Resources to be a better gardener

Gardening is always a learning experience which keeps it interesting as well as challenging when some new pest shows up or something doesn’t go as planned. No matter how much we know, it seems that there is more to be learned in a never ending process. This week I want to share with you some of the resources that can be helpful to make you a more informed and better gardener. First of all there is Sunset’s Western Garden Book, a great resource and secondly is Google. If you have a question or want to see a picture or find information on a plant, just try Google and you will likely be rewarded with a lot of information to sort through.

Google might take you to Dave’s Gardens, a plant finder/gardener’s information paradise where you can subscribe for $19 per year and have access to reviews of nurseries, discussion forums, files on plants, pests, birds, landscaping, garden articles, pros and cons on various plants and a gardening community of over 700,000 members. Even without membership there is access to a lot of information.

Just the plant file is one of the world’s largest. Here is their description of their plant file. “PlantFiles is largest plant database in the world, built by 60,154 gardeners working together from around the world. The database has 217,995 entries, 374,489 images and 153,342 comments. Currently entries are from 430 families, 5,355 genera, 46,715 species, and 135,279 cultivars.”  So there is a lot of information here just on plants. I searched for information for the Gulf fritillary butterfly and I found 80 images and 20 reviews to give you an idea of how much information can be found there. However, you may find their search engine to be very lacking in sophistication.

The California Native Plant Society has a very useful and awesome website: . It has pictures, map locations, growing conditions and other information on 7095 native plants in California. You can look at native trees, vines, shrubs and others as categories and then select individual species to get lots of info.

A website that I like is the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This IPM program fosters a scientific and environmentally conscious approach to pest management.  It has a tremendous amount of information to help gardeners identify and deal with landscape pests including weeds and it has a lot of information to help you garden better:

There are also many publications that are useful from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Division (UCANR). Some of these are free and can be easily downloaded as PDF files and some are available for purchase from their online catalogue. For more information, see:

The Xerces Society ( is an organization that is dedicated to pollinator conservation. They promote habitats and gardening practices that conserve bees, butterflies and other pollinators; a very worthy cause. Their website features articles, books, guides and other resources to help you foster populations of pollinators.

There are also various plant societies that promote information about their particular type of plant. I like dahlias and roses, so I joined the American Dahlia Society (ADS) and the American Rose Society (ARS). Both have publications. The Rose Society’s American Rose is a very slick well-done magazine with information on growing and exhibiting rose. The ADS publishes Bulletin of the American Dahlia Society, Inc. which is mostly about exhibiting, but sometimes has helpful articles on growing dahlias. It is unlikely to win an award. Both societies have websites as well.

The Iris Society (AIS) has a website to offer images and information about Iris as does the American Orchid Society (AOS) and the American Peony Society The first two have magazines to promote their respective flowers. Not to be left out is the African Violet Society of America  They have a bimonthly magazine and they have an amazing photo gallery on this website of every African violet imaginable. I am quite sure there are more societies than I know of, but if you think there might be one for a flower you like—just Google your flower name and see what pops up.

Another resource is YouTube where you can find videos on useful garden tips. Some plant suppliers have useful information on growing their plants. For example, Swan Island Dahlias has several videos on digging, storing, dividing tubers, and growing dahlias. Not to be left out is our Master Gardening website listed below for many gardening resources. To be a better garden requires some effort and resources, but it is a worthwhile pursuit and I hope this information will be helpful.

If you are interested in becoming a UC Master Gardener, you will need to apply by September 28, for the 19 weekly classes which start in 2019. To apply or if you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website:

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