I was surfing the web recently and came across a gardening forum I'd never seen listed before. I got curious and followed the link and came across GardenStew.com which bills itself as a "Home & Gardening Community." I got curious and started to investigate the forum and see what it had offered that you couldn't find at a large place like GardenWeb or Dave's Garden or a niche forum like YouGrowGirl.
At first I wasn't very impressed with the design of the gardening forum. The landing page looked like your average phpbb portal and it seems to be designed for people with smaller screen resolutions. I don't have a large computer screen but even on my screen there is a lot of empty white space to the right of the portal giving it a bit of a lopsided appearance.
Instead of just judging the site by the skin the forum software used I decided I'd join and experience the forum like a regular person instead of someone trolling for an entry for a gardening review blog. After I signed up I posted in the welcome thread that every forum has to have and was very surprised at the number of responses my "hello" thread received in such a short time. I looked around the forum some more and posted here and there and was surprised yet again. I commented on a thread about a Stapelia (Carrion Plant) and mentioned how I'd wanted to have one of those plants for a long time. Later that evening I got an email in my inbox informing me that I'd had a private message awaiting me back on GardenStew.
At first I was worried that perhaps a moderator, or worse the site's admin, thought I was posting too much in a short period of time or maybe I'd violated some rule after opting not to read the TOS for the site. Imagine my surprise when it was a private message from a forum member offering me cuttings from her Stapelia after reading my reply in the thread.
Aside from the friendly tone of the members I was most impressed with some of the modern add-ons the forum provides for free to the community. Every member gets a free blog and any place that promotes blogs to gardeners is OK by me. The forum also has a feed that you can subscribe to be kept updated of new posts and there is even a tool bar for your browser so similarly keep you updated of the goings on at the forum. The site even features a member's gallery to help you share your pictures on the forum.
The GardenStew forums don't have the depth of a GardenWeb or Dave's Garden or even the hipster feel of YouGrowGirl but it has features that I think speak to a more internet savvy gardener. You could join a large forum like GardenWeb or Dave's Garden and be small fish in a big pond or you can find a smaller forum like GardenStew and be a big fish in a small pond. With a diverse membership that is quick to embrace a new gardener when GardenStew says they're "the friendliest" it doesn't feel hyperbole.
I give GardenStew 4 out of 5 stars for the modern garden forum features and friendly community of gardeners.