BY LOIS J. DE VRIES
The Hard Way
When you search the term sustainable gardening on the web, Google will return more than 79.9 million results. Beneficial insects will net you nearly 60 million; stormwater management, 13 million; sustainable farming, 217 million; and native plants, 835 million. With so much information available, how do you locate what you’re trying to find without spending hours searching all over the internet?
If you’ve already tried this yourself, you know that authoritative information on sustainable gardening and farming is not always easy to source. The topics aren’t necessarily high priorities for institutional websites and good information can be buried within multiple layers of dropdown menus or stuck onto to a website in what seems to be an afterthought.
An Easier Way
But what if you could go to a single website where someone has already done all of that searching, sifting and organizing for you? The Sustainable Gardening Library is a born-digital collection of documents, spreadsheets, photos, and videos that focuses only on sustainability issues related to gardening and farming. In its Topics app, you’ll find curated expert information sorted into 30 easy-to-understand categories—all organized alphabetically with a simple visual directory.
The Sustainable Gardening Library was created with GardenComm members in mind. In fact, GardenComm members’ responses to our surveys determined the categories of information that became our focus and identified their most respected information sources (public gardens, universities and government agencies came in at >85%).
We’ve used a GIS-based mapping platform to show you where our experts and their host institutions are located, provided their contact information and added a few bells and whistles, such as scalable USDA Plant Hardiness Zone and EPA Ecoregions of North America maps.
“…… Using Google to find specific sustainable gardening information is the pits. The results you get are so dependent on the words you search. I would only find most of this information by sheer luck. This (Library) saves me a lot of time. I don’t have to do my own searches….. It’s like having my own special search engine….. Everything is right here.” — D.G., Retired Educator and Master Gardener, New Jersey
Who Will Want to Use It?
Maybe your client needs convincing that sustainable landscape practices are right for them. Maybe you’re working outside your usual comfort zone and some quick reference material would be a big help. Or, maybe you just want to browse for inspiration. Our Library’s science-based information and pictorial examples provide information, instruction and inspiration.
Writers and Journalists
Looking for story starters or people to interview? Now you can go to a single website and find emails and phone numbers for more than 85 experts on 30 different topics. Sustainable Gardening Library collaborators offer content that ranges from beneficial insects to xeriscaping, news about student initiatives, such as Bee Campus USA, public garden Master and Tree Care Plans, and much more.
Broadcasters and podcasters under pressure to fill airtime with fresh ideas and new faces will find them in the Sustainable Gardening Library. Check out the Library’s Organizations app to look up institutions and authoritative sources near you or across the country.
Speakers, teachers, docents and coaches can refresh their presentations and curricula by integrating materials from our Library collaborators, such as video clips, regionally appropriate native plant lists, planting plans, tip sheets and gardening guides. We’ve also developed an overview and lesson plan for middle school teachers, available on our YouTube channel: Sustainable Gardening Library 101 for Middle School Science Classes.
Academics, students, journalists and other researchers will find a wealth of material, including what their cross-disciplinary peers in other organizations are doing. Beyond the content supplied by our collaborators, our map-based platform offers the opportunity to study the similarities and differences among ecosystems within the same USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. Our EcoRegions app, which combines the hardiness zones map with the EPA Ecoregions of North America map affords a deep dive into the important effects that native soils, vegetation, hydrology, terrain, wildlife and historic land use have on which plants can thrive in a given zone.
MAYBE YOU JUST WANT TO NERD OUT
Well, you could read about the history of embedded herbarium specimens in the Arnold Arboretum Library at Harvard. Or, binge watch videos on organic weed management for farmers, or the Lost Butterflies (and moths) of New Jersey. Or just spend a lazy afternoon poring over the millions of horticultural art and digitized dried specimens of the Arnold, New York Botanical Garden, Billie L. Turner, Biodiversity Heritage and other collections in our Libraries & Herbaria group.
The next time you need to locate authoritative information on sustainable gardening or farming, do yourself a favor and start your search in the Sustainable Gardening Library. It will put you at least one step ahead of the competition. We’ve made the Library portal as intuitive as possible, but if you need some help using it for the first time, you’ll find video tutorials on our YouTube channel.
As with any library, our collaborators’ materials are available to you at no charge, but please remember to respect copyright, ask for permission before reproducing, and credit content providers appropriately.
Follow us on Facebook to see our collaborators’ latest posts and other sustainable gardening and farming news. And please, don’t keep it a secret.
Thank you to GardenComm and the Sustainability Committee for the project’s early support, colleagues Kirk Brown and Nan Sterman who helped set up proof-of-concept forums on both coasts, Longwood Gardens and Los Angeles County Arboretum for hosting the forums, Esri for providing the software engineering services to get us started and our four test subjects whose cooperation got the Library up and running: U.S. National Arboretum, U.S. Botanic Garden, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden and Cal Poly Center for Sustainability.
GROWING THE LIBRARY
The Sustainable Gardening Institute was founded in 2015 as a resource for providing science-based information on sustainable gardening. The institute’s extensive online library brings together the knowledge of experts from public gardens, other nonprofits, universities and government agencies. Currently, there are more than 85 collaborating organizations. If you’d like to support our work, please incorporate the Library as a regular part of your work and link to the Library on your website (www.sustainablegardeninglibrary.org) as well as in your books and articles. To make a donation, visit www.sustainablegardeninginstitute.org.We are a 501 (c)(3) Corporation – all donations are tax-deductible.
Lois J. de Vries is a GardenComm Fellow, Green Medal Honoree, and Past-Chair of the Sustainability Committee, Lois is the Founding Executive Director of the Sustainable Gardening Institute and its core program, the Sustainable Gardening Library. She lives and gardens in the woodlands of Northwestern New Jersey.