Newsstand: Not everything in the garden is rosy

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The Independent Culture
I'm told by my horticultural friend that this is a great time to be planting and sowing and, as Newsstand reassembles itself for the new term, it happens that the most compelling Webzine thrown up in my first trawl around the globe is the directly named Dig.

Dig is an American production, derived from a paper publication - a "bi- monthly home and garden diversions magazine for the gardener in everyone. Dig magazine is printed on recycled newsprint using vegetable inks."

Sounds as if it may look better on the Web. It certainly looks good. It has a classy design, with abundant Arial Black type (provided you view it on a PC) and a layout carefully crafted in Microsoft Frontpage. As far as I could establish, the whole magazine is available on the Web, with the alternative of Acrobat PDF format if you want a replica of the newsprint original.

I'm not sure whether gardening here is very different from gardening in the States, but the culture gap would appear to be the usual yawning one. In an article on saving seeds - which in Britain would doubtless be geared to saving pennies - we're told that "growing and saving seeds could provide a new challenge as well as a feeling of security". Still, lots of nutritious information follows, at least to my untrained eye.

Another piece reveals the wonders of the tomatillo, a Mexican relative of the tomato. "Its texture is firmer than a tomato and it tastes like a tangy lemon. On the outside, the two-inch-sized vegetable is bright green. Growing tomatilloes is like growing tomatoes, only easier." Sounds like a laugh.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic culture gap, there's a piece on "Digging up a better body", a major preoccupation of British gardeners, I'm sure. "For a stair machine, try the back of a shovel or a spading fork," says Dig. "A little shovelling will do wonders for your thighs. Those who prefer weightlifting can pump shrubbery and stones instead of iron. Runners and treadmill types can push wheelbarrows around the yard for others to load or unload." Others with stronger backs, I presume.

So where do we go if we want gardening stuff more in tune with herbaceous borders and velvet-smooth lawns? There's no shortage of commercially sponsored sites from garden centres, garden designers, etc, but not much else.

Gardening With Greenfingers is a UK Webzine which has now gone subscription- only, although there are five good-looking issues from last winter available for download in the archive. It's part of an interesting venture called the Internet Garden, where good non-commercial sites are promoted through a structured menu of links pages. Click on Rose Garden, for example, and you get to lots of picturesque, bloom-filled sites.

For reasons I can't guess at, Electronic Yellow Pages runs a series of Guide sites including Gardening Guide - and jolly useful it seemed to be, at first. I'm under some pressure from the kids to install a pond ("Grandad has one, and it has frogs in it") and lo, there is a section devoted to just that.

But what does it tell me?

"Make sure you buy enough [flexible liner] for the pond you're planning." Or "Fish add interest - ask for advice on how many will survive in your size of pond."

Throughout these advice pages, good stuff is diluted by that kind of drivel. Did you know that you shouldn't really park on lawns, especially in wet weather?

In principle, the most valuable element is the Plant Planner, which turns out to be separately hosted by a branch of Cable and Wireless. But my attempt to find out what hedge to plant didn't get me far: the only purposes I'm allowed are Attracting Butterflies, For a Visual Impact, Fruits & Berries and Scent. What about Blocking Out the Pub Car Park?

Dig Magazine

The Internet Garden

EYP Gardening Guide

Videotron Plant Planner