What’s Wrong with my Plant?

(book review by Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor, University of Vermont)

What’s Wrong with My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?)

David Deardorff and Kathyryn Wadsworth.  2009.  Timber Press. softcover, 451pp.

This couple from Washington state, the former a PhD plant pathologist and the latter a naturalist, distil in an easy-to-use format a means to determine one of the most common gardening questions—what’s ailing a plant—and then solutions for making it better.  This handy references has three parts—the first is of charts of problems by plant part to determine the likely problem, the second on fixes, and the third on photos of common problems. In addition to the many crisp and clear photos in this last part, the rest of the book as simple and clear color drawings of problems.

The first part of the book has seven chapters on plant parts, from whole plant to leaves, flower, and even roots and seeds.  Each begins with a few pages discussing and illustrating the plant parts, and what they do so you know what to look at and for.  This is followed by a page of general starting points such as discoloration, holes, stunted and such.  These refer to more specific pages which with simple yes and no questions direct you further, or to the likely cause.

The second part in its chapters deals with specific problem areas such as fungi, insects, viruses, growing conditions and other.  It’s to these that you are referred from the specific problems in part one to learn more about the causal organisms and see some photo examples.  After discussing the organisms and how they act, solutions are given—both organic and cultural.  For the chemicals such as neem or pyrethrin, signal words are given (cautions) along with what the chemical is, how it works, any side effects, and how to use it properly.

Finally you can confirm your key diagnosis from part one in the last part with color photos, or just go there for the photos grouped under plant part and type of injury, such as flower distortion and stunting or whole plants wilted.  Obviously with all the possible problems such a book can’t cover them all so isn’t the last word (for instance anthracnose spots on tomato fruit aren’t shown), but this does cover many main problems and should at the least help you get to disease or insect or culture as the cause.



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