Wednesday, 19 April 2017 06:08

Internet Resources Not Always Correct


When trying to find solutions to horticultural-related problems, it is important to remember that recommendations and advice given on the internet do not always translate into real, practical solutions. To demonstrate my point, here are a couple of scenarios and the fallacies associated with each.

Scenario 1-A person is interested in starting an orchard and wants to learn how to successfully grow apples in Montana. So, this person goes to a popular search engine and types in the phrase "growing apples in Montana". After searching, the site returned 2,260,000 web pages with at least some part of that phrase in it.

Issue with scenario 1-The primary issue this person has to deal with is, which of the more than 2 million web sites is going to provide the most relevant information.

Scenario 2- A homeowner sees mounds of soil in his/her front yard and, after conducting an internet search, determines that the mounds must be the result of moles in his/her yard. So, after searching for "controlling moles in the yard" (668,000 results found) the person learns that to effectively control moles, he or she must first control the grubs in their yard.

Issues with scenario 2- There are a couple of issues right off the bat with this scenario. First off, the mounds of soil were probably caused by pocket gophers because moles do not reside in Montana. Secondly, even if a mole did happen to wander into this person's yard, studies have shown that grubs make up only a small portion of the critters diet and, as such, controlling the grubs generally does not do much to force the mole to move out of an area. And lastly, moles are insectivores whereas pocket gophers are herbivores so, even if you were to get rid of the insects in an area, the pocket gopher is still going to have a food source and, as such, could care less whether or not there are insects there.

So, as you can see, it can be somewhat tricky to try and find reliable information when it comes to guidelines and recommendations for general horticulture production issues. Here are a couple of tips to use when trying to find good sources of information.

Try to ensure the information is research-based. Generally speaking, factsheets and guides from Extension sources are going to give non-biased, research-based information. There are also other universities outside of extension, USDA research, and other independent research facilities that will produce relevant information. This is not to say that there are not other companies and businesses that offer good information, but Extension information is not trying to sell one product over another as some of these other sites are.

When looking at research-based information, try to choose a source as close to your state/situation as possible. There are some states that have specialists in areas that others do not. When searching for information, it will be more relevant to you and your growing situation, the closer you can get to your home. Some items are going to be the same across the nation (pruning and plant propagation would be examples), but there are going to be instances where the recommendations would be different depending on where you live (the mounds of soil, for example).

If, for some reason, you cannot find research-based information, use your best judgment when looking at other sources. Generally speaking, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are several "snake oils" on the market so be careful.

If you have questions, ask. If you are not sure about a particular recommendation, give your local county agent a call. Chances are, you are not the only person who has read or heard of this new, latest and greatest product so we can usually help decipher good recommendations from "snake oils".

To help you with your searches, here are some sites that I typically visit when looking for horticulture-related information.

This is MSU Extension's yard and garden website and Montguides can be found on just about any horticultural production topic. This would be the first place to look for information related to growing plants in Montana.

This is the national, E Extension web site. At the bottom of the site there is an "ask an expert" button that users can click on and ask questions. These questions are then sent to appropriate "experts" within the national extension system and response is given.

There, of course, are several other sites that are very good and reliable sources of information. However, just these two provide an almost unlimited amount.

Of course, if you would rather, I am always happy (schedule permitting) to come and look at problems and see if I can help diagnose it and provide a solution. So, if you have a question, feel free to call me at 433-1206 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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