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The Word / The Web

Information really is at your fingertips, whether thumbing through pages or tapping at the computer keyboard. This column will help direct you, both at the bookstore and on the Internet, to sources that will make life easier in and around the home.

September 26, 1998|MARK CHALON SMITH

The Word

Cottage industry. Ah, a little home in the country.

Jim Tolpin's "The New Cottage Home" ($30, Taunton Books, 1998) will feed that fantasy, either intriguing you with what you could have or inspiring envy for what you don't.

This handsome 231-page coffee-table book has more than 250 color photos of cottages, most appealing for their rustic simplicity. It doesn't hurt that these homes, from the Pacific Northwest to the Eastern Seaboard, are usually in areas reminiscent more of Hansel and Gretel country than Orange County's freeway-linked 'burbs.

Tolpin presents a history of cottages, including standards such as the thatched-roof English cottage, the classic Cape Cod model and the Arts and Crafts bungalow. He searches for character in these dwellings and finds it more than not.

What's that smell?: Soil fertilizing may not be the sweetest gardening subject, but it's a necessary one. Nancy J. Ondra's "Soil and Composting" ($13, Houghton Mifflin, 1998) is an easy, 122-page guide on how to ensure that your plants are well-fed.

Chapter five is all about making a compost heap, which the author says can be the best thing for your garden. Start by collecting kitchen and yard wastes and find the right spot. Use common sense, like building the pile in "an out-of-the-way place." Setting up downwind is smart too.

Other chapters focus on determining your soil's needs and ways to improve it. There are also sections on various mulches and fertilizers, both store-bought and homemade.

The Web

Buggy: Fight fire with fire, or at least aphid with ladybug. When faced with marauding insects, the Bug Store (http://www.bugstore.com) claims pesticides should be the last option. This site actually ships bug-eating insects (praying mantises and ladybugs are big sellers) as an environmentally friendly way to fortify the yard.

There's a comprehensive list of pests, plus an online catalog of good ones, other natural insect controls and herbal flea-deterrent products for your dog or cat. Know a gardener with a birthday coming? The Bug Store will even gift-wrap a big box of mantises.

Buggier: Because of their beauty, butterflies are usually wanted guests. Butterfly Gardens (http://www.gardenweb.com/bbg/butterfl.html) tells you how to attract and keep them around. It's not easy ("Gardening for butterflies is a suspenseful art," the site says, "a bit like holding a picnic and wondering if your guests will show") but can be done.

Provide lots of sunshine (southern exposures are best) and make sure your garden isn't windy. Then plant nectar-rich flowers such as azaleas, hyacinths and lilacs, butterfly favorites. Since they like drinking from puddles, put out a bowl of water. These are just a few of the suggestions found on this text-based site run by the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

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