What Master Gardeners can help you with:
• Select the right plants and trees for your site.
• Decide when and how to test your soil.
• Proper maintenance for your turf.
• Identify weeds, insects and disease.
• Avoid blanket use of herbicides and pesticides.
• Identify (rather than kill) beneficial insects.
• Learn how and when to prune your trees and shrubs.
• Think about deer before they think about you.
• Learn valuable websites for searching the web.
The challenge in diagnosing plant problems is getting enough of the critical information to understand what is going on. Problem identification over the phone is generally unreliable. Getting an adequate sample in to the Plant Clinic is important.
Here are some guidelines that will help with proper identification. If you can’t follow all of them, bring in what you can and we will try our best to help you!
General Recommendations for plant or plant damage identification
• Collect fresh samples, it is hard to impossible to diagnose a dead or dried up plant.
• Bring in as much of the plant as possible with material showing all stages of disease (sick to healthy)
• Provide plant history information, i.e., soil type, irrigation, sunlight, fertilization, recent environmental changes.
• Photos can help, of the overall plant as well as close up of healthy/problem areas.
Turf problem diagnosis: Bring in a 1 foot by 1 foot sample of diseased or damaged turf with roots that includes a transition area into healthy turf. The transition area may show active pest infestation and comparison of unhealthy turf with healthy turf can help diagnosis.
Turf and Weedy Grass Identification: Bring in the entire plant including seed heads if possible.
Insect Identification: Bring in live insects (not squished or dried, it may be beneficial and you will want to return it to your garden). If possible, bring in part of the plant with the insects on it.
Soil Samples: Collect about 1 ¼ cups dry soil for testing. Drop by the clinic for soil sample boxes and instructions, or call for details. Peak season soil test fee $4 (Mid Nov-March) Soil testing is FREE April 1-Mid Nov. Soil Sample for Nematodes is $3, call clinic for details.
Weed identification: (Herbaceous plants): Bring in fresh weeds (not dried up), include as much as possible, roots, stems, leaves, flowers if blooming. Keep plants hydrated, wet paper towels in a bag works well. If you think it may be poisonous, put it in a clear plastic bag.
Woody Plant identification: Bring in a branch with leaves, flowers if blooming. Photos can help-entire plant, close ups, flowers/fruit.
Plant disease identification: Collect plants in in various stages of disease, including healthy samples. Pictures of overall plants and close up of areas can be useful if it is hard to bring in a sample. For smaller herbaceous plants, bringing in the entire plant including roots (dug out, not pulled out) can help identify all potential problems.
When diagnosing plant problems, the culprit often is very elusive and it requires a good detective who can understand what all the factors are that might be affecting the plant negatively. Things such as watering practices, pesticides and herbicides used in the area, construction activity or other changes in the area (like the removal of a nearby tree) can affect the health of a plant. When the Master Gardeners ask a seemingly endless series of questions, they are doing their best to ensure that the problem is diagnosed properly. The last thing you want is to apply a treatment for the wrong problem. Once the Master Gardeners have a handle on what the problem is, they can compile a variety of alternative treatments from the Plant Clinic reference library and pass this information back to you.