Big Blog on the Block

There’s a new1 blog on the social media block—The Big Blog of Gardening (BBoG). Already it’s a heavy hitter in the gardening social media world. The question is: How may foul balls are hit?

My wife came to me recently saying “Hey! Did you know that your friend Linda Chalker-Scott changed her institution?”
“What?” I said.
“Yeah, she moved to University of Washington. It says right here on this MSNBC article.”
“It’s from the Big Blog of Gardening? What’s that?”
Turns out that the BBoG is hooked into national media and gets consistent play on the home pages of those who go to MSNBC. This is because the BBoG is “now part of the Microsoft Start Program” that places content on the MSN homepage whenever a user logs in.

The originator of the BBoG is not a scientist and in the “About” section of his web page states that he started gardening as a child (like many other of us that had school gardening programs around the country). I also started gardening as a child, volunteered at Descanso Gardens in La Canada, but in my own case I followed up my childhood experiences with a dual major in Botany and Horticulture, an MS in plant pathology, a PhD in plant pathology, and a 30-year career with Cooperative Extension advising and researching in landscape horticulture. These are the typical qualifications for the blog writers at the Garden Professors web pages. Unlike writers for the BBoG, we are the folks who actually conduct research on horticulture and gardening subjects that other people quote and cite.

For us scientists, one of the pitfalls of the BBoG is it’s not a science-based blog. In a blog on pruning, the title proposes to inform how to prune any landscape plant. When you read that article, it just directs you to a link to to purchase a publication of the American Horticultural Society (which is not a science-based organization even though it sounds very much like the American Society for Horticultural Science – the oldest horticultural science society in the US). Rather than cite current research or address the blog title’s topic, the article leads to a product you have to buy to get your information. BBoG posts are full of of links to products available online or to “paid for links” for non-scientific and misleading garden books or other resources.

Broad strokes are used in titles of the blog. For example: “Staking a tree is almost never the right thing to do”. In some ideal world where nurseries grow trees w/o stakes and landscapes don’t require protection from damaging elements this may be true, but this is not the world we live in. Trees grown in nurseries are often staked to facilitate production and shipping. Staking can be used as a protection process on trees that may suffer impact from moving vehicles (these stakes have no attachment to the tree but serve as protective bollards). Titles in some other posts are merely attention getting or serve to promote products – not to reflect accurate horticultural science.

The BBoG often cites Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, quotes her published work, provides links to her white papers, but doesn’t actually email or otherwise contact the original author. The problem is that often there are peer-reviewed sources by the same author containing this newer information (e.g., WSU Extension publications). BBoG often seems to miss the actual scientific or peer reviewed work but focuses on popular sources such as Fine Gardening or, even worse, Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is not a legitimate resource for science-based information. (link to Jeff Gilman’s blog post)

Beware the comments at the end of articles on the BBoG as there can be pseudo-scientific information there (using gypsum to create drainage in soils) that goes unrefuted by the article authors. It is important that site administrators approve comments before they are listed, or at least address the misconceptions in a response.

When BBoG stories hit the mainstream media (like MSN) the blog owner does not always mention the original sources of their stories, or the scientists who developed the information: they take credit and reap the rewards of increased eyeballs on their posts and clicks on their advertising links. Wouldn’t it be nice if members of the media could dig a little deeper and find the science-based gardening sites and give them some well-deserved publicity?

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Jim Downer

Dr. Downer has 34 years of experience as a horticulture and plant pathology Advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Ventura County. Dr. Downer’s academic training is from California Polytechnic Univ., Pomona, (BSc. horticulture & botany, 1981; MSc. Biology, 1983;. In 1998 he earned a Ph.D. in plant pathology, from University of California, Riverside. Dr. Downer’s research is focused on mulch, soil microbiology and disease suppression in mulched soils, diseases of shade trees and cultural practices to maintain landscape plants. Dr. Downer is a member of the American Society of Horticultural Science, the American Phytopathological Society, The International Soc. of Arboriculture, and the Western Chapter of the ISA, and the International Society for Horticultural Science. Dr. Downer is an Adjunct professor at California Polytechnic University in Pomona. Dr. Downer serves on the Board of the John Britton Fund for tree Research as the chair of the research advisory committee, and currently chairs the regional conference committee for WCISA. Dr. Downer has a love of shade trees, Shinrin roku (forest bathing/walking) tree work, wood working, horses, gardening, horticulture and the study of plants and their biology.

16 thoughts on “Big Blog on the Block”

    1. The point of Jim’s post (or one of them anyway) is that other blogs are parasitizing our blog and getting eyeballs and money for doing so. We donate our time and brain cells to writing posts – it’s annoying to say the least when less qualified bloggers lift our information and post it to make money. And it’s REALLY annoying when they get publicity for their blogs and don’t put credit where credit is due.

      1. As a frequently-plagiarized poet online, I feel your irritation. Fortunately for me, I was never going to make a living at what people steal from me! Thanks for your efforts and generosity.

        1. It is frustrating, isn’t it? And often there’s nothing you can do about it unless you can afford a personal attorney. I had an entire publication (“The Science Behind Biodynamic Preparations: A Literature Review “) lifted and republished, word for word, under other author names. My publisher (American Society for Horticultural Science) chose not to go after them and since they hold copyright I don’t have recourse.

  1. I appreciate your comments. I am a hobby gardener/plant collector and a PhD chemist, so I really appreciate The Garden Professors for all of your work, your science -based information, and your attention to detail. Keep up the good work!

  2. I’m confused why you’ve selected this one from among the millions of blogs out there, some good, but many unfortunately most just rehashed and plagiarized from other sources. Not that it means anything, but I’d never heard of BBoG until I read about it here. I only glanced at the content but looked at the history – it’s not new, he’s been posting since 2009. Curious, I googled ‘garden blogs you should read in 2022’ and it turned up on only on one list – #26 on feedspot whatever that is. There are only a few blogs I consistently read, and TGP is at the top! I think the reason TGP doesn’t get more attention is YOU DON’T SELL ANYTHING – and thanks for that!

    1. Dr. Chalker-Scott encouraged me to write about this since it was my turn to blog. But we are both annoyed that national news feeds pick up the BBoG and then the sources of the information (us) are often left out or muddled with incorrect affiliations.

      1. And guess what? I just read his (July 2, 2022) blog on mulch which was almost a word for word copy of Margaret Roach’s NY Times article recently critiqued by Linda! (May 2, 2022) As I was reading BBoG I felt an amazing sense of deja-vu…if you can’t write, plagiarize and don’t bother reading any critique of what you are slavishly copying. Ugh!

  3. Thanks so much for the comments on BBog – luckily, I haven’t run across it yet. Keep getting the true science based – peer reviewed by professionals information out to the public!! Master Gardeners and the thinking public very much depend and appreciate it. Thanks again.

  4. It has got to be so annoying to deal with this in the information garbage pile this world has become…glad I am taking a break from social media and constant sourcing of factual information (even then not always getting it right) only to be howled down. Would appreciate if this link worked in your post: “(link to Jeff Gillman’s blog post)”. I for one, appreciate everything you all do…even when new science is inconvenient, uncomfortable, or in dispute…that is all part of the search for truth!

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