If you own a home computer, the answers to your gardening questions can be just a push button away. CompuServe, a nationwide computer-programming service, now includes a variety of options for keeping home gardeners abreast of the latest information on growing houseplants and garden vegetables.
Victory Garden, a collection of 75 essays ranging from general topics such as fertilizers and crop yield to detailed information on all the standard garden vegetables and 60 species of houseplants, is now part of CompuServe's thousands of informational categories, according to Ted Batutis, a computer consultant with a doctorate in vegetable crops.
''None of the computer networking services carried information for gardeners, and I thought it would be a good idea,'' Mr. Batutis explains.
Indeed, he was right. Victory Garden, which is essentially a reference book written in the format of newspaper gardening columns, has been so popular that he has since added three more personalized services.
Within CompuServe's special-interest-groups category called SIGs, Mr. Batutis started the Good Earth SIG, a gardening club that ''meets'' one evening a week. Subscribers from all over the country tune in to the proper directory at the same time and communicate with one another. Those who have questions or information to share just type it into their computer and it appears, along with their name, on everyone's screen simultaneously.
Although Mr. Batutis is there as the expert, all club members are free to type in a response.
''It can get a bit confusing if several people 'talk' at once,'' he says, ''as their messages intermix on the screen, but there's a protocol that avoids this most of the time. People are generally very polite.''
Mr. Batutis says the meetings are both friendly and full of useful information.
''Since potato physiology was my graduate specialty, I thought I knew about potatoes, but I've learned a lot,'' he says. ''One club member told me about a Swedish potato with yellow flesh that was news to me. Another said that if you put an apple in a bag of potatoes it slows down the sprouting. I'd not heard that before.''
For those who cannot tune in at the meeting times, Mr. Batutis has added a community-bulletin-board section where questions or brief messages can be left. Subscribers can read the bulletin board anytime of the day or night and reply to individual messages with further comments or answers to questions.
Periodically he reads through the messages, adding responses of his own. He also ''posts'' short essays on seasonal or other timely kinds of information.