Unusually Clever People

Rainyside Gardeners – a Model for Regional Gardening Info Online

by Susan
My recent call for regional gardening sites and "gurus" for the Regional Garden Gurus produced several suggestions that I high-tail it over to Rainyside Gardeners.  I followed orders, and here’s what I found:Colocasiablackstemcontainer

    – The Pacific Northwest’s premier gardening site, according to the Oregoninan

    – 800 content-filled pages

    -Over 600 plants in a Plant Gallery, complete with professional photos, basic info and personal commentary

    -A forum for PNW gardeners, including answers to questions
    – Recommended books
    – Regional plant and gardening resources

    – A calendar of regional events
    – The Writers’ Top Ten, where the site’s writers show off the favorite plants in their own gardens.
    – A Monthly Newsletter
    – A sneak preview of the display gardens at the NW Flower and Garden Show

Creator/webmaster Debra Teachout-Teashon started the site 10 years agDebbietto now, and just recently launched her blog Muck About in a Northwest Garden.  Debra’s a long-time gardener, writer and photographer who saw a need for solid gardening info for her region and just took it upon herself to bring it all together online – exactly what the Gurus are hoping to see for every part of North America.  And now we get to comb her site for ideas to steal!  Uh, make that emulate.

Now besides the sheer quantity of high-quality regional info, what
interests me here is that Debra isn’t just webmaster and writer but
editor, as well, working with two other regular professional writers and lots of
guests, including frequent Rant commenter Lisa Albert.  Clearly Debra’s a team player, so without a moment’s hesitation the gurus invited her to contribute her talents and her site to our little endeavor.  So welcome!

HELP GET ONE OF THESE FOR YOUR REGION
We’ve heard from writers in other regions who have plenty of good garden writing ready to upload to help educate gardeners in their region, if they only knew how.  So let’s help ’em out.

    – How can a large website be created and maintained without paying a professional to do all the work, something that few of us can afford to do?  I’ve worked with easy templates in my web history but they’re usually for small sites only.  My only suggestion for a nongeek like myself is to pay a professional to set up the site and then marry it with Adobe Contribute, a reasonably nongeeky program for adding content and editing.  Any other ideas?  (Of course I asked Debra but writes her own code, for crissake.)

    – Anybody know what kind of income is being generated these days by gardening sites?  Assume that Google ads and affiliate agreements are used, maybe even paid ads after traffic has built up.  Obviously the more income potential there is, the more likely one of these outstanding writers can devote the time to get it all online.

MINI-RANT
When I think of all the crap gardening sites on the Web nowadays that are attracting readers, I get cranky.  Sure, they know how to play the search engine game, but have you ever noticed there’s nothing much there?  Often they’re just little articles that have been stolen from other websites.  Or they’re the search-engine-optimized enterprises that I’ve ranted about here – About.com and good old Jerry Baker.  So how can high-quality, content-rich sites get out there so the public can find THEM?

SEND US YOUR FAVORITE LINKS
We’ve just begun compiling links for more good gardening websites in each region and your recommendations would be appreciated.  But here’s the fun part.  Rather than listing everything that exists, we’re voting with our typing fingers and giving a pass to information that’s outdated or market-driven.  So for my region I’ve listed Extension Services for Maryland and Pennsylvania but not for my home state of Virginia.  Their advice is still steeped in the bad old days of Chemistry 101, so we’ll wait for them to move into the 21st Century before sending readers their way.

Visit the page for your region on our site and if you don’t see your favorite links there, send ’em along in a comment or via email.  Blogs like Angela’s in Sacramento and this one in New York City that compile gardening links for their area are being listed, too.  (They’re also included in the all-inclusive Gardenblogs by Region.)  And if you know of any good all-region links like the compilation of pruning instruction by region we found at Plant Amnesty, send them along, too.

Posted by on February 5, 2008 at 5:18 am, in the category Unusually Clever People.
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18 responses to “Rainyside Gardeners – a Model for Regional Gardening Info Online”

  1. Mike Price says:

    I like nature near my home garden. I have tips for garden and its furniture in my site http://www.garden-furniture.tipss.us/

  2. Nic says:

    We have actually just gone live with our site that addresses this exact issue of getting good local “microclimate” gardening advice – and we believe that we are the first site to address this issue on a global scale.

    Our site is called MyFolia (http://www.myfolia.com) – at it’s core it is a garden tracker / journaller, with the idea being that everyone is contributing, through their own personal tracking, to the gardening knowledge of their area. Thus, the more gardeners we have, the better and more local the information becomes. We are currently concentrating on the country and USDA Zone levels, but intend to go all the way to showing a neighbourhood view of what’s growing, when it’s growing and how well it does in your area.

    We are still very much in early days and are looking for as much feedback and suggestions as we can get – we would love to have you take a look at the site with your idea for regional gardeners in mind.

  3. Victoria E says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for this link – I’m moving to Portland in June and this site will be vital for setting up my home garden.

  4. Angela says:

    Thanks for the mention, Susan! I made SacramentoGardening.com when I was fresh out of UCD. My professors encouraged us to use the web, including one professor who recommended a new and little-known search engine called Google. I was impressed.

    I compiled so many great gardening links during my school days and wanted to share them with the public (something I felt wasn’t being done adequately in my area), so I decided it’d be fun to make a website. I didn’t know how, so I just started pressing buttons, poking around, and voila. It ain’t slick, but it’s got lots of info all in one place.

    I wasn’t doing this as a business venture, and didn’t (still don’t to some extent) know how to monetize my site. Google and affiliate ads are wonderful because they pay for hosting at $90/year and the domain name (plus a little extra), but my little regional website is not a money maker. Any time I put into the site I consider to be voluntary community service. There are times when I do very little to the website, get distracted by the fun and immediacy of blogging, and even consider bailing entirely on the website. But!

    By chance, I recently ended up in a community college web design class (Dreamweaver CS3). This has re-energized me and I want to apply what I’m learning to my gardening site. Heck, maybe I’ll even get good enough to offer my services to others.

    I’ve also gotten pretty good at Photoshop… from years of practice and by joining NAPP (and attending their seminars and buying their books). I’d like to think my writing has improved over the years too.

    I would urge any garden communicators to learn as much as they can about web design, prepping photos for the web and writing for the web. If you’re self-disciplined, you can learn on your own. If you’re like me, then get thee to a class. After I master Dreamweaver, I plan to tackle Flash. Yes, we’re gardeners, but gardening on the web requires a new set of tools.

  5. Jason says:

    Hello,

    I read that you were interested in getting exposure to your website. In answer to your question about how you can do this without hiring a professional, it’s not easy. The problem is that google having 75% of the search volume controls what people are allowed to see. If you want to be listed in google and within a searchable distance from first results then you have to have a very experienced professional come into your site that is up on the latest technology and validation requirements to go over your code and change it. Simply having fresh content is not the only ingredient to a successful website and search engines like google actually ignore the keyword META tags these days. Too many sites were abusing the privilege of being able to list your own keywords. The crawlers will now choose for you based on the entire code and content of your site. The problem is that if they do not like the code because it does not validate, is in the wrong format, or just simply can’t be recognized or read properly by the search engine crawlers then they will not rank the site where it should be ranked. Many times they don’t even index the page for any keywords.

    If you really want to save money and design it yourself I would suggest that you hire a qualified company to then go through the site and optimize it. Beware of who you hire though. Promises of first page results within a short time means they likely use bad SEO practices and will get your domain name banned from the search engine index. Not a good thing to have happen! The right SEO company will optimize you in a way that will show gradual continued growth of website traffic over a long period of time for sustained growth.

    For more information about this we have articles on these subjects on our own website http://www.worldwideoptimize.com in our “News and Articles” area and also on our FAQ’s area.

    Hope this helps!

    Jason

  6. Lisa Albert says:

    Congrats to Rainy Side and Debbie – attention well deserved!

    Victoria E, welcome-in-advance to Portland! You should consider joining HPSO (Hardy Plant Society of Oregon) when you arrive. They publish a twice-yearly Bulletin full of fellow members’ gardening articles, offer reduced rates on gardening books, bring in great speakers several times a year, and la-creme-de-la creme, issue an annual Open Garden book that lists dates fellow members open their gardens to the group. It’s a great opportunity to talk plants and see them in action, and find out more about gardening in this great climate.

  7. Jason says:

    I’m just told that our servers are being upgraded today so if our site it down it will be back up shortly. Sorry about that.

  8. Lisa Albert says:

    Warning, shameless plug ahead.

    Victoria E, if you are in town by June 21st, please consider joining me at the Seeding Our Future Garden Tour & Art Show, http://www.foundation4smartkids.org/art/index.html
    (If that link is too long, Googling “Seeding Our Future Garden Tour” will direct you there. 2008 information will be posted soon).

    The ’08 tour includes nine gardens, all quite lovely and unique, each offering great lessons in gardening in Portland. Three will have special guests; Kym Pokorny, The Oregonian’s garden writer, Vern Nelson, The Oregonian’s Hungry Gardener columnist and Christine Ellis of Gregg & Ellis Landscape Design.

    If you do attend, be sure to introduce yourself to me (my garden is among the line-up).

  9. thistleandthorn says:

    Please consider including my favorite site for the north Florida/Southeast area, which is http://www.floridata.com (duh, how do I hyperlink that?) Jack Sherer has done a fantastic job with this website, and while I haven’t run across him in Tallahassee area nurseries, I am ever on the lookout for him! He includes, but does not limit himself to, a lot of local native plants, and a charming ongoing diary. Useful information, good detail, and a well designed website. Check it out!

  10. susan harris says:

    thistle, we couldn’t agree more and Ginny is a contributor to Floridata, so the link is there in her bio. We’ll list it again so it’s more noticeable.

  11. kathryn says:

    There must be an obvious reason this wasn’t the first suggestion, but: how about a wiki? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki)

    There are free ones, and many, if not most, web hosts can set you up with one for free.

  12. susan harris says:

    Wow, Wiki’s something to look into. Thanks.
    And Angela, can you say more about NAPP and Flash for our readers (including yours truly)?

  13. P. says:

    I wonder if anyone where I am (google 34691) would like to talk gardening. Probably not. Well, I have you guys.

    Thanks for all you do. I hope this evening finds you well.

  14. wiseacre says:

    I’ve had a “garden” website up for 10 years now. It started as a winter hobby learning html and image editing. My site is not much more than a photo gallery with plenty of non garden distractions.

    I’m still amazed that I get as many visitors as I do. (avg over 1000 daily). 70% of my visitors come from search engines, over 50% bookmark my site. I might be making Susan cranky and I would tend to agree with her. There are much better sites out there.

    I’ve recently added google ads to my site. Monthly income from those ads run about $100. I expect that to increase during the growing season. A quality site once established should do far better than my time waster.

  15. Angela says:

    NAPP is the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.

    http://www.photoshopuser.com/

    They put out a series of really excellent, really user-friendly Photoshop books (Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby is the one I’m grooving on right now). They also host a nationwide series of traveling day-long Photoshop workshops.

    http://www.kelbytraining.com/seminars.html

    Annual NAPP membership costs $99, earns you special discounts with Apple (the discount on my new Apple iMac MORE than paid for my membership), B&H Photo, Office Depot, etc., and gives you access to Photoshop tutorials, Photoshop User magazine, Photoshop TV and many other online resources.

    I think you could spend years in school learning Photoshop, but these guys encapsulate what you need to know about the latest version into quick step-by-step tutorials, allowing you to immediately improve your craft without having to necessarily understand WHY you’re making certain selections and performing actions in a certain order.

    I’ve tried other Photoshop books and DVDs, but the NAPP products are just slicker, more colorful, higher quality and, frankly, more fun to read. Life is too short for poorly written, boring tutorials, you know?

    The seminars are great too. I’ve attended two so far and am eager for the next.

    As for Adobe Flash, it’s a program that allows you to add interactive, animated touches to your website. You don’t want to go nuts with Flash, but a little touch here and there can make a website less static.

    http://www.adobe.com/products/flash/

    The pro versions of Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Flash can be pretty pricey, so it’s a good idea to sign up for a class and take advantage of student discounts. Also look for bundled software packages.

  16. Brent says:

    What I find hard to believe is that there are no other Southern California area native plant bloggers. I guess that my singular lack of success trying to find them on my own wasn’t an accident.

    You have two PR-oriented websites for Los Angeles in your list, but really they could be from anywhere.

    Where’s the local flavor? Are my fellow Los Angeleans so trapped in their concrete jungle that they have NO stories from the trenches?

    Sure, there’s the Payne Foundation
    http://www.theodorepayne.org/
    and CalFlora
    http://calflora.org/
    and Las Pilitas
    http://www.laspilitas.com/

    But despite oodles of wonderful information, they don’t have the PoV that I look for in a blog.

  17. John says:

    Jason wrote:
    >If you want to be listed in google and within a searchable distance from first results then you have to have a very experienced professional come into your site that is up on the latest technology and validation requirements to go over your code and change it […]

    This is absolutely untrue, and don’t believe anyone who claims it.

    The only thing you need to be found and indexed and rank highly in Google (or Yahoo search, or MSN), is a good site that doesn’t try to use shady tricks to “optimize” for search engines.

    What this amounts to is writing good content, and marking it up properly using valid, semantic HTML for content and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for presentation. Run your code through the HTML validator at w3.org and follow standard Web design best practices, and search engines will find and index your site just fine.

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