several years after the construction activity, making itdifficult to diagnose the problem.
6. What’s happening where the plant stemmeets the soil?
This is where you’ll find girdling twine, rodent injury,girdling roots, mechanical injury, plastic burlap, graftincompatibility, improper planting depth signs, plasticpots still around the root ball, etc.
7. Is the site extremely wet for any extendedperiods during the year?
Some sites are inherently too wet for certain landscapeplants. Be aware of changing soil-water relations aroundplants due to construction, water diversion, broken rainspouting, etc.
8. Were herbicides applied recently?
Herbicides used in normal turf and landscapemanagement rarely kill landscape plants. The ability of an herbicide to cause landscape plant injury will varydepending on its mode of action, the plants involved,and many other factors. Most herbicides cause distinctplant injury symptoms while others will cause a range of symptoms that vary with the plant species involved.Don’t blame herbicides for plant injury merely becauseyou can’t establish a proper explanation for the site-related problem. Herbicides are unlikely to injureindividual plants in the landscape, so if symptoms areconfined to one plant but surrounding plants arehealthy, consider another diagnosis.
9. Were there recent, unusual weatherconditions?
Low temperature, late spring freezes, high winds, hail,drought, and excessive rainfall all affect plant growth.Weather conditions such as these are a convenientexplanation when no other explanation is obvious andare sometimes inaccurately used when the diagnosticianis stumped. On the other hand, don’t underestimate theimpact of extremes in weather, the effects of whichmay not be evident until a year or more after the stresshas occurred.
10. Does the landscape have adequate soilresources to support plant growth?
New construction sites often leave just a veneer of soilover cinder blocks, rubble, mounds of tree stumps,plaster board, rocks, asphalt, etc. Unfortunately, youmay never determine that this is the problem unlessyour postmortem includes the use of a backhoe toreveal what is going on underground.
11. Has there been any other unusual activitythat may have affected tree, shrub and turf health?
This list can be endless. Stay alert and observant for theunusual. Knowledge about the site history is oftenessential in diagnosing a current condition.
: a gas grill was used under the lilac; piles of de-icing salted snow remained in the shrub beds allwinter; the dog never strayed more than 10 feet fromthe porch all winter; fertilizer was left to deteriorate inbags under trees in the landscape; the caterer dumpedleftover ice cubes and/or hot coffee in the turf andbeds weekly, gas leaks, etc.
Diagnosing plant problems is not easy. . . .
Be ready to admit that sometimes you just don’t haveenough information to diagnose the problem. Trees,shrubs, and turf grasses, like other living things, oftensuccumb to an accumulation of stresses rather than asingle factor. This makes diagnosis difficult andsometimes impossible.Experience and judgment come into play. For instance,cedar apple rust and aphids are frequently found oncrabapples each year, however, plant killers are not. Thediagnostician must be able to discriminate among his/ her observations before drawing conclusions.On the other hand, sometimes we fail to look closelyenough to gather the information needed to diagnosethe problem. Plant problems are rarely diagnosedaccurately from the seat of the truck; it’s often a “handsand knees” operation that yields the most conclusiveresults.Prepared by Scott Guiser, Bucks County extensioneducator.
, PA 16802F