Digital garden club: IT support for gardening

In days past, a gardener’s resources consisted of friends and neighbors, and library gardening books. Talking with cooperative extension service office agents was another source of information, as was the state land grant university. The average gardener’s home library usually consisted of a few books and magazines. This has drastically changed over the past two decades, with a universe of information available in a few key strokes.

Computers, digital technology, the Internet and smartphones have changed the way we find and receive information, making cooperative extension service publications, research laboratories and libraries accessible anywhere. Searching any topic will result in a few hundred or even millions of possible information sources. It’s no longer a choice between the “Gardeners Almanac” or the “Joy of Gardening.”

In addition, your “neighborhood” increased exponentially with the computer and Internet allowing for worldwide communication. Chat rooms, blogs and more provide specific information that can help you be a better gardener. YouTube and other video sites have become great sources of information on how to accomplish specific gardening tasks. The short video format permits gardeners to visualize how and what needs to be done. I have used YouTube to refresh my knowledge on the mechanics of grafting and learn new techniques.

The Internet has made available the combined knowledge of everyone who wishes to post any information regardless of the value or correctness. So how do you determine or evaluate good content or information? A good first choice is your state land grant university and cooperative extension service. These sites normally have the university’s name or initials and “.edu” in their address, as in the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources electronic publication website,

Here are a few examples of digital technology from the UH-CTAHR that is helping to reshape the way we receive current and informative information in the digital age.

Root ginger is a major crop for Hawaii and lots of information has been published on the subject. A new website offers instruction on growing edible ginger at This website includes an overview of the planting process of edible ginger through the harvesting of the ginger crop. It is illustrated with colorful photographs, slide shows and embedded videos. Also included is research results from UH-Manoa, including the most effective disease management practices available.

Another great website from the UH-Manoa is that of Extension Forester J.B. Friday. His site can be found at and offers great information on trees commonly found in the landscape. Friday has incorporated video on various forestry topics such as collecting, cleaning and storing seeds and how to plant koa. He also has a picture share file on Flickr where images of unknown plants can be posted for someone in the “community” to identify.

A great site to learn about plant pathogens is maintained by Scot Nelson and found at The website covers a wide range of diseases found here. Pick a crop and it lists all known diseases for that crop. Select a specific disease and it provides more information and images. Nelson has also developed an app for smartphones called “The Plant Doctor,” which helps the user find out what ails their plant.

With today’s digital technology, it’s like having your own set of gardening professionals at your side to guide your gardening needs.

For more information on this and other gardening topics, visit the CTAHR electronic publication website at or any Cooperative Extension Service offices.

Nagata can be reached at