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Plant database - everyone's welcome (Beta)  RSS feed

 
Andrew Fuller
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One thing that really makes permaculture interesting is designing our systems and choosing plants to fill niches or fulfil a particular purpose.  Unfortunately finding this information is not as simple as we would like it to be.  Some of the information we find to be the most useful in permaculture design (such as root patterns) is not difficult at all to determine.  It doesn't require a PhD or fancy equipment.  It requires someone who has that plant growing in their yard, a spade, and some time.  But how do we share this information?  It is tremendous work to ask an author of a book to investigate countless plants in order to compile them together.  But if we can share within a community then everyone can benefit many fold.

And this is what I'm aiming to fix.  Consider it me filling a niche.

Two of us are building a website (www.soolca.com) to facilitate the exchange of plant research.  It is currently in its infancy, but journey/step Rome/day, etc [1].  Anyone not afraid of some rough edges and wishing to use it or better yet contribute, then please come on by.

Something that would be extremely valuable is photos.  As I have been recently introduced to permaculture and have no background in growing things, it means I have only a small piece of land to grow things (measured in square metres) and thus my ability to photograph known plants is very limited.  Currently photos are attributed to the uploader, so please only send your own photos.  On my TODO list is adding the ability to have an arbitrary attribution at which point we can accept CC-BY licensed photos.

My TODO list is very lengthy but don't let that stop you from sharing your thoughts on this project.  Your input will help me prioritise the order that I build it.  I am currently splitting my time between plant research to populate the database and building the backend system. 

A little about the site:

Our goal in building this is to have a free resource for everyone.  Anyone can contribute (registration is required to prevent spam) and no fees will ever be charged.  That said, I do intend to place some non-obtrusive ads.  Primarily I hope they will be useful.  Sometimes certain plants are very difficult to source.  I've never used AdWords, so we'll see how well that works.  Fingers crossed.  Secondly I hope that it might cover the costs of hosting the website.  The two of us working on it are doing it completely for free with no monetary compensation.  But hosting costs real money so it would be nice to get that covered.  I will never allow intrusive ads.  No flash, no popups, etc.  If AdWords don't do their job I'd rather just foot the bill.

You may also notice that this is not a wiki.  This is powered by a full-blown database.  Work is still needed to improve the interface (remember 'rough edges' and 'beta'.  Having a real database will allow us to run more analysis on the plants for better capabilities in the future.  Also it should facilitate translations when the time comes.

Anyone still reading: you're either quite interested or very patient!

Cheers, Permies!

[1] For non-native English speakers, this is a reference to a couple sayings we have.  You likely have something similar, but perhaps with different wording.
journey/step: A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.
Rome/day: Rome wasn't built in a day.
 
                                
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Cool. Looks like a good project. When we get into our new homestead next month, I'll try to contribute as I learn to id the native species on the property.
 
Dan Poole
Posts: 25
Location: Central TX
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That's looking pretty good! I especially like the advanced search options. One thing I'd like to see is some companion planting suggestions or a companion planting search option. I know that'd be fairly involved though...Keep up the good work!
 
Paula Edwards
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That's really a very good idea!
I would like to see more search functions (lists), for example plant families (like alliums) and practical lists like "root vegetables" "starchy crops" etc. or as well crops for shade etc. and then propagation is missing and maybe something like easy to grow or diddicult.
 
                            
Posts: 3
Location: Bloomington, IN
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I like the idea.  What are you building it in?
 
Andrew Fuller
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Thank you all for your encouraging words.

bigelow wrote:
Cool. Looks like a good project. When we get into our new homestead next month, I'll try to contribute as I learn to id the native species on the property.


That would be wonderful!  Hope your move goes smoothly.

Dan Poole wrote:
That's looking pretty good! I especially like the advanced search options. One thing I'd like to see is some companion planting suggestions or a companion planting search option. I know that'd be fairly involved though...Keep up the good work!


Yes, it will be involved but certainly doable and necessary (this is a permaculture focused plant database, afterall!).  What I had in mind for this: aside from researching what's already available, to have the ability for users (read: all of us) to list a number of plants that were planted near each other and report on how each one did.  As more reports are collected we can analyse them to find trends.  Such as: When plant A and plant B are grown together, plant A consistently grows poorly or fails to grow at all.  Or when B and C are grown together, C consistently does better than when B is not present.  It will help to find affinities between plants as well as animosity.  Before going that far we do need to first build a base set of plants with their hierarchical relationship (family/genus/species..) in order to do proper analysis of reports.  The more people who contribute, the sooner we can progress to the next stage.  One step at a time.

What are your thoughts?

ediblecities wrote:
That's really a very good idea!
I would like to see more search functions (lists), for example plant families (like alliums) and practical lists like "root vegetables" "starchy crops" etc. or as well crops for shade etc. and then propagation is missing and maybe something like easy to grow or diddicult.


Very good points.  I definitely intend to add more search parameters as well as some pre-defined searches for basic/common searches without needing to go full-blown advanced.  Especially as the search parameters grow.  I'm still mulling over how I want to do the interface to search within a plant group.  It is necessary, but requires a bit more thought before I do it.  The propagation is something I personally need.  I've got a French Sorrel outside that's gone to flower and I keep checking it to find where/when the seeds appear and can be harvested.  I've got some original seeds for comparison so I know what I'm looking for.  Photos are going to be an important part of the propagation component.

dbingham wrote:
I like the idea.  What are you building it in?


Not sure I follow.  Are you asking about the technology?  Just your standard web tech: PHP / PgSQL / JS.
 
                            
Posts: 3
Location: Bloomington, IN
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Are you using a rapid-dev framework?
 
Andrew Fuller
Posts: 24
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No I'm not.
 
Andrew Fuller
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ediblecities, you'll be happy to hear that I've collected a considerable amount of propagation information for many of the plants and posted it.
 
Matthew Fallon
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Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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this is really great, thanks for sharing!  i will try to contribute what i can
 
Paula Edwards
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HI I looked at your database and there is one thing really missing. What is it all about? It is not an ornamental plant database it is a permacutlure / edible database - you need a headline. And you must visibly tell what soolca means.
There is one nice database PFAF and you must define what you want to do better/different or weather you want to cooperate in a way.
I looked under Alnus and saw udo as common name IMO that is incorrect.
There should be images of the leaves, bark etc to identify a plant.
 
                                
Posts: 7
Location: Lakeside, CA
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To help cover your costs of hosting/running the site... put a link for people to provide donations. I'm positive you could eventually cover all of your costs through this alone.
 
Guy De Pompignac
Posts: 192
Location: SW of France
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Good luck for your project,

but i think you should try to enhance PFAF database instead of reinventing the wheel,


that's what i'm doing for several years now, designing a better interface (cause i think the database itself is nearly perfect)

i'm agree with @ediblecities, you should know what you want to enhance, for example the major lack of PFAF is informations about use for animals (as fodder, antifungic, etc). Maybe add a field about deer resistance, complete nutritional values using USDA database easly with a script, ...



(for those interested i plan to fundraise the project soon, but i don't want to pollute this thread anymore with my project)
White-Mulberry-(Morus-alba)_1313522517323.png
[Thumbnail for White-Mulberry-(Morus-alba)_1313522517323.png]
 
Guy De Pompignac
Posts: 192
Location: SW of France
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OMG i though there be a thumbnail of the picture, its too big, sorry :/
 
Andrew Fuller
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tribalwind, we'd be happy to have you join us!

ediblecities, thanks for pointing out the name error.  That was indeed my mistake.

dustbin, donations are a possibility, and may consider it but I never want anyone to feel obligated.

permaguy, that's a nice layout you have.

My intent with this website, aside from making it easier for myself so I don't need to cross reference dozens of books and resources, is to permit everyone to share their knowledge/discoveries.  A similar vein to wikipedia that is open to everyone or these forums where people are free to discuss permaculture, etc.  I don't want to in any way speak ill of PFAF as they have done excellent work, but they seem to restrict who can contribute.  I am more of a mind similar to Holzer and Fukuoka who put more stock in people observing nature rather than getting degrees.  I see this website filling the niche that combines openness to contributions (such as wikipedia and forums like these ones) with structure to enable easy searching / cross referencing (such as PFAF).

Some people certainly prefer one style over another and can choose what they like.  If it turns out that nobody feels the way I do about wanting a hybrid system, then this will turn out to be my personal database that others are free to use.  On the other hand, anyone who would like to be more involved is more than welcome.
 
                                
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Location: Lakeside, CA
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Andrew Fuller wrote:


dustbin, donations are a possibility, and may consider it but I never want anyone to feel obligated.


I would definitely never feel obligated 
 
Guy De Pompignac
Posts: 192
Location: SW of France
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@Andrew Fuller

Collaborative work is great on paper, but i saw too many permaculture wiki that didn't work, so i'm a bit sceptical now. I think a project need a team of motivated people and content over a threashold to people start contributing (i think)

There was an attempt to wikify the pfaf database, but i dont know where it is, i think its dead. There was a bijection between database and wiki, so the wiki served as a mean to edit the database (or aybe the database was just injected into a wiki to be completed)

Yes PFAF is a closed dev, but the database is under creative common, so you can fork it

As a permaculturist and geek, i like to make relations between different components, so it is why a like to take good content and enhance it or cross it, but we also need people who make content
 
It's just a flesh wound! Or a tiny ad:
Video of all the permaculture design course and appropriate technology course (about 177 hours)
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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