[and you’ll end up with leggy seedlings
].” or “Blast aphids off flower heads with a strong jet of water [and destroy both the flower AND the aphids
].” Some advice is very well-known and well-repeated, but put into practice just leads to frustration.
3. The Too-good-to-be-true Photos: How many lies are told every day with a camera? Don’t kid yourself that it’s only happening in Los Angeles. One of my favorites is the shot of plump farmyard chickens wandering through a beautiful vegetable garden. Go ahead. Put Henny Penny in your gorgeous creation for three unsupervised hours and see what happens. I’m a huge fan of Ms. P pecking at your plot – but about one month before you actually plant anything.
4. The Salesman Vortex: There are nurseries out there who are not above stretching the truth a little to sell a plant. If you want good information on a specific plant, it may not be wise to ask the person who is invested in selling it to you.
So basically, you’re navigating a mine field – and you’ve got to know where to put your feet safely. You’re going to make mistakes of course, but here are some tips on getting started:
1. Look for university or government based sites: Some horticultural studies take months, years, even decades to complete. Take advantage of the data all that grant money paid for and peruse the .edu and .gov sites first.
2. Find out where the author/blogger/freelancer writes: A Zone 10 Florida gardener may actually be able to say “start your seedlings in windowsills” and be right on the money – for other Zone 10 gardeners. Location is critical when you’re applying gardening advice, so be sure to know their zone and your own.
3. Check out peer-reviewed books at the library: Though it can happen, having several knowledgeable editors on his or her back makes it harder for an author to put mis-information into print. This is not so on the world wide web. If information is inaccurate, it may be challenged by a commenter trolling the internet, but faced with entering my name, creating a password, and deciphering the Captcha, all in order to correct the blogger and tell people not to plant poppy seeds in the spring, I and many others have usually lost interest and moved onto Youtube.
4. Physically join a gardening club: I know this means eschewing the anonymity of your laptop, but don’t worry, they LOVE beginners. Mixing with others in your area who love to garden, garden professionally, or are also starting out is one of the best ways to share and collect information relevant to your climate and environment.
5. Cross-check, cross-check, cross-check: This can be as simple as finding a good forum with lots of active, outspoken members, or finding several individual sites that you like and can contrast with one another.
Everyone has their own opinion (I have no doubt I’ll be hearing from the aphid/hose contingent after this column), but advice should always be based upon sweet experience. So make sure your sources actually have some, and meanwhile, go out and get some of your own.
– and it’s Zinfandel with seed starting. But it might be a good idea to carefully research that one yourself.