As the Internet continues to grow and new varieties of plants become available, it can sometimes become a daunting task in locating reputable vendors that offer plants or other gardening services or supplies online. Websites seemingly pop up overnight and promises are made of “guaranteed to grow in your garden” offers. How can you sort this out? Are there any resources available that can narrow your search, save you time, and enhance your online or mail order experience? I have previously mentioned the excellent website “Dave”s Garden.” And now, with more than 7,500 mail order vendors in this country alone, it is more important than ever to shop smartly. Simply type Dave’s Garden in your search engine or go to http://www.davesgarden.com for incredibly reliable reviews that you, the shopping public, have provided for these vendors. Once you arrive at Dave’s main website, choose the tab in the upper right-hand corner “Products & Sources,” then from that page click in the left-hand column for “Garden Watchdog.” At the Garden Watchdog main page, you can select companies by name or zip code, read buyer reviews, and save yourself both time and money by selecting reputable vendors. You may register and add a review of your own. Positive, neutral and negative comments are posted. The Garden Watchdog provides reviews of mail order companies only. An additional service this website offers is the “Plant Scout,” It allows you to search for a particular plant that is available through mail order companies. So if you have wondered where you could find the lilac your grandmother used to grow, this may be the place for you to locate it. Both the Watchdog and Plant Scout features are free. By providing this information the intent is not to detract from the excellent local nurseries and retail gardening outlets in your area. We are fortunate to have many choices for local nursery shopping trips and knowledgeable plant people to assist us. But there are simply too many plants to choose from and want, and mail order businesses are sometimes the only outlet we can locate to purchase exactly what we are looking for. There are also, unfortunately, many vendors that may or may not provide what you ordered. The Watchdog is the best source available to review these mail order companies before you decide. And many times our local nurseries can locate a plant for us, we just need to ask. As we enter the first week of February it is clear the ground is beginning to thaw. A little early, but at least, it was cold long enough for the local fruit to have their required chilling period. The chilling requirements vary among different types of fruit but is essential for normal dormancy, flowering and fruiting. When researching a type of peach, for example, and the descriptor states “500 chilling hours required” this means that in order for your fruit tree to break bud, bloom and set fruit the following spring, it will need 500 hours of temperatures between 45 and 32 degrees. This may sound like a great deal of time, but if you think of a 24 hour day, multiply that by 20 days and you almost have your 500 hours chill requirements. We easily meet those target temperatures in our tri-county area, this is also the why we are able to successfully grow so many different types of fruit. Again, do your research and shop smartly! A wealth of information for chilling requirements is available at the OSU Extension website http://www.extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening. Until next time, enjoy planning your best garden ever!