by Callie

What’s Wrong with This Plant?

Tomato, pepper, squash, cucumber, potato… the type of plant varies, but many gardeners find themselves wondering what’s wrong with this plant or that at any point in the growing season. What did we do to figure out the problem before the internet? I’ve forgotten. Thanks to cellphone cameras and the web, it’s become somewhat easier to identify pests and disease in the garden. Sometimes you can find the answer to your dilemma in minutes. That is if Google gives you instant access to people who know what they’re talking about and have images that match your plant’s symptoms. But that only happens when you know the term to type in to get the right search results.

Some bloggers know plant issues well. Others are misinformed, perhaps guessing at the malady. Many are just as mystified as you are, posting the symptoms with pics hoping someone will come along with the answer. The same is true in gardening forums. You could spend hours digging for matching symptoms with a solution, and still come up empty handed.

Sure, there are lots of images of plant diseases and pests online from various university and extension service databases, and most of them are tiny and blurry. They leave you wondering if that’s what your plant is suffering from or under attack by, or not. Someday, maybe they’ll update their information for today’s fast internet speeds and highly improved digital image quality. In the meantime, you’ve got plant issues to identify, and hopefully cure!

Forget all that. I’ve just discovered the most awesome place to not only research what’s wrong with this plant and that, but you can ask questions. You can upload images to post with your inquiry too, and the plant pros will quickly respond. How cool is that? It’s called Plant Village – a huge food plant library created by Penn State plant specialists. The pages offer lots of info about growing fruits and vegetables from all over the world. All the pests and diseases are listed in alphabetical order, along with corrective measures. The photos are crisp, big enough to see what the image really is, and most plant problems have two or more images.

A very cool place, though nutrient imbalance information is not thoroughly covered on all plants. But those are easier to identify than bugs, worms, and diseases. If something is eating your tomatoes or squash plants, the faster you know what you’re battling, the better. Nutrient imbalances don’t cause a whole plant to disappear overnight! Larvae are some hungry critters. They can devour a plants really fast, as can some adult bugs, especially when they travel in large groups. Some of them carry diseases too, upping the destruction ante.

There is also a Plant Village app for iPhone capable of identifying plant problems from your photo. Unfortunately, they did not create one for Android or Blackberry. Still, the site is a wealth of good information and growing issue identification that many gardeners will find useful. The co-creators will continue to expand the site and it’s disease identification capabilities. Maybe they’ll develop an Android app yet. It seems they only made an iOS native app because the majority of mobile traffic on the site is from iPhones. Okay, Droid users – bombard Plant Village so they see a reason to create a photo recognition disease identifier for the other half of cell phone users. Then again, you can always sign up to the community, and ask them what’s going on with your plants.

Check Plant Village out. Bookmark it. Research your issue there before resorting to a search engine that uses phrases to provide you with answers or solutions.

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Only strangers knock on the door at Callie's house. People who know her don't bother if the sun is shining - they know to look in the garden.