Solving Plant Problems- A Book Review

Always on the lookout for books to help me understand the myriad of questions asked by the public (and myself!) on plant problems, I came across a candidate on the shelves of the UA/SV campus bookstore. The revised edition of Pests of the West by Whitney Cranshaw caught my eye. Cranshaw is a professor of entomology at Colorado State University at Fort Collins. He describes himself as a life-long bug watcher and assists the CSU with its Master Gardener program teaching about pests and diseases.

The 448-page soft cover book is broken down into nine chapters with seven appendices, and has a sense of humor to it. Chock full of black and white pictures, tables, side-bars and diagrams, Cranshaw begins the book by emphasizing the most important element of a healthy garden - soil. The pouvoir hydrogene (pH) of the soil, salts, nutrients, texture and structure are discussed with techniques on correction of these problems and what deficiencies they cause in plants.

Taking a more environmental tact on pest control, Whitney then launches into three chapters addressing abiotic, biological, cultural, mechanical and finally as a last resort, chemical controls in the garden. Within the cultural control chapter, an example of secondary pest problems caused over watering is pictured by a small crocodile in the garden munching on the toe of his youngest child (the croc is plastic of course!).

If you want to know why your beans leaves are ragged or have small pits chewed in the upper surface, turn to Chapter 5 on Common Disorders of Garden Plants. Listed in alphabetical order from asparagus to fruit crops, annual flowers to roses, each plant type is followed by an extensive list of symptom, cause and reference to control as found in Chapter 6, Management of Common Garden "Bugs." Damage, life history, and habit, controls, with identifying pictures, make this section very understandable and user-friendly.

If bugs aren't what are bugging your tomatoes, Management of Common Plant Diseases will help you identify and control that spotted wilt or impatiens necrotic spot. Here, as with the bug chapter, the reader is given damage and symptoms, life cycle and development, cultural, mechanical and chemical controls for various viral, bacterial, and fungal diseases.

Finally, the book wraps up with a discussion on "weeds" (mulch, mulch, mulch! - he's my kind of guy!) and large vertebrate pest control. The appendices include a list of common garden pesticides - common name, trade names, scientific names, pesticide class, toxicity, uses and notes on the product, and an appendix on dilution rates for small quantity sprayers in non-metric measurements. Informative, friendly and easy reading, this may be a book you'll want to add to your library. I did!

Cado Daily
December, 1998