Ask the Placer County Master Gardeners: Internet is valuable resource for plant, pest facts

By: Johanne Ryker, Placer County Master Gardener
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Question: I have been using the Internet to find information about specific plants and problems. I am finding a lot of information that is inconsistent. Which Web sites can I rely on for reliable or accurate information? Answer: First of all, don’t forget that you can call the Placer County Master Gardeners hotline phone number (530) 889-7388 (which is always listed at the bottom of this column) to assist you with plant and pest information at no charge to home gardeners. You can also bring plant/pest samples into our office at 11477 E Ave., DeWitt Center, in Auburn to be identified. Master Gardeners also provide information to the public via our Web site. We also recommend the Web site provided by U.C. Davis that contains research-based information as well — If you use search engines such as Google, your search description will result in a page listing various Web sites and a brief summary of the information pertaining to each site. Although the search may result in many pages, the first page will list the Web sites most frequently used or accessed. When you scroll down the first page of listed Web sites, look for those Web sites that end in “.edu”, “.org”, or “.gov”. The symbol “.edu” represents an educational Web site; the symbol “.org” notates a nonprofit or not for profit Web site; and Web sites ending in “.gov” often contain databases of information collected by such entities as the Department of Forestry. Utilizing any one of these Web sites is more likely to provide reliable, research-based information than the usual “.com” sites. Web sites with an address of “.com” are generally intended for commercial purposes. Information they provide is more likely to be weighed toward selling their products or services, which can be very useful if you want to purchase or buy a specific product. Don’t forget your location when looking online for information. You must consider your own climate zone (Sunset Western Garden Books zoning is the best for western states) in deciding what material is pertinent for you. For example, sun requirements and other growth information for a particular plant that grows well in another climate zone such as Vermont is definitely going to have different results than information on plants located in your specific climate zone. Also remember when reading online research, microclimates within Placer and Nevada counties create different climate zones. For example, parts of Newcastle are considered a “banana belt” and citrus (especially mandarins) do well there as opposed to nearby areas that have colder conditions and are unfavorable to growing citrus. Have gardening questions? Call the Master Gardener hotline at (530) 889-7388.