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Gardening with your computer.

Gardening with your computer

Faster than flipping through plant encyclopedias, software programs let you use your home computer to quickly scan for information to plan your garden. The first two programs here--one new and one a proven workhorse--are for IBM-compatible machines. Both are well-designed sources of plant information. The third program, also new, lets Macintosh users try out garden designs; it also provides facts on assorted plants. All three let you search for plant types either by name or by plugging in a combination of characteristics, such as height, color, soil type, or watering needs. And they let you add new plants or update information. For example, if you read about disease-resistant roses, you can add the most promising ones to your program.

C.H.I.P., a new program, covers four plant groups. Two disks (herbaceous perennials, and deciduous trees and shrubs) cover 1,500 plants each; two more (broad-leafed trees and shrubs, and conifers) have 1,000 entries each. Combined, the disks approach the scope of a good plant encyclopedia. A caution: Flowering times are based on winter-temperature lows of 0 [degree] to 10 [degrees], so you'll have to adjust them for your region. The program requires a hard-disk drive and at least 640 kilobytes of random-access memory (RAM). To order, write to Paradise Information, Box 1701, East Hampton, N.Y. 11937; disks cost $100 each. Specify 3 1/2- or 5 1/4-inch disks.

P.L.A.N.T.S., written by a Southern California landscape architect, lets you plug in hundreds of characteristics--even air pollution tolerance--to ferret out plants. The 1,150 entries include trees, shrubs, ground covers, grasses, and house plants; most are low maintenance. The listing is limited compared to most plant source books--and compared to what's available in nurseries--but it's full of information. The program requires 512 kilobytes of RAM and a hard-disk drive (recommended) or two floppy drives. To order by mail ($144.89 in California, $136.50 elsewhere), write to P.L.A.N.T.S., 106 W. Pennsylvania Ave., #1508, Riverside, Calif. 92374. Specify 3 1/2- or 5 1/4-inch disks.

Mum's the Word lets you try out garden layouts before you get your trowel dirty. This new program starts with a grid; adjust the scale to suit your space. Drawing tools let you create shapes (with labels) to represent individual plants or groupings, which you can then move around. As you arrange your garden, you can consult information on plants by name or category, using the limited but well-chosen list of 300 varieties. This program ($125) runs on any Macintosh 512E or above.
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Date:Apr 1, 1990
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