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We're nearly 8 months into our beta phase, and we probably should aim for graduation this year. One of the steps involved is laying out our acceptable questions in the main FAQ clearly.

As this recent meta question notes, our FAQ is empty in the "What kind of questions can I ask here" section. While generally what can and cannot be asked is quite clear from the site title and scope, there are some corner cases, and it never hurts to educate the user a bit more about what's acceptable and what's not.

I've made a first pass at improving it, as you can see here based on previous meta discussions. Clearly, it's incomplete, but should serve us well till we finalize it. However, this requires community effort, and I'd appreciate if everyone could pitch in on improving it and adding parts to it if necessary

I've reproduced the contents below in a CW answer so that others needn't type it out again. You can simply edit it to add/improve the language. Some points to keep in mind are

  • It needn't capture everything! I feel that my first pass is too long and it should be trimmed. Perhaps do away with the second layer of bullets? Condense them into the main bullet?
  • It should be clear and cover the scope pretty well. We can always point them to questions tagged here on meta (there's only one now).
  • If you disagree with someone's ideas/edits (barring minor corrections/grammar/typos, etc.), don't simply delete it and rollback changes, leading to an edit war. Instead, post a new answer stating your objection. If you think the disagreement is fundamental and requires a more thorough discussion, then open a new meta question.
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    Nit in the FAQ: under the recommendations bullet, it says "hardness", I think it should be "hardiness"? – bstpierre Jan 20 '12 at 15:54
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This version is cribbed from yoda's original but edited to look more like the superuser faq. IMO this is easier to read -- people rarely RTFM anway, so for those few who do I think the FM should be simple and concise.


This site is for professional and amateur gardeners and landscapers to ask questions about the care and maintenance of gardens and landscapes.

If your question is about:

  • general care and feeding of plants,
  • identification, diagnosis or management of plant diseases, pests, or weeds,
  • plant recommendations, or
  • garden or landscape planning and layout;

and it's not about:

  • culinary uses of herbs/fruits/plants (try Cooking),
  • health and nutritional aspects of fruits/vegetables (try Fitness & nutrition),
  • plant biology, beyond what is generally gardening knowledge (try Biology),
  • the framing, plumbing or electrical aspects of building greenhouses, decks, etc. (try Home improvement & DIY), or
  • large scale agriculture and/or the business of gardening,

then you're in the right place and we'd love to help answer your question. Help us help you and tell us what part of the world you live in.

If you're not sure whether your question is on- or off-topic, you can ask about your question on meta Gardening or in chat.

  • Yeah, that's a lot nicer and what I'd hoped the final version would be close to. – Lorem Ipsum Jan 20 '12 at 17:10
  • This looks great to me. I'm for publishing this in the next few days. Anyone else have comments? – wax eagle Jan 23 '12 at 20:27
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This site is for professional and amateur gardeners or landscapers. If your question is about

  • General plant/tree care including, but not limited to
    • choosing the right fertilizer and fertilizing schedules for a specific plant (or class of plants)
    • amending soil conditions, choosing the right soil mix for a specific plant or potting soil for saplings
    • watering schedules, sunlight requirements and adjustments to those
    • pruning, trimming, etc.
  • Identification/diagnosis of

    • diseases that affect plants/trees and their prevention/control
    • pests/bugs/insects that cause destruction/damage to plants/trees and their control
    • a particular plant or tree

    Clear photos and descriptions are a must for these questions.

  • Recommendations/suggestions for plants

    • that have certain traits that are well specified and narrow (e.g., "hardness", "disease resistance", "fruit production", etc. and not vague ones such as "smells pleasant" or "beautiful")
    • that grow in a particular region/climate

    Adequate details of general location/hardiness zone/climate must be provided for these questions.

  • Soft landscaping questions such as
    • lawn care, maintenance, seeding schedules
    • sprinklers, drip systems, irrigation systems and their repair and layout planning
    • maintenance of small woodlots (less than 2 acres)
    • advance planning and layout for gardens
    • choice of stones/blocks for projects, satisfying certain objective criteria

Boy, that's a lot! So what can't I ask?

In general, if it doesn't fit among the above, it is off-topic, and you might want to ask on meta to see if it fits. However, the following are explicitly off-topic for this site, even if it is tangentially related to gardening

  • culinary uses of herbs/fruits/plants – try Cooking instead.
  • health and nutritional aspects of fruits/vegetables – try Fitness & nutrition instead.
  • plant biology, beyond what is generally gardening knowledge – try Biology instead.
  • construction and building of greenhouses/decks, etc. – try Home improvement & DIY instead.

In all these cases, please read the respective sites' FAQ and familiarize yourself before asking a question.

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    Its worth noting that Physical Fitness is kind of hit or miss on what nutrition questions they will accept, I think they want them related to fitness in some way. – wax eagle Jan 20 '12 at 12:25
  • @waxeagle Hence the "... read the respective sites' FAQ and familiarize..." line at the end. We shouldn't be listing all their ifs and buts in our FAQ :) Alternately, we can list nothing at all, i.e., simply state it's off-topic here. – Lorem Ipsum Jan 20 '12 at 14:45
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    I think it might better to leave the options out...that way if the scope of the other sites change we don't have to update our FAQ. – wax eagle Jan 20 '12 at 14:49
  • I'm slightly uncomfortable with having greenhouse mentioned in the off-topic list. Clearly the "hard construction" questions (framing, electricity, plumbing) belong on DIY, but I think planning, layout, usage, some maintenance, and some of the details of outfitting a g/h (fans/vents, shelving, etc) will be better answered here. I left it mostly as-is in my faq proposal instead of being wordy about it. I think it would be easier to delineate where the line is if we had more g/h questions. (I'm mainly thinking that we'd hate to turn people away with questions that really do belong here...) – bstpierre Jan 20 '12 at 16:41
  • Also, I took no position on whether to redirect to other SE sites (discussion in comments above) in my proposal. – bstpierre Jan 20 '12 at 16:42
  • @bstpierre Those are on-topic here (and we have a few questions on that, including one you answered). I was referring to the framing/plumbing kind of questions, but I see how it can be misread. In any case, it was a rough first pass, and it needn't be mentioned in the final – Lorem Ipsum Jan 20 '12 at 17:12

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