Welcome to The Ultimate Garden Tool

© 1996, Mary Bolack

What is the ultimate garden tool? Well, I believe it's good information. If you begin a garden job with good information, you can do the job right the first time. This database of horticultural documents has been collected and processed over a period of two years with the goal of building a broad, practical collection of horticultural information of the highest possible quality. Since the Smith-Lever Act was enacted in 1914, the ultimate sources for that information have been the state Cooperative Extension Services and the land grant institutions that take part in them. So the vast majority of these documents have come from those sources. Other documents have come from internet servers of private foundations, plant societies, and various other government and private entities. The few that are copyrighted have been used with permission of the copyright holders. All documents are credited to their source.

A few pointers follow which should make your initial uses of the reference easier.

This collection of over 3000 horticulture documents has been processed into the PageKeeper ® document database format. It is a standard Windows program, with standard windows commands. One the left side of the screen, you will see a folders box. Clicking the folders button will show you that the documents have been labeled and organized according to their source. (The demo version is a collection of documents from many sources about one general subject--apples. So while you will see the documents labeled according to their source, the source folders are not visible.) Clicking on the source icon will open its list of documents. At this point, you are looking at a stack of documents approximately 8 feet tall that fills four file drawers to overflowing. If you are just browsing, you can click on the title of any document and open it.

About half of the documents have both an image file and a text file. When you open the file, the image view will always come up first. Click the "T" symbol on the button bar to see the text file of the page. If the Mona Lisa button appears faded, there is no image view available for that document. These documents were usually downloaded from an internet server that only makes text files available. I have included these documents anyway because of the value of their contents. Please don't discount these documents just because they are only available in text format. Some of the very best information is contained within them.

This version of PageKeeper® required scanning input in black and white line art mode. So greyscale and color photos don't appear clearly. They look similar to what they would look like if you ran the document through a copier. However, the majority of these documents were in black and white, anyway, and most illustrations were done with line art. The next version of PageKeeper ® promises full color, so the first upgrade of The Ultimate Garden Tool should also contain color documents as they become available.

You can turn pages in the document with the left and right arrows on the buttonbar. Other tools, found on the menu or button bars, will take you to a specific page of a document, take you directly to your search word, allow you to print or fax the document, etc.

A few tips on searching...

The PageKeeper ® document database has very powerful search functions. If a search word is only found once in the thousands of pages contained in the database, it will find it. In fact, one of the reasons that I chose PageKeeper ® is that the reviews all said that its search functions were so good that they were "spooky."

The weighted word search, using the bloodhound button on the tool bar, is the easiest and fastest. You may type in as many words as you like. Put a space between them. The results box will then give you a prioritized list of all the documents that have any of the words in them. The documents that have used the words most will appear at the top of the list. If you have been specific in your search, your answer will probably appear in the top document.

If you want to be even more specific in your search, use the boolean search by clicking the word "search" above the tool bar, and then selecting Boolean Search. The box that opens will let you have the option of selecting only documents that have both words, or documents that contain only some, depending on whether you use the "and" or the "or" options. Your search results list will be smaller, but more specific. You may do up to three sets of "and"s or "or"s for each search. You do not have to capitalize words.

PageKeeper ® disregards possessives, plurals, and verb tenses, as well. However, as we all know in the horticultural world, occasionally we find that words are used a little differently in different regions of the country. For example, some documents will refer to "bermuda", while others will call it "bermudagrass". PageKeeper ® should, however, find "bermudas", and "bermudagrasses", as well as the possessive forms of the words from a search on the word "bermuda."

Once your search results box is open, you will notice that your results have been prioritized, with the most relevant documents at the top. You may then double click on the document you wish to open. It will open in a text window. When you are in a hurry to find an answer, you can use the larger green arrow on the tool bar --or the alternate command on the menu bar -- to take you directly to your search word within the document. If the word or words are used several times, keep clicking to see each instance of your word within the document.

If you are looking for a specific answer to a specific question, try to make your search word or words specific, too. For example, if you search the words "apple" and "borer," every document in this demo version will appear in your search box. Try just searching for the word "borer," and your quest for the borers that infest apple trees will be much quicker. One the other hand, if you are just browsing, use general search words to get a good selection of documents to view. If at all possible, the documents have a name that includes an abbreviation for their source. That will often help you decide which document to open and use.

Once you have found the answer to your quest, you have several options.

Of course, you might just find the answer, close the document, and be done with it. If you are using this to help someone decide what to do with a horticultural problem, or how to accomplish a particular task, you might want to print a copy of the document for them. Use the printer button on the button bar. You can also fax a copy of the document directly from the database. This is particularly easy if you have WinFax Pro on your machine.

Online help is available for you. Just click on the word "help" on the menu bar. The menu bar also contains alternate routes to all of the search and document commands.

ALWAYS print the image file if one is available. That way, you will get the page--pixel for pixel--exactly as it was originally printed, line drawings and all. Likewise, if you fax a document out of the program, ALWAYS fax out the image file. Your fax will, again, be identical to the original document.

Clicking the Mona Lisa button on the tool bar will show you the image file, which shows you the raw scan of the page. There are a few instances where you will see a note on the text screen telling you to click Mona Lisa to read the text. This resulted from having poor copies of the document to scan, or in the rare instance where text was oriented both horizontally and vertically on the page. Our eyes are far more forgiving when it comes to reading a photocopied page than a computer is. (A photocopied page will often have the letters touching one another, even though we don't notice. Even a cutting-edge OCR engine, such as you find in PageKeeper ® , has a great deal of difficulty determining what letter a glob of dots is when the letters on the scanned page are blurred together.) This is becoming less of a problem as time goes on, as OCR becomes more and more sophisticated.

Great effort has been made to document both authors and sources of the material. In fact, that is really the only other thing I have added to the text files--a note at the bottom of some pages naming the title and/or source if one wasn't already there. With rare exceptions, all of the documents in this compilation are in the public domain, and the copyrighting of the database does not change that. Nor does it affect the copyrighted documents that have been used here with permission. The copyright on the database is purely a protection of the compilation as a whole and the PageKeeper ® files it contains. (A similar example with which you might be familiar is the marketing of disks full of shareware programs. The copyright does not imply that the compiler of the disk has taken ownership of the shareware programs on the disk, but rather protects him from the unauthorized copying and sale of the compilation itself.)

It has taken more than two years of work to get as far as I have gotten with this project, and this offers me some protection from unauthorized copying of the disk and the PageKeeper ® files it contains. The software itself is also copyrighted by the Caere Corp., its owner. Unauthorized copying of the disk, except onto your own machine, violates their copyright as well. While the software itself belongs to Caere, the contents of the database are my responsibility.

On the other hand,, printing or faxing the image file (or the text file, if that is all there is) of a document to share with another person only furthers the purpose for which the documents were written in the first place, and is encouraged.

If the document is one of the copyrighted documents used with permission of the owner, please remember that the content of the document still belongs to them, and act accordingly.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the help of quite a few people, without whose help this reference would never have come to be:

The Tulsa Master Gardener Foundation. This project initially started with their help, and continued that way for several months. In particular, Flo Bear, one of their volunteers, gave countless hours in the first couple of months helping me organize and input documents. When they dropped the project, I started over again on my own. By that time, I had realized the tremendous potential of this database format, and the project had become a mission. However, it may never have begun without their support.

The late Milton Gwinn, of National Computer Rental in Tulsa, was extremely generous with hardware, expertise, and encouragement. Margi Blaker, Tina Elder, Jerri Jones, Shirley Miller, Dixie Folzenlogen, and Carla Chlouber, have all given support--emotional and otherwise--that kept me going, and often made the job easier. Mike Lester, owner of Galaxy Star Systems of Tulsa, has been both generous and patient with this "non-nerd" who had to learn about Internet use very fast.

Carol Wilkie Wallace, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, did the artwork for the splash screen, and deserves special thanks.

My son, David, has been invaluable. I was not very computer-literate when I started this project, and found myself in the same position that many baby boomers are in--we get to learn this stuff from our kids. David has often had to bail me out -- sometimes on a daily basis. Having a son who is good at both software and hardware has been an incredible blessing.

I must also thank the people at the Caere Corporation. First, of course, they developed this dynamite software. When I first contacted them, they were immediately intrigued by the idea of using PageKeeper ® to compile a problem-solving reference for horticulture, and they have been extremely supportive of my efforts. They have helped me over many hurdles, and have solicited and accepted suggestions for improvements during the beta-testing process. Often such large entities turn a deaf ear to suggestions, particularly when they come from a non-nerd such as I. Quite the opposite has proven true in this case. Special thanks go to Dean Hovey, Bob Hall, and Eric Grae, Dixie Fisher, and Will Kelty.

Finally, we all owe thanks to the Cooperative Extension Service. If they did not publish so many high quality documents, and leave them in the public domain, a reference like this would not be possible. And if I hadn't seen the FAIRS software from Florida while at an international Master Gardener convention in San Antonio a couple of years ago, I'd have never had the idea of compiling this kind of reference.

Nearly every county in this country has a "county agent" -- or several agents. They are really the unsung heroes of the agriculture community. These folks do more and more work for less and less money and job security in this age of budget cuts, and still manage -- along with the Extension-funded ag professors at the land grant institutions -- to publish these documents. They are a remarkable breed of public servant.

I feel a lot of loyalty to Cooperative Extension and admiration for the work that they do. I hope that this will get a lot more of their documents into the hands of the people for whom they were written.

Good searching, and good growing....

Mary Bolack