. Remember to space your trees well. They are difficult to transplant if they outgrow their surroundings, so you will need to calculate how wide they could be in 10 years and plant accordingly.

5. Soak the tree in its pot for a couple of hours before planting (bare- rooted trees need to be soaked for about four hours).

The Tree Council has a wide range of leaflets on choosing, planting and caring for trees. Ring up on 0171 828 9928 or visit its website at

THE BBC's Groundforce site gives facts about the weekly programme, plus useful step-by-step guides on what you should be doing in your garden.

Advice comes from Alan Titchmarsh, Charlie Dimmock and Tommy Walsh. You can email in your own tips too. Microwave your seed compost, says Mr H of Peterborough, to make sure it's sterile enough for use.

We liked the section "What to do with Friends and Foes". Moles will disappear with mothballs and garlic, cats hate orange peel and pepper dust, bulb burglars like squirrels need to be put off by wire mesh, aphids should go with diluted detergent and the bane of every gardener's life - slugs - will disappear with grit, soot, salt or beer.

Green-fingered surfers know Gardeners World is on Mountains of factsheets are available, you can post your questions for experts - professional or amateur - to answer, and send in pictures of your work to be included in the Garden Gallery.

THIS internet magazine gives you online brochures for everything from seeds and fruit trees to topiary frames. Great offers are available on greenhouses, bulbs and roses.

In addition to the usual patio planting and water features, the site delves into topics like carnivorous plants. Forget The Little Shop of Horrors, meet the real venus fly trap and learn how to cultivate these insect-guzzling plants. They need a cool greenhouse and good light to grow properly. Once they're developed you can entertain children at feeding time - see what happens to unsuspecting flies which land on the open flower triggering the bloom to snap shut.

The section on Italian vegetables is also fascinating. You can grow red onions from Genoa and cucumber from Puglia.

EXCELLENT tips here such as what you should be planting if your garden is in the shade. Hundreds of fact- sheets are available on all types of plants. Click into your section (annuals, bulbs, perennials, vegetables or herbs) and find the plant you want from raspberries to coriander.

The detail is remarkable. A handy herb guide tells you how to raise everything from common old basil to calming St John's Wort while Nancy the Agony Aunt will solve horticultural dilemmas.

A VERY useful glossary of botanical terms is enhanced by Sesbania's gardening tips.

We're not quite sure who Sesbania is, but he or she seems to offer sound advice on any green subject. The sections on wild flowers and kitchen gardens are particularly useful.

A comprehensive diary of horticultural shows around the world is fantastic.

We found the likes of the British Cactus and Succulents Show in Birmingham on June 4 and the Wanganui African Violet and Gesneriad Show in Wanganui, New Zealand on April 8.

Very handy if you're off on holiday and fancy popping into see what the rest of the world is up to with their violets etc.

RESEARCH SITES The Henry Doubleday Research Association tells you everything about organic food and produce. There is access to all the information you need on how to grow your own organic food and how to deal with pests in an environmentally friendly manner. This is the Encyclopaedia Britannica of plant information, giving you the low-down on every type of plant. Useful links take you to gardens and other relevant sites. An interactive map of Great Britain lets you click on to any public garden in the country and find out when it is open. A plant selector lists suitable varieties for your garden.

First you have to define your plot (moist or dry, shade or sun, acid or lime, evergreen or seasonal,) and then some suggestions will be given.

You can also click on to any letter of the alphabet which is displayed at the top of the page and see a list of plants.

A click on "S" brings up 30 or so species from sweet pea and sage. Details on what they are, how to grow them and where to buy them are given. A comprehensive guide to trees which are native to Britain. Details of voluntary groups and organisations who work towards protecting our trees. A chance to see Australian organic gardening. All you ever needed to know about flowering bulbs - what's what and when and where to plant them. One of the most remarkable features of this site is a fantastic search engine - enter any name or term you like from rose to mulch and you'll be given extensive information. Full details of forthcoming events from the Royal Horticultural Society such as the Chelsea Flower Show in May. Find out about talks around the country and keep an eye on what the Society is doing.

WORTH A VISIT This is quite a basic site compared to some of the others, but it is British with good local information. A good monthly to-do list. Background information to Kew Gardens and a virtual tour to see the Palm House and the famous Pagoda. As the name implies, this is for organic fans. The Flower and Plant Association site with useful articles on houseplants - are they good for your health? Plus read about "Men and Flowers". Learn how to care for your roses and read about the dreaded blackspot disease.
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Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Ziemer, Laurette
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 31, 2000
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