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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gardening Takes Root on Web

A chilly spring has made for a late planting season this year, and if you still want to join the dacha hordes and start your own vegetable garden, you can find out how with the help of the Internet. Indeed, virtual gardening has blossomed into something of a cottage industry, with dozens of online chat groups and other resources. When I learned that there were eight web sites devoted exclusively to a topic as obscure as the cultivation of giant pumpkins, I knew that there was little hope I could do justice to the lush assortment of cyberspace greenery.


One of the most prolific and well-tended garden sites is a husband-wife hobby effort called Joe & Mindy's garden (http://www.non.uoknor.edu/~howard/garden.html). On a bright but tasteful backdrop, the couple has compiled an exhaustive and well-annotated list of links to every gardening topic imaginable, and without the junk sites or weeds you can't avoid in an unfiltered index and search service such as Yahoo!


Ohio State's Horticulture in Virtual Perspective (http://www.hcs.ohio-state.edu/hcs/webgarden.html) maintains an excellent keyword-searchable database of factsheets covering all aspects of growing plants from the perspective of both homeowners and commercial producers, as well as a plant dictionary with 1,400 links to images of assorted flora.


Climatological similarities make the Canadian Internet Gardening Resource a must for Muscovites (http://www.icangarden.com) as well as the special reference for Northern gardeners at http://www.geocities.


com/RainForest/1329/.


I also found Gardening Unlimited to be useful (http://www.gardenu.com), with its e-mail newsletter and extensive information resources divided into categories such as "plants & seeds," "bugs, birds, and beasties" or "soil & stuff." If you are too attached to your indoor plumbing to consider dacha weekends, Gardening Unlimited also offers advice about building and growing in a wooden windowbox. You can also order useful products like a plastic flowerpot bird which chirps when the plant needs water.


You can order more standard garden supplies and that special strain of seeds for Boston bib lettuce that can't be found in Moscow from the online stores of America's big seed retailers such as Burpee (http://www.burpee.com), WhiteFlower (http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com) or Park Seed (http://www.parkseed.com).


But by far the most commercial garden site has to be http://www.garden.com, with more than 8,000 individual items and garden accessories for sale. I was intrigued by "specialty herbs," but thought they might raise suspicions at customs, so instead I browsed the "miscellaneous edibles" and lawn furniture, inadvertently discovering the supplier of the former pelmeni cafe down the street from my apartment here.


Garden.com proved too highbrow for pink flamingoes and garden gnomes, which are sorely lacking on most Russian dacha plots, but I didn't have to go very far afield to find some. Traditionalists will love "On Stagnant Pond -- Cybersalute to the American Pink Flamingo, Universal symbol of good taste and psychometric excellence" at http://lonestar.texas.net/~stanleym, and the "Gallery of Lawn Ornaments," an eclectic photo safari of backyard jungles in upstate New York at http:///www.arch.buffalo.edu/


~tasman/virtual_cheektowaga_gallery.html.


More serious art, suited for a sculpture garden as opposed to a flower garden, is on display at http://www.garden-art.com.


If the idea of dirt under the fingernails isn't appealing, you can still exercise your green thumb from thousands of kilometers away by using your mouse and web browser to flex the robot arm of the telegarden, a University of Southern California network experiment currently on loan to Austria at http://telegarden.aec.at. Each user of the site can move a robot arm to plant seeds, pick weeds, or squirt water. A sense of community responsibility seems to have developed around the site and the real, live plants have thrived with the help of Internet gardeners for several years now.


Stunning photographic tours of famous world gardens also abound on the web. The somewhat dull official site of the New York Botanical Gardens (http://www. nybg.org) has gotten some help from the Virtual Garden on Time Warner's Pathfinder site, which posted a great collection of pictures at http://www.pathfinder/com/vg/


Gardens/NYBG.


This week, Virtual Garden features video footage and news from the Chelsea Flower Show, one of the most prestigious horticultural events of the year which attracts the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Tony Blair and several hundred thousand Anglophile gardening enthusiasts from around the world. You can also observe a "Japanese Beetle Attack" or win a Toro Super BlowVac.


Oddly, despite what would seem to be fertile ground prepared by Russia's compulsive dacha cultivators, there appears to be little Russian gardening information on the web.


I could find only the Petrozavodsk Botanical Garden (http://www.karelia.ru/psu/English/Structure/garden_e. html), The Russian Bonsai Club (http://www.


geocities.com/RainForest/2557/bonsai.html) and Gardening Online at http://ww.diacomp.ru, a strange and complicated site which only works with the latest MS Internet Explorer and seems to be largely a promotion of a foreign gardening encyclopedia and CD ROM.


Anyway, as I was saying, gardening doesn't appear to have taken root on the net in Russia. Or perhaps I just didn't dig deep enough.





Bill Fick welcomes any tips on interesting web sites or questions concerning the Internet for response in future editions of this column. Fick is cofounder of Samovar Internet Consulting, LLC. Web: http://www.samovar.ru e-mail: bill@samovar.ru fax: 233-2261