book review: What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?) by D. Deardorff and K. Wadsworth

Pests & Pathogens

Another very nice book that Timber Press sent me for review.

What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?) by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth, is a brand new gardening book. Lots of step-by-step drawings of how to figure out what’s wrong with your plants.

First thing I did was to check on all the vegetable problems I’ve had recently. This kept my busy for a long time. Corn ear worms, apple maggots, late blight, Septoria leaf spot, slugs, … This book is a wealth of very helpful information. Pictures of everything. And all organic solutions. Flow charts lead you from the problems to the solutions.

I love the photo of an apple tree with small paper bags all over it covering the fruit! A perfect solution for my apple pests. I’ll use this method this year for my apples, as bags are easier to get than the knee-hi stockings I used before. (Hopefully my little pear tree will have fruits for me to bag this year too.) I’m also looking forward to trying beneficial nematodes for the corn ear worms. And I’m studying the slug section very carefully…. And reading about mason bee nests to increase pollinators….

In addition to step-by-step identification, drawings and photos, the book has complete background and explanation on diseases, plant conditions, plant parts and proper growth conditions.

Best of all is the book’s message: “Above all, do no harm.” Don’t leap to a conclusion that your plant is dying and needs a toxic chemical sprayed on it. Instead, study it carefully and figure out the symptoms. Then identify the problem and apply a safe organic solution. Sometimes this means watering differently, or improving drainage. Maybe more or less sun. And sometimes you need to try a a series of solutions and then resort to a chemical. Organic approved chemicals are included.

You can find the book here.

10 Comments. Leave new

  • I like your new picture, Kathy, to the right of the book title. You and Skippy really do make a good team! And you can tell him I said so too.

  • Kathy, Great blog. Big fan. I would recommend covering up the beds with straw mulch so the harsh winter won't kill the micro organisms on the bed.

    Keep it up.

    – Shiva

  • Thanks Shiva. I lots of extra salt hay. I didn't think of putting it on "empty" beds. Good idea.

  • Salt hay? why the salt? I like your new picture Kathy and Skippy! It looks/sounds like good book for the long dark winter evenings to come.

  • Hi Kathy! I really like your blog — keep it up. Having said that, I am a little confused about your endorsement of this book. A wealth of helpful information? We already have scores of free, up-to-date info on plan disease on the web. You should consider promoting the agricultural extensions of US universities; e.g. Cornell, UMass, Penn State, North Carolina just to name a few. You can check ou this link –

    They contain the latest in horticulture because they are run by scientists, and they are free. Why do we need another book?

  • Svetla,

    That Cornell link is a plant clinic where you send in your plant sample and pay $25 – $55 for analysis!

    A lot of people aren't as good as you at using the web. And a lot of people who are good at using the web prefer a book format sometimes.

    And this book really isn't at the level of testing which clonal strain of late blight you have.

    I use the univ extension sites a lot. Cornell has a great site that rates vegetable crop varieties:

    But I haven't come across an on-line flow chart with organic solutions to plant problems, on an extension site or elsewhere. No doubt its there, but I haven't seen it. (Please send me a link!)

    And I will repeat that I think it is very good to send the message of not jumping to spray toxic chemicals on your plant if it looks a bit off. I endorse this message!

    Endorsing a book format does not mean I don't endorse an on-line format.

    And speaking of free web stuff, what's wrong with people getting paid for doing good work. Buy a book – support a writer! I like books!

    (as you know I received this book, and a stack of others, free from the editor)

  • Trya,

    Salt hay is a locally harvested product (not that this is good as its harvest is actually not great for the marsh). Its cut in the fall from tidal marshes on the US east coast.

    It has several advantages over regular hay. Salt hay has no seeds that will grow and add weeds to a garden. It is also very resistant to rot. I have been reusing two bales for three years now. It amazing that even when it ends up in my compost bin, it doesn't degrade for years.

    My hubby took the new photo. Thanks for compliment. It can be hard to photograph the photographer.

    I learned a new trick on editing this picture. I edited Skippy's shadows separately form the rest of the photo. It can be just impossible to get any features to show on him.

    I sent this photo to the the Fine Gardening magazine GROW, as it looks like we will be in an upcoming issue with a little gardening tip! How exciting!

  • Kathy, I love the idea of natural, non-chemical solutions and am looking forward to reading this. My local library has ordered a copy.

    If buying the book is not an option or if they want to read it before buying, your readers can check their local library.

    This looks like it may be one of those winner reference books that I will end up buying for my own bookshelves though. Christmas wish list, anyone?

  • Reply
  • Maybe look at this link first — both identification, and organic control methods.

    Best Wishes!


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