About the Author
Kathryn Wadsworth’s skill as an author and naturalist illuminates the connection between gardens and nature. She has led eco-tours to wilderness areas around the world and served as executive editor of research journals. She has appeared with David Deardorff on numerous radio shows including Martha Stewart Living Radio, Growing a Greener World, Real Dirt, and Gardening with Ciscoe. Join them at kathrynanddavid.com, on Twitter at @KBWandDD, or on Facebook at @david.deardorff.108.
Read an Excerpt
Introduction Whether your garden consists of herbs on a kitchen window sill or a densely planted parking strip, a terraced half-acre in Maine or containers on a lanai in Hawaii, it contributes to the well-being of life on earth. Plants are the basic building material for the community of life. All the creatures in our gardens, backyards, balconies, or patios, including us, depend completely on plants because none of us can make energy, we can only consume it. Those of us who love plants may eventually develop close relationships with them. They have subtle and intriguing ways to communicate with us. Healthy green leaves let us know that the plant is growing well, manufacturing food from the sun’s energy. Yellowing leaves with dark lesions tell us the plant is in trouble. Flowers that are ragged and full of holes let us know something is eating them. All these symptoms, things you can easily observe with your own eyes without a microscope, are the ways in which a plant communicates its health, happiness, or distress. “What’s wrong with my plant?” is the question we hear most from plant owners in distress. This book will help you answer that question, as well as the second most frequently asked question, “How do I fix my plant—without using toxic chemicals?” What’s Wrong With My Plant? provides a unique step-by-step method to diagnose and treat diseases, disorders, and pests of the plants entrusted to your care. Be your own plant doctor. No Ph.D. required. In Part 1, organized by plant part, we present easy-to-follow, illustrated flow charts that lead to a diagnosis, the specific cause of the symptoms you are seeing. We developed the flow charts from years of working with distraught gardeners and plant owners who brought us samples of their problem plants. We found ourselves asking the same questions repeatedly—how much sun is the plant getting each day? how often do you water? have you seen pests? With David’s background in plant pathology and botany, we soon realized we could arrange these questions in dichotomous pairs. In the flow charts, we present these questions, step by step, to filter all the many possibilities down to only one, the diagnosis (sooty mold, for example). In Part 2, organized by general type of cause (fungi, in Chapter 9, to continue the example), we recommend safe, organic solutions and discuss both the destructive and benign aspects of the culprit. Sample photographs of common problems appear in Part 3. Using the diagnostic flow charts, you can find out what ails sick plants by observing symptoms. No need to collect bugs or get lost in reference books trying to identify plant species or pathogens. All you need to do is look at the roots, stems, or leaves, note the symptom, and follow the illustrated flow charts to a solution. Above all, do no harm. Before leaping to the conclusion that your plant is dying and then reaching for a toxic chemical to treat it, examine the plant. Whether it is potted up on the sill above your kitchen sink, in a container on the deck, or out in the garden, decide which part of your plant shows symptoms. Then turn to the flow charts in Part 1 for the plant part that exhibits symptoms. Follow the flow charts to identify the problem. Answer the questions. Whenever the answer is yes, follow that arrow or turn to the page listed under the question. When you encounter a diagnosis, turn to the page(s) indicated, for solutions in Part 2 and photographs in Part 3.