Two question have sprung to mind as I have played around here the past two days, and I feel like they need to be defined fairly quickly and update our FAQ to reflect our definitions.

  1. Where is the line between gardening and farming. This is an interesting one and probably not as urgent as my next question. Is a question about a disease affecting an entire field of crops appropriate here? I assume livestock is right out.

  2. Where is the line between landscaping and home improvement? If we accept a question on patio pavers, do we accept questions on deck construction? How about patio furniture? Are garden gnomes on topic?

I am looking to get us talking generally about what is on topic vs what is off topic so that there is consistency in open and closing when we go public.

6 Answers 6


I think a small mental checklist along these lines would serve to decide if a question is on-topic or off-topic.

  1. Does the question pertain to:

    • plants/planting/plant or weed identification?
    • soil/fertilizer/manure/composting for the purposes of gardening/landscaping?
    • pest control/insect identification/weed control that are on a manageable scale (i.e., a possible answer does not involve spraying pesticide from an aircraft)?
    • general plant care (pruning, watering etc)?
    • use of equipments such as drip systems, sprinklers, etc
    • maintenance of gardening tools*
  2. Can it be accomplished using gardening tools available at a general home improvement/gardening store (i.e., a possible answer does not involve the use of heavy agricultural machinery)

  3. Is the time frame and area covered for the work involved reasonable to be of interest to the average gardener/landscaper (i.e., no questions like "How do I create a grass lawn for my 2 acre golf course")?

  4. Does the question ask for an opinion on their recent gardening/landscaping work?

  5. If the question is on building something, is it related to growing plants (i.e., "How do I build a raised bed" is OK, but "How do I build a patio deck" is not)

If the answers to the above checklist have at least one yes to 1, either N/A (not applicable) or no to 2 and 3, no to 4 and either N/A or yes to 5 then the question is on-topic. Else it is off-topic.

*This is still a gray area and is really dependent on the exact question. IMO, questions like "Do I need to replace my pruning shears or can I sharpen them" are on topic, whereas questions like "Should I paint my shovel to prevent rusting" is more a DIY.

  • Your list of topics in #1 doesn't really include all the things I associate with "landscaping". In fact, almost none of them are "landscaping" at all, it's really only gardening.
    – Nicole
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 20:13
  • @Renesis: Please feel free to edit and add topics that I might have missed. Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 20:14
  • I can propose some (can't edit meta), but I didn't want to put words in your mouth. It sounds like in your view, any type of "yard construction" (what I would consider landscaping to be, I.E. building waterfalls, rock walls, fences, courtyards, etc.) is off topic. Maybe what I'm bringing up is a separate question, but since this question is kind of all-encompassing, I thought I'd comment here.
    – Nicole
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 20:17
  • @Renesis: Re-reading it, it does sound like my answer suggests that "yard construction" questions be marked off-topic. That wasn't my intention. I would say that your suggestions are most definitely on-topic (I just didn't think of those), but I'm still a little iffy on questions like "how to build decks" etc. But I'd love to include more landscaping stuff. Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 20:22
  • I lean toward agreeing with you on decks. Maybe it's a function of whether something that is attached to the ground? I.E. Your roof is outside the home but is "home improvement". Then again, what about window boxes... Oh dear.
    – Nicole
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 20:26

Here's a formalization about the line between landscaping and home improvement that I suggested in this answer:

1) If the question is primarily about growing plants, it's on-topic here (and likely off-topic on DIY).

2) If the question is primarily about "garden aesthetics", it is on-topic here (and likely off-topic on DIY).

3) If the question concerns gardening or gardening aesthetics only tangentially and it could find answers at the home improvement site, it is off-topic here and on-topic there.

4) If the question concerns gardening or gardening aesthetics only tangentially and there is no other appropriate site, it may be on-topic here.

5) If the question contains elements of gardening or gardening aesthetics and also elements of home improvement, it might need to be broken into two separate questions: one for here and another on DIY.

I don't think "Landscaping" in this context means "anything related to dirt or the land". I think it means one part shaping an environment to assist plant growth and (in all likelihood) producing a pleasing environment for plants to grow in. And unless we find experts in the second, probably not even that.


I think the big dividers should be the ones you mentioned: gardening but not farming, landscaping but not home improvement. The hard question is what you asked: how to draw the lines.

I think the line between gardening and farming is going to naturally be very fuzzy, since most questions that don't directly pertain to large scale or expensive farming equipment can easily be rephrased to match both gardeners and farmers. And it would be good to attract professionals, since they will have a lot of experience. I agree that livestock shouldn't be included... but what about beekeepers?

But the landscaping vs home improvement line should be held firm. (With the caveat that I'm not much of a landscaper myself) I'd propose one rule of thumb that landscaping should be roughly limited to things that are "of and on the land", and that stonework can fit that rule (even artificial stone patio pavers), and thus we should not restrict questions about stone walkways or patio pavers or koi ponds. But deck construction would be completely off-topic, since that's not a shaping of the land, but an addition on the land.

Landscaping also brings with it the aesthetic side of things. I might be into gardening for the veggies, but a lot of gardens are about the flowers and in some gardens decorative sculptures play a significant role. To that end, garden-gnomes might be playing close to the boundaries of both gardening and landscaping, but I think it fits inside both.

Proper tagging is the key to making sure that veggie gardeners and patio builders both find this site useful (just as Java and Ruby and COBOL developers all use stackoverflow).


I'd recommend that the boundary be between what's known as 'hard landscaping' vs. 'soft landscaping'.

For DIY, hard landscaping, which would be anything that required lumber, stone, or other 'building materials':

  • patios & walkways
  • fences
  • retaining walls
  • fixing drainage issues
  • building planters
  • water features

For gardening (and I'd agree, drop the 'and landscaping'), questions related to plants and soil, including insects, disease and other blights.

And then for the tricky stuff ...

When it comes to sprinkler systems ... installation would go under DIY but setting proper timing, determining how many heads you need for your area ... that'd be under gardening.

Tool maintenance would go under both, with it mostly being dependent on the specific tool, and some (shovels, maybe axes & chainsaws) being acceptable in both places. Lawn mowers would go under motor vehicles.

... but I have no idea where you'd put discussions of garden gnomes. (I'd say as they're more decorative, in gardening)


Mechanics should be off-topic

I see a lot of mechanical questions, as in, "How do I fix my mower?" I think this type of question would be better served on https://mechanics.stackexchange.com/?as=1 and I say this as a small engine mechanic. Just because a piece of machinery is used for a landscaping purpose, doesn't mean gardeners and landscapers should be qualified to repair it. Should a cook be qualified to repair a stove? Shall I ask on the Seasoned Advice site how to repair my blender? This is what the maintenance department would be for. Furthermore, if lawnmower repair questions are on-topic here, then I should be able to ask how to repair my go-kart, log-splitter, generator, snow blower, water pump because the engines are the same Briggs n Strattons, Kholers, Hondas, etc, etc.

On-topic lawn mower questions could be, "How high do I cut my grass?", "When should I cut my grass?", "How do I cut patterns into grass?", "What's the best mower to mow this type of plant?", "How can I make my mowing experience more comfortable?" Things that have to do with the plant or the operation of the machine are things gardeners would be qualified to answer. Even "How do I sharpen my mower blades?" might be ok. Technically, its a repair question, but so many landscapers sharpen their own blades that I would expect a landscaper to be able to answer the question. "What kind of mower blade should I choose?" would be on-topic.

"How do I change my blades?" Consult your manual. "How do I change my mower belt?" Consult your manual. "How do I change my oil?" Consult your manual. "A spring fell off, where does it go? Consult the exploded diagram in your manual.

Chemistry not related to a plants should be off-topic

Other off-topic questions would be fuel related as gardeners wouldn't be expected to have extensive knowledge of chemistry. This would be more of a mechanical question (though could be considered off-topic there as well, in which case chemistry would be my next guess) because mechanics often study fuels in order to increase performance or efficiency. Gardeners typically do not. Many gardeners use no fuel whatsoever. However, show me an engine mechanic who never uses fuel.

Most farming should be on-topic

I don't see anything wrong with farming questions. If I can give a recommendation on 1 plant, I can give one on 1000 plants of the same variety. We've already eliminated biology, cooking, chemistry, diy, and mechanics... if we eliminate farming, what will be left to ask? Questions like "What combine should I get for my 1000 acre wheat field?", I don't think any gardener could answer that. Anyway, it seems like a question that would never be asked or ever be answered if it were to be asked. Also, "What should I plant this year to make the most profit?" or "How much fertilizer should I apply to maximize profits?" Those seem like math or economics questions to me.

Pavers, blocks, retaining walls, gnomes

Regarding pavers, blocks, retaining walls, gnomes... I think the gardener should be qualified to answer questions on how these things should be structured or placed for the benefit of plants. The actual construction method is a diy question. "How tall do I need to build my retaining wall?" is ok, but, "How do I build a retaining wall?" is not.


"What can I add to my soil to make my food more nutritious?" I think a gardener should have learned the answer to that during his studies of soil and plant nutrition. "What's the most nutritious food?" is off-topic. A possible exception would be if discussing the decline in food nutrition over time due to bad farming practices or hybridization. A gardener may know a bit about this (personally, I think he should).


If you can get your hands dirty doing it or using it, then it's on topic.

That would preclude tool questions not directly relating to the garden and plant questions which you would need a tractor (with a cab and air conditioning) to fix.

  • Not sure I agree with this. Wouldn't you need a large tractor to plant a large tree? What about regrading your yard for a new landscape design? I can think of a lot of scenarios that would call for a tractor. That being said, I think home vegetable gardens and/or hobby farming is on topic.
    – Shane
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 18:35
  • 1
    Yeah, I wasn't clear with the words there. I meant a big tractor. Farming advice applicable to people whose profession is in agriculture (i.e. farmers) would be the out of scope. CSA's and people who grow big plots for farmers markets would be welcome since their issues are the same as the small gardener's issues. Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 18:40
  • turner: I'm on board with that description.
    – Shane
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 20:37

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