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Here are some sample topics/questions I thought of that may be considered borderline. I'd like to here everyone's thoughts regarding whether they fit in or not:

  1. Advice on rain barrel system to gather rain water to water plants.
  2. Advice on best type of fence to keep animals out of vegetables.
  3. Pros and cons of pathway mulch or gravel materials.
  4. Advice on over-wintering and storing motorized tools when they are not being used.
  5. Best methods for trimming trees.

Any thoughts on these?

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  1. The thrust of the question seems to be about growing plants, so it's probably on-topic. But there's a real risk it will be better answered on the DIY site. I'd watch the answers carefully to see that the gardening aspect is properly addressed.

  2. Again, the thrust is primarily about growing plants, but it risks getting DIY-type answers.

  3. Certainly on-topic as asked. It seems to be a garden aesthetic question with a taste of plant growing (if mulch means what I think it means in this context). However, there will be a real temptation for answerers to approach it from a general home improvement standpoint.

  4. Off-topic. I don't think this question could be saved and belongs in the DIY site.

  5. On-topic. It seems clear that the question is about growing plants and that the DIY site would not provide the quality of answers that this site would.

When looking through these questions, it occurred to me that this site must be more specialized than the Home Improvement site. We want people who are passionate about plants and gardens to participate here. We should turn up our noses at the cavemen who populate the DIY site (metaphorically of course). We could answer your question on "motorized tools", but that would be beneath our dignity. (This is a private attitude of course. In public we'd politely redirect the question to the appropriate forum.) We should be laser-focused on answering gardening questions.

The reason, especially in these early days, is that we want people who are experts at gardening. If the front page contains a number of questions that seem more related to home improvement, those experts will be less interested. An if that happens, I'll never get an answer to my orchid question. ;-)

  • ericson: I think I'm beginning to understand where you're coming from. Thanks for your well thought out and well structured response. – Shane Jun 10 '11 at 0:01
  • I started responding, but it was too long so I tried to reword it as my own answer. Please let me know how completely off-base I am. :) – nicholas a. evans Jun 10 '11 at 14:04
  • Also, I think I see your point about attracting expert gardeners. But I wonder if there is any analogy to how StackOverflow has successfully attracted expert vimmers and rubyists and C#ers and other such very loosely affiliated tribes. – nicholas a. evans Jun 10 '11 at 14:07
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Question 4 is the most borderline, I think. So I'll address that one: If question 4 is about mechanical tools that are only ever used for gardening or landscaping (e.g. lawnmowers, hedge trimmers), then there is a very high probability that gardeners and landscapers who use this site will be capable of answering and interested in the answers. And gardeners/landscapers might even provide a more relevant answer than DIYers or mechanics, since they have more experience with the tools in question.

I for one, don't care a single bit about DIY, Home Improvement, or Mechanics. I'll probably never ask a question on those sites, and certainly never answer one. It's unlikely that Google would even ever bring me there, because that's what I pay my contractor (or ask my dad) to do for me. I didn't previously know there were Stack Exchange sites for those topics, and I don't really care. But if someone asked a question about how to build raised beds or how to clean out their lawnmower's carburetor, I might be able to answer them because I have experience with those things and they are directly linked to and in support of gardening and landscaping (albeit borderline).

I don't think that overlap of topics is the worst thing in the world. There's certainly a huge overlap between Server Fault, Linux/Unix, and the Ubuntu sites, far more so than between landscaping and DIY. I assume that all three sites exist because there are active communities for each who see them as separate, even if overlapping.

That said, perhaps this site should be renamed "Gardening and Horticulture", since many of the biggest contributors would rather draw the lines to exclude most non-plant related landscaping questions. Perhaps landscaping needs its own site (even though that site would have a lot of overlap with DIY)? That would certainly make the "on-topic" dilemma a whole heck of a lot easier.

  • 2
    agree with you on mowers and trimmers, i'd expect the community here to be a better fit and provide better answers than the diy folk, even if the q is technically not about plants – Tea Drinker Jun 10 '11 at 14:15
  • FWIW, after I wrote my last paragraph (about renaming the site), I saw this question (and responded): meta.gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/59/… – nicholas a. evans Jun 10 '11 at 14:28
  • @nicholas-a-evans: Good thoughts. I'm torn on this. I definitely see @jon-ericson's point about focusing the site to attract high level horticulture experts. I'm worried about making site's niche so small that there might not be a large enough base to support it. I personally want both out of this site. Am I expecting too much though? More food for thought I guess. – Shane Jun 10 '11 at 15:06

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