About Central Florida Gardener

Welcome and thank you for visiting Central Florida Gardener. Florida is a unique state in which to garden. It can be frustrating but also rewarding for gardeners who persevere. This blog was created as a resource for Florida gardeners, both new and experienced, in search of information specifically for Florida gardens.

You are invited to participate by leaving your comments, suggestions, tips and recommendations relevant to Florida gardening - don't be shy! Thank you for dropping by to learn more about gardening in the Sunshine state. I look forward to hearing from you! Susan

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Give your Blog a Fresh New Look

For those of you who have a blog, or those who are thinking about starting one, there are lots of ways to personalize the look of it. I read lots of blogs every week, and would like to pass on some of the great ideas I’ve come across.

The majority of bloggers use blogger.com to create their blogs. It’s an easy 3-step process and Blogger has added many new features in the last couple of years. While there are other blog interfaces you can use, I'm most familiar with Blogger and will focus on what they offer. Note: Anyone who uses Wordpress that would like to share some tips, is welcome to contribute an article as a guest blogger.  I’ll gladly post it here for others to read. Perhaps some of us might even decide to switch over.

The one thing Blogger hasn’t updated is their choice of templates. Their choices are limited but you can still personalize your blog by changing the background color, font style and size, uploading a photo to your header and adding gadgets.

Use a Decorative Background
If you want more of a decorative look you can find a background at a number of sites that offer them for free. The most well-known site is The Cutest Blog on the Block. But others include Hot Bliggity Blog,  Shabby Blog and Background Fairy. You select the background you like, then copy and paste the code into the “HTML/Java Script” gadget, and, voila’ you’ve got a brand new look. You can see two examples of background choices at Hoe and Shovel and Live to Garden that are nice enhancements to their blogs.
You can also get free template designs with 3 columns for a totally different layout. Blogger provides information for this in their Help Forum. The addition of these designs may require some html or Java Script knowledge.

Personalize Your Header
You can upload a photo of your garden or a beautiful flower to your header as I have done above with the hibiscus. Or, you can get even more creative and add a collage of garden photos such as Florida Girl has done at Peace in the Valley. These are two great options that allow you to change your look seasonally.

Blog Posts
People love photos, so include plenty of them. Meems at Hoe and Shovel does a great job of writing interesting posts, and she includes lots of great photos. She, also, has a bit of text at the top of her blog that shares some details about her garden. Post regularly, and you’ll attract visitors who look forward to returning to your blog. To the bottom of your posts you can add “reactions” (see mine at Simply Susan) -- which you can personalize-- that people can easily respond to. It's a fun addition! To add reactions go to layout - Blog Posts - Edit.

Add a Gadget
Gadgets are fun tools that really let you add a number of features to your blog. Among some of the gadgets available at blogger are photos, blogrolls, links, lists, text, labels, archives, followers, search box, html/Java script, slideshows, and polls.

Adding photos and text to your sidebar is a great way to personalize your blog. A series of photos can show different areas of your garden, or your favorite flowers or plants. Rusty at DragonFly Gardens does a nice job of giving you a look at his tropical flowers. There is also a slideshow feature that MOSI uses on their blog Lepcurious. And, Jacquie at Home Grown has included her Flickr photos in her sidebar.

About Me
I know many people are hesitant to give too much information about themselves, but do include something so the reader can get to know you. If you don’t feel comfortable naming your town, then use a broader term such as the Treasure Coast or southwest Florida. Name your garden style, favorite plant, etc. Cheryl at My Wildlife Sanctuary has crafted a creative verse that describes her gardening style.

Blog List
A Blog List (see ours posted in the sidebar) is a great way to keep up with blogs you follow and to provide a reciprocal link to other bloggers. Plus, it’s a great way for visitors to discover other great blogs. You choose whether to include a thumbnail photo (such as I have done here) or not, such as Meems at Hoe and Shovel has done. You can also select that only the title be shown (again, as I have done), or that a bit of brief text be shown such as Walk2Write in Florida has done. Other choices are also available. Be sure to update it regularly.

Link Lists
Create a list of links to your favorite garden websites or posts. Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Secret Garden has created a list of posts, she's done, on butterfly gardens she's visited.

Adding a list to your sidebar allows you to keep track of garden tasks, the names of roses in your garden, planting dates. Use this feature to add something you want to personally keep track of….the ideas are endless. Wicked Gardener created lists of plants she loves and plants that made it through the winter.

Search Box
Did you know that little search box located in the upper left hand corner of your blog allows you to search for specific information on your blog? That’s a neat feature that I just learned about myself. Now, there's a search box gadget you can add to your sidebar as well. You can configure this search box to find information on your blog and link lists, pages you’ve linked to and the web. Michael at Central Florida Gardening has used this feature on his blog. He has also imported his Twitter thoughts into his sidebar.

Subscription and Feeds
You can make it easy for people who use readers to keep track of the blogs they follow by adding the RS subscribe feature or by going to Feedburner to get an email subscription box. Folks who subscribe via email will receive your post updates in their email box. Kim at Cannas and Bananas has incorporated both of these options into her blog.

Life Traffic Feed

Feed Jit offers a fun little gadget called Live Traffic Feed that lets you see what towns and countries your visitors are coming from. The Great Wall of Lutz has one and I do, too on my Simply Susan blog. It's amazing to see where visitors come from and how they find your blog.

These are just a few of the things you can do to give your blog a fresh new look. I’d love to receive comments from some of you who have other ideas or suggestions. Also, if I don’t have your Florida garden blog listed on my blogroll, please let me know.


Kimberly said...

What a wonderful list of ideas! I love this post, since I'm new to the blogging world and am taking little steps every day to improve my blog. Question...where do I customize the "comments" section, as you have done here?

Susan said...

Hi Kimberly...Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I did mean to mention the comment form but forgot it, so thanks for asking. To customize your comment section go to: Settings - Comments - Comment Form Message (about half way down the screen). There you'll find a box where you can type in your message. Good luck!

Teresa said...

Thank you for posting my former website: Central Florida Yards & Neighborhoods with Teresa Watkins. I now have "Earth Shattering Garden" at http://earth-shattering-garden.blogpost.com. It has links to my radio show "In Your Backyard" and my resources. Let me know when you change the link and I'll reciprocate!

Good job!

The Rainforest Gardener said...

Thanks for all the great ideas! Us Florida gardening bloggers have to stick together and your blog is a wealth of knowledge!

Floridagirl said...

Susan, thanks for the tips and the kind mention of my header collage. I played around with the backgrounds on "Cutest Blog" quite a while yesterday.

Susan said...

Teresa...Thanks for letting me know about the change in name to your website/blog. I've changed it, and also have added you to the blogroll.

The Rainforest Gardener...Yes, I totally agree with you. Gardening is different here in Florida, and the best way to learn is from each other. Glad you liked the post and thank you for the compliment.

Floridagirl...you are welcome on both counts. Glad to hear you're jumping right in. It is fun playing around with different backgrounds and tweaking your blog. I'll drop bye and check it out.

Meems said...

Wow... what a great list of tips and ideas. Part of the fun of blogging is in getting creative and learning how to make the most of what we know. There are so many new Florida blogs in just the last couple of months... so fun and so exciting to see more Florida gardeners. Thanks so much for the mention and the links.

Anonymous said...
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Susan said...

Meems...You're right...part of the fun of blogging is getting creative. You're blog is a great example of that.

Penny McCrea said...

I'm so glad I found this post! I was a bit fed up with my Blogger background, and thanks to you, it's been changed.

Anonymous said...

Easily I to but I about the brief should prepare more info then it has.

Susan said...

Penny...Your new background looks great. I love the color combo. I've got more fun blog gadgets to share in the future, so stay tuned.