Janice Peterson: Have a garden question? Here's who to call
I wish I knew everything about gardening. Unfortunately I don't, but I'm pretty good at asking questions. When I want to research a plant, identify a weed or learn about a gardening technique one of the first places I go is an Internet search engine. One trick I learned is to add the word “extension” to my search. So if I want to know about fire blight in pear trees I type in “fire blight pear trees extension”. The choices that come up will mostly be university extension websites, which I'm going to trust a lot more than articles from unknown sources. Of course it's not perfect – I may also get an article about using an extension ladder in a pear tree during a fire! I also like to click on the “images” tab. Sometimes I will quickly find exactly what I'm looking for in a photo, which I can then click on to read the article and see if I'm on the right track. I do this a lot with weed and disease identification.
Another great source of information is our Rock County Extension office located in the Rock County Courthouse. We are fortunate to have a new Horticulture Educator, Christy Marsden (firstname.lastname@example.org). A Horticulture Educator is kind of like being Mr. Kimble from the Green Acres television show, except I think Christy actually knows what she's talking about! She and her staff work with Master Gardener Plant Health Advisors to answer all your gardening questions. Call them at 608-757-5696, email them or visit them at the courthouse (they process soil samples and identify insects and plant diseases). Also check out the UW-Extension website, which has links to great bulletins on all kinds of gardening and agricultural topics that can be read on-line as PDF files for no charge.
Of course, I also consult fellow gardeners. Gardeners love to talk about gardening, and often give advice laced with invaluable personal experience.
Does anyone still use reference books for gardening information? What is your best source gardening information?