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Garden with Insight Kurtz-Fernhout Software
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Garden with Insight v1.0 Help: Frequently asked questions

This section answers some questions that have come up in our user testing so far.

Windows and gardens

Q: Can I have more than one garden open at a time?

A: No. Garden with Insight only supports having one garden open at a time. When you open a garden or create a new garden, you will be asked if you want to save changes to the current garden, and then the current garden will be closed. However, if you want to compare gardens, and you have enough memory, you can run two copies of Garden with Insight at the same time -- just start the program again (from the File Manager or Explorer) after it is already running.

Q: Every time I click on the garden window, the browser pops up. Why is this happening?

A: You are probably holding the growcorder or magnifying glass, or some other tool that has the tool actions scan or magnify. The effect of these actions is to cause the browser to come to the front. Click on a part of the garden window that is not in the garden picture (on the title bar, for example), then put down the tool.

Q: I used the growcorder (or magnifying glass) on a plant, and the browser appeared, but the picture is all green! What happened?

A: When you are looking at a plant in the browser's pictures side, you can use the magnification buttons to zoom in and out on a plant. If you are looking at a small plant and are zoomed in, then you choose a larger plant, you might see only one leaf, and the leaf might be so large that you see only green. If this happens, click the center gif/00000029.gif button to redraw the plant in the default position. If you have centered the plant and this still happens, it might be bug in the plant drawing code having to do with a parameter being out of the expected bounds.

Q: I picked a new weather template from the browser, but the weather didn't change. Why not?

A: In the browser, the list of climate templates is available so you can edit the climate templates, but you can't choose a climate to use for the weather in the browser. To change the weather, you must go to the simulation options window and change the weather to a new climate there. See How to change the climate for details.

The glove

Q: Why does the glove move around when I move the mouse to another application?

A: The glove tracks all the movements you make with the mouse inside the garden window, so when you move the cursor to select another application, the glove follows as far as it can, until it gets to the edge of the garden window. You aren't changing anything when you move the glove without clicking, so this isn't a problem. If it's really distracting, you can hide the glove by turning off the Show tools option on the Options menu (but then the tools will be hidden too).

Q: Why doesn't the glove move around when I move the mouse when the simulation is running?

A: Several things don't happen when the simulation is running, to avoid conflicts. The glove doesn't track your mouse movements; hints and harvest icons don't appear; several menu choices and buttons won't work; and you can't use tools.

Q: What is the difference between the cursor and the glove?

A: The cursor is a small black-and-white picture that shows you where you are pointing on the screen. It typically looks like an arrow or some other simple symbol gif/00000013.gif. The cursor in Garden with Insight looks like an arrow. The arrow may have attached to it a square gif/00000000.gif (for a soil patch) or a leaf gif/00000001.gif (for a plant) to show you what you are pointing at. The glove, on the other hand, is a relatively large colored picture that follows around the cursor in the garden window. In Garden with Insight the glove and cursor are inseparable only as long as the cursor is inside the garden window. The glove is really just an extra picture to help you understand using the tools, and for fun. If the glove bothers you, you can turn off tool pictures in the Options menu.

Q: Why can't I put the glove down?

A: The glove is a tool in the sense that you can use it to do things in the garden, but it is special because you can also use it to pick up other tools, and because you can't put it down. You could think of the garden glove as the default tool. Choosing glove from the tool box is actually like saying "put down non-default tool."

Tools and tool actions

Q: Why isn't there a tool action for dragging organic matter blobs? How do you do it?

A: Dragging organic matter blobs can only be done using the glove, but it is not strictly a tool action. It's the exception to the rule. You can drag organic matter blobs when any of the glove tool actions are selected. You can undo dragging an organic matter blob if you drag it from one soil patch to another.

Q: Can I water individual plants?

A: Actually, no. You can only water soil patches. The water goes into the whole soil patch uniformly, and the plants in the patch compete for it. A plant's success in the water competition depends on its leaf area and height (because transpiration through the leaves draws the water from the soil), its root depth and biomass (because water is drawn through the roots), and its ability to transpire water in humid air. In the real world, the water you apply around a particular plant can stay in that area for a while, but in Garden with Insight the water immediately distributes itself into the entire area of the soil patch. See our note on caution about simulation.

Q: I keep trying to pick up tools and missing them. What am I doing wrong?

A: Sometimes people take the glove picture a little too seriously and try to grasp the tools by placing the middle of the glove over the tool and clicking. When you do this, the tip of the index finger, which is where you are actually pointing, is off the tool to the right. You have to click on the tool with the tip of the finger, where the arrow cursor is. If you have a real problem with this, you can go into the tool editor and move the hotspot for the glove further over onto the glove (we tried this but it looks strange). It's probably easier just to get used to it. (Note that you have to change the hotspot on both the on the ground and in use glove pictures.)

Q: I don't have a right mouse button. How can I use the tools?

A: You can hold down the Shift key on the keyboard and click the left mouse button. Every action in the program that requires a right-click (like opening and closing browser components) can be done this way.

Q: Can I pick up two tools? Can I drag two tools at once?

A: No, and no. You can put down one tool at the same time you pick up another, if you use the tool box on the toolbar.

Q: Why do the tools keep disappearing?

A: If you move the cursor out of the garden window while holding a tool, you might move the tool so close to the edge of the window that you can only just barely see it. If you can't find a tool, select it from the tool box (the first drop-down list box on the toolbar). If the tool doesn't appear when you move the mouse around, there may be something wrong with your tool file -- open the tool editor and look at the tool pictures for that tool.

Also, when you change the backdrop to a smaller bitmap, any tools that were at the bottom or right edges of the garden picture might disappear. To get a tool back into the garden picture, pick up the tool by choosing it from the tool box on the garden window toolbar, move the tool inside the garden picture, then put down the tool again.

Soil patches and plants

Q: I changed the backdrop and my soil patches are gone! Where are they?

A: Soil patches may be lost from the bottom or right of the garden picture when you change to a smaller backdrop. They are not really lost, they are just off the picture. To get your soil patches back from outside the garden picture, change back to the original backdrop, drag the soil patches to a place that will not be cut off (the upper left corner is safest), then change to the new backdrop. You can also temporarily make the garden size larger without a backdrop, move the soil patches, and then choose the new backdrop.

Q: Why don't I see any hints for soil patches or plants? The help system says I will.

A: Hints, small boxes with explanations that appear when you hold the mouse still over an item, are common in Windows applications. However, hints don't usually work when another application is selected (or "on top"). The hints in Garden with Insight use the same system. When you are looking at the help file, for example, you are using another application (the Windows help system), and the hints on the garden window will not appear. To see the hints, click on the garden window to select the Garden with Insight application.

Q: Why can't I select a plant? I'm clicking on it, and nothing's happening.

A: This point is a bit hard to understand and is something we have wrestled with. Since the plants are in 3D, they sometimes draw over each other. How do you select one plant without selecting all the other plants around it? What we settled on is that you have to click at the base of the plant, where it comes out of the ground. If you are using plant symbols this is easy -- you click at the bottom point of the triangle or at the center point of the circle. If you are drawing 3D plants it is more complicated. A viney plant such as a tomato may grow in such a way as to obscure its base, so that you just can't see the base. You have to move the cursor around until you see the leaf cursor. One of the drawing options can help, however. If you turn on the option Draw symbols over plants in the Options menu, the triangle or circle symbols will appear over the plants, so you can see where the base of the plant is. It's a good idea to turn this option on anytime you can't find the base of a plant.

For some people who have trouble with fine control of the mouse, it's hard to click on such a small point. You can change the area of the square around the base of each plant that you use to select the plant, to make it easier to select plants. However, the bigger the selection area, the more likely that you will select the wrong plant. To make the selection area bigger, see How to select a plant in the garden window.

Q: Why do some of the plants take so much longer to draw than the others?

A: Usually when a plant takes a really long time to draw, it has compound leaves. Compound leaves are leaves made up of smaller leaflets, so that each leaf looks like a whole branch. Examples of plants with compound leaves are tomato plants and carrot plants. When one of these plants is drawn, it takes as long as drawing several other plants. You can speed this process up by selecting the option to draw compound leaves as simple leaves (see How to make plants draw faster), but it doesn't look very realistic on some plants, at least in the close-up view. The default option is to draw compound leaves in the browser but not in the garden window.

Q: Why doesn't the soil color change when I drag organic matter blobs (or carry mulch, carry soil, apply amendments, water the soil)? And why does the soil color sometimes change to strange colors, like blue?

A: Water content and organic matter make the soil color closer to black (see the description of the soil color display mode for an explanation of the soil color calculation). The action you take might change these properties of the soil, but not enough to change the color. There are only so many colors between black and the soil color you choose for dry, low organic matter soil (see How to change the soil base color). Also, the amount of mulch on the soil may be masking the color of the soil proper, and that may not have changed because of the action you carried out.

As to blue soil, the soil colors are changed by manipulating the red, green, and blue portions of the color. Sometimes this manipulation produces a color that is not strictly brown or gray. We haven't got around to cleaning up this color-generation method yet.

Q: I planted some plants, and now I can't see any. Where are they?

A: If you can't see your plants, there are several possibilities.

gif/20000000.gif You didn't click in a soil patch and therefore didn't plant any plants. To find out, look in the list in the browser to see if any plants are there (not in the Templates section, but in the top section of the list). Or move the cursor over where you think you planted and look for the leaf cursor.
gif/20000000.gif Your plants are seeds, and you don't have the option for Draw seeds as symbols turned on on the Options menu. Check the option to find out. You can also check the plant stresses panel on the browser (choose the plant, choose the pictures side, then choose stresses from the box under the object box) -- it will tell you if the plant is a seed.
gif/20000000.gif Your plants have just germinated, and they are so tiny you can't see them yet. Try simulating a few more days to see, or try growing one of them under optimal conditions with the magic wand to see if it appears (you can undo growing it afterward).
gif/20000000.gif Your plants are dead. Some plants such as carrots which have very little stem may look like almost nothing if all their leaves have fallen off from shoot death. Fallen leaves simply merge into the soil. To find out, look at the plant in the browser, and if you see anything at all, even a dot, enlarge it to see if there is a bit of stem there. Or look at the plant biomass report in the browser. The simulation does not remove dead plants until you pull them up.
gif/20000000.gif You have set the garden or soil patch scale to some unusual number, which causes the plants to draw too tiny to see. Try setting the scale to 1.
gif/20000000.gif There might be some problem with the program. Send us email about it.

Q: What are the climate locations for? Do they cover large areas?

A: The climate locations are for weather stations located in or around the towns and cities shown, sometimes at airports. They are point data and do not cover large areas. If you want to get the climate closest to yours, choose a city whose climate you know to be closest to yours. You can load more climates into the garden from a library or text file to find a closer location.

Q: Where are the places in the soil types? What do the letters at the end mean?

A: The soil types in Garden with Insight are based on soil series, which are the lowest level of soil taxonomy (much like a species of plant or animal). A soil type is not necessarily a soil series, but the data we have thus far are based on soil series information.

Soil series are usually named after an area, town, or geologic feature around which the soil was first named. What this means is that a soil series like "Keyport, NJ" was first identified somewhere around a town in New Jersey called Keyport, but that soil type could also be found in other places, including locations in other states. To add confusion, nothing prevents two almost identical soil types from having very dissimilar locational names.

A soil series is at the end of a soil classification standard called Soil Taxonomy that goes: orders (11), suborders (47), great groups (230), subgroups (1200), families (6600), and series (about 16,800 in the US) (Brady 1990). We would like to include more information about these classifications in the future, perhaps creating representative soil types for each order and suborder.

The letters after the soil type name pertain to even smaller subdivisions than soil series, called phases, which are used in local soil surveying.

The problem of linking soil series information up with locations is that soil survey maps (which show soil series) are extremely complex even for each county. It's hard to make a map of the whole US with all the soil series shown. This is something we want to work more on in the future. To make things more difficult, soil types can vary from one side of a town to another, or even from one side of your yard to another. The best way to know what soil you have is to do soil tests or to ask your local agricultural extension agent for advice.

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Updated: March 10, 1999. Questions/comments on site to
Copyright © 1998, 1999 Paul D. Fernhout & Cynthia F. Kurtz.