(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 4, 2008.)
Of course, everyone has a different purpose and is looking for something different. A market grower in West Virginia has different wants and needs than a roof-top gardener in New York City. There's an active bunch of people home-schooling their children who share information, whereas I am so very grateful that there's a school to take my children away for a few hours each day.
My point is, we're all welcome at Dave's Garden, an inclusive community that probably has other people just like you. I, myself, don't claim to know all the features of Dave's Garden, and I bet someday soon even Dave (yes, there is a real Dave) himself will start forgetting some of the little faraway corners that are built into this website! But let me show you the way around the ones I have found so far - PlantFiles, the Garden Bookworm, and how to check out a company in the Garden Watchdog. And since this is by gardeners, I'll also show you how to add a plant and how to start a thread. I'll also give you links to some of the most important tidbits of information I've found here.
WARNING! From this point on, any time I refer to a feature at Dave's Garden (or DG, now that you're here), if it's in a different color, it should be a link that will take you straight to that place if you click on it, by opening a new window. To close the new window and come back to this page, click on the tiny red square in the top right-hand corner of the new window, or, just click the 'back' button on your browser.
Member or Subscriber?
Membership in Dave's Garden is FREE! For no money down, no monthly payments and 0% interest, you get to look up mailorder companies in the GardenWatchdog and see how other people felt about them. And, if you've dealt with a company, we encourage you to rate them yourselves, based on your experiences with them. Often, the first "aha! I'm not alone!" warm fuzzy feeling a person gets is from reading through the companies listed in the GardenWatchdog. A similar system exists for the Garden Bookworm, which has already saved me from buying the wrong sort of book.
You also get to do a limited number of searches a day in PlantFiles, the largest plant database in the world. PlantFiles (often abbreviated PF) is so large because there are members literally all over the globe contributing to it. If there's a plant you know about that's not in PlantFiles yet, and you know its botanical name, you can add it! The instructions are on the main PlantFiles page.
As a member, you also have access to our Blog (or Diary) feature and our Journal, where you can keep a record of what's going on in your garden and in most cases, check out what's going on in other people's gardens, if you have any time left.
You get to participate in over 50 chat forums, and there's an Insectipedia, and a Botanary, and oh, all kinds of remarkable stuff here! Before you post anything, whether to the GardenWatchdog or a thread in a forum, please do take a look at our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). It's simple, it's helped keep us out of trouble so far for the most part, and there's a link to it at the bottom of every page. To summarize, no religious or political debate, no advertising (except in the Classified Ads), and no talking dirty. (Not just language you wouldn't want your own kids or grandchildren to hear, but also language you wouldn't want the nice lady at the supermarket to hear you use. Next to the link for the AUP, at the bottom of each page, is a link to a tour of DG.
A subscription costs $19.95 and we hope it will remain there for a while. For that small amount, you get unlimited access to PlantFiles, our amazing database of plants. You also are able to hide the advertisements, and you can do customized searches for plants that fit your specific needs. And there are forums upon forums upon forums, so far, 222, or two-hundred-and-twenty-two! The really good forums! Most of the new forums seem to arise out of popular demand. Since I've been around (2½ years) I've seen the Coneflower forum added, and the Amaryllis/Hippeastrum forum, and several others. However, I'm sure easily 50 of those forums might have been added that I didn't even notice while I've been here, maybe a lot more. There's just so much going on
In addition to these lovely benefits, you get access to other terrific features: "tagging" and seed and plant trading forums (the reason we got started in the first place) and D-mail, a wonderfully secure internal messaging system . There's a twice-a-week live chat and did I mention the forums?
We are DG You may have noticed that I keep saying "we", as if I work here. First of all, there is no "here", although Dave himself lives in Texas. DG is by gardeners. It is us. One member, at 12,500 contributions to PlantFiles, estimated that at one time he, himself, was responsible for 4% of the entries! But of course there are many more entries now; there are more every day, verified by a team of expert volunteers from all over the world.
Some folks find that the forums are where they like to spend their time online. There's a forum for just about everything I can think of, and a whole lot more I hadn't thought of! But when you do think of something new, likely as not, there will already be someone else out there just waiting to discuss it with you. Discussions take place on threads. Join in the discussion! You can lurk, just reading what other people are saying instead of typing anything yourself. We hope that after a while, you'll jump in! Some forums are restricted to subscribers, although every member can read the topic heading. So join the discussion and post at the end of a thread.
If you have a question that isn't being answered or a discussion you'd like to start, from "what's a SASBE" to "what can we do about invasive plants?", it's time to start a thread. There are so many questions about how to act, type, italicize, boldface, post and so forth that there's a whole discussion forum of frequently asked questions, or FAQs. You can find it here.
Please don't be put off by our silly, annoying acronyms - you know, using initials, instead of the actual words. I guess everyone on Dave's Garden remembers the first time they finally asked (gulp) "what is a SASBE, anyway?" And then there's DH, DD, DS, which can get quite involved. It's just that if you're trying to relate a long complicated story involving your Mother-in-Law (MIL), many, many YellowJackets (YJs) and your new Japanese Maple (JM), typing the same words over and over and over again ("...and then my mother-in-law ran to one side of the Japanese maple, and the yellowjackets followed her. So my mother-in-law ran around to the other side of the Japanese maple, and the yellowjackets followed my poor mother-in-law to the other side of the Japanese maple too!"), it gets tedious. (Especially, if you're like me and you don't type so well.) Here's a link to some of the DG acronyms; notice it does not include my favorite acronym, DDWLBH, or Dear, Darling, Wonderful, Loyal, Beloved, Husband. I will put you out of your misery and tell you that a SASBE is a Self-Addressed Stamped Bubble Envelope.
Stop me, please. And then there's BugFiles, and a plentitude of other wonderful spots to explore on DG. How best to look for a plant in PlantFiles if you don't know its name, and how to identify that unusual new weed you've found growing behind the pond, or the strange little tree the town planted on your street... Stay tuned for the answers to these and other questions, as I'm sure your coffee's cold by now. There will be more articles introducing the various fascinating ins and outs of DG in the weeks and months to come. Oh, and that's another exciting aspect of DG I forgot to tell you about! DG is always evolving, growing, changing (like a toddler? like a garden plan?). So, we invite you to stick around to see what the newest features are going to be!