Wendy's Wanderings

Wendy Wilber

August 9, 2016

Let's Play 20 Questions

As Master Gardener Volunteers and gardening enthusiasts, we are often faced with plant problems in the garden or landscape that need to be solved. If you are a Master Gardener working the horticulture hot line or at a plant clinic, people bring plant problems directly to you. Where do you even begin to start on the unsolved mysteries of the horticulture world?

At a recent meeting of Agriculture Extension Agents, I was reminded of a "20 questions" process developed by the good folks at the Ohio State University for getting to the bottom of plant issues. See if these 20 questions on plant diagnosis will help you in the horticultural Sherlock Holmes department.

The 20 questions

  1. What is the plant?
  2. What is normal for the plant?
  3. What are the common problems with the plant?
  4. What do you see that looks abnormal?
  5. What is the overall health of the plant?
  6. What exactly do you see?
  7. What do you see on other plants (surrounding)?
  8. What are the plant's site conditions?
  9. Who knows most about the plant?
  10. When did the symptoms first appear?
  11. What is the horticultural history of the plant?
  12. What is the environmental history of the plant?
  13. What does the client think the problem is?
  14. What diagnostic tools are available?
  15. What additional resources are available?
  16. How do I take samples?
  17. What else needs to be considered?
  18. What is the diagnosis?
  19. What is the significance of the problem?
  20. What are my recommendations?

Diagnostics might be the hardest thing we do as Master Gardener Volunteers, but when you have deciphered the problem, figured out the issue, and have given the proper recommendation, you have completed an important role as a UF/IFAS horticulture volunteer.

Knowledge is having the right answer and intelligence is asking the right question(s).

For more information, see the complete fact sheet, "20 Questions on Plant Diagnosis," by Boggs, Draper, Chatfield, Ellis and Boehm (PDF).

-- Wendy Wilber

Return to the August 2016 Neighborhood Gardener