Here’s How To Get Good Gardening Advice Online & Avoid Poor Quality Advice From Scammers & Shysters. Learn How To Get Great Answers! That’s What This Article Is About.
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The internet & social media platforms are full of gardening advice from professionals and amateurs. Here’s How To Get Good Gardening Advice Online, how to sift the good from the bad advice. And where to start.
Each week I see a hundred or more gardening questions. Some are on Facebook posts, some get emailed or texted to me and a few arrive in the post. The ability to answer these questions always depends on how the questions is asked and in the following article I’ll explain how you can help people like me to give you accurate and useful answers.
The Worse Gardening Question Ever Asked
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I received the worse gardening question ever written. This is what it said.
My plant died. What Do you think caused it?Facebook post. Name withheld
This was a question that no gardener, however experienced, could answer. It’s impossible.
All I know for sure is that a plant died. I don’t know if it was a week old or a hundred years old. I don’t know if it had had flowered, fruited, been eaten by a horse or plagued by aphid.
So let’s consider how this question could have been better worded to get a useful answer from gardening experts.
The Best Gardening Question Ever Asked
When we ask a question we do so because we lack knowledge ourselves or want confirmation of our thoughts. So we need to provide as much accurate information as we can. the best questions contain plenty of relevant information.
Often the best information I can be provided with is a photo. A good clear closeup of a problem can mean that I have enough info that I can answer a question almost instantly. For example if the photo has a disease or pest clearly displayed it’s going to be much easier to give an opinion than if someone says “my plant has a bug on it!”
The problem is I don’t know if my definition of bug is the same as theirs or indeed if what they call a bug is indeed a “bug”. Some people call insects bugs and some people send me photos of bugs where the so called bug is a natural plant growth or even a disease.
But a good photo lets me start on the process of sorting out the problem and sometimes provides all the info I need.
Of course putting the closeup photo in context, with a photo of the whole plant or at least part of the plant also helps as I can glean a lot of info from it.
To start with I can see how big the plant is and perhaps judge its age. I can sometimes see where it’s being grown, what it is growing in and, often most importantly, see what species it is! When you don’t know if you are dealing with a carrot or an apple tree it’s hard to be specific with advice.
When asking a question it makes sense to provide plenty of relevant information. Starting a post explaining that your cat had had kittens so you bought a plant, doesn’t cut it. It might interest some people on some social media sites but it tells me nothing about the plant and your problems.
What would help is some relevant information about the plant. Tell me what species of plant you have concerns about, how old it is, how long you’ve had it; whether it was bought in a pot, as a barefoot plant or whatever. Tell me what you’ve planted it in, the soil or compost used, how you’ve fed and watered it and the weather conditions during the growing period.
There is a host of information you can give that will help me, and people like me, to advise. The more info we have the better.
Be Careful About Your Choice of Words
I know being a new gardener is tough. The words used can be confusing and this can lead to bad advice.
For example if you say you sowed some seeds (not sewed as spell check often changes it too), I assume you meant you put seeds in the soil, pots or whatever. I don’t imagine it means you planted a plant you bought or had grown. And vice versa. It may seem a trivial difference but it makes a huge difference.
Sometimes it is easy to spot confusing language in a question. For example if someone says they planted a tomato three weeks ago but it hasn’t come up yet I can be fairly sure that they sowed some seeds and didn’t actually plant a plant.
Listening To, Or Giving, Bad Advice
I recently saw someone advise the following to an online question. . “It needs salt, I’ve never tried it but I saw it online somewhere”.
Not only would I never advise giving 99.9% of plants salt of any sort, giving advice without experience isn’t very helpful, especially if you can’t specify the source of the information. Please only give advice if you actually know something to be true. There are so many gardening myths online that providing more poor information doesn’t help anyone.
I’m not saying an amateur should never give advice. Certainly readers of this website and my Facebook groups range from newbies to professional gardeners, horticultural lecturers and experienced amateurs. Many give excellent advice, but those that do tend to do so based on years of experience and expertise as a professional or as an amateur gardener.
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