In a comment on this answer Mike Perry says:

Rightly or wrongly, I am under the impression that one or two here don't like me directing people away from this site for answers [...]

In what situations is it appropriate to make a referral to a local / offsite expert instead of answering the question directly?

2 Answers 2


I think any situation where the answer is local climate or soil quality dependent its probably best to at least recommend local agriculture or extension office in these cases.

It would be foolhardy for someone to plant an expensive tree or plant that will die on the advice they got on the Internet. We can't speak to specific situations the way that a local authority can.


I think this site exists to provide a broad range of expertise to people with gardening questions.

The more we refer people to their local county extension office instead of providing answers, the less of a destination we are for people seeking good answers.

Two examples I found by searching on "extension":

The sole current answer provides links to the cooperative extension. I was able to find two varieties from two online vendors claiming Zone 7 or 6a (including specifically mentioning PA) in about 10 minutes of googling. Links to these sources with suggestions to call the vendors and ask questions would make a much better answer.

A heroic answer would be something along the lines of "I called the PA ag extension and they were doubtful that you could grow pomegranate outdoors. When I called ABC Farms, which sells Russian poms through their website (link), they said they have customers successfully getting fruit in East Podunk, PA which is in Zone 6a."

The sole current answer provides a bit of general info on pruning and again links to the cooperative extension and some local-to-the-asker institutions.

An expert-quality answer would look like the first reply on this thread. IMO, a better answer than the one given would link to and perhaps partially quote from or summarize that thread. (Finding that thread took 15 seconds -- it was the first or second google hit.)

Examples of excellence:

  • A collection of answers that excel are on this question: How do I apply spent coffee grounds as a fertilizer?

    • They summarize research (including some from the university extensions)
    • They share the answerer's real-world experience
    • They share the answerer's second-hand experience
  • Since I accidentally picked on Mike Perry's answers above, I'll point out that his answer to this question excels: How and when to plant young grafted fruit tree?

    • Gives expert quality advice
    • Sounds like first-hand experience
    • Covers issues that may be seen in multiple localities

So I guess my thinking is that, if you can't provide an answer it may be best to leave the question for someone with more specific experience to answer. Or leave a reference to a local resource as a comment. I suppose the issue of how to grow this site, both in terms of the number of experts in depth and breadth, and traffic, is a separate meta-question.

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