Virtual Landscape Problem Solvers

In the spring and summer, I’m in the business of solving plant problems. While I’m not an entomologist, weed specialist or plant pathologist, I have learned a lot about plant problems and pests over the years. I use books, reputable internet sites such as and other University publications to help me. Of course, I also use my colleagues in Cooperative Extension and the Nevada Department of Agriculture when I’m stumped. I can appreciate a good website problem-solving tool when I find one. University of Maryland has such a site at It’s their Home and Garden Information Center’s Landscape Problem Solver site.

The site offers photographic keys to help diagnose and solve plant problems using Integrated Pest Management principles. You start by selecting a category from the menu such as “Beneficial Organisms,” “Pest Control,” “Ornamental Grasses” and many more. I selected “Shade Trees” and then chose “leaves” from the drop down menu. I could then choose the problem my shade tree leaves were having by looking at photos as well as reading text. I picked “browning,” and “gas leak” (I wanted to see what gas leak looked like!). A picture and description popped up.

I decided to try “Vegetable” “leaves.” My selections then were “black coating,” “bronzing/silvering” and so on. Each item has another drop down menu to help me make more choices until a final description and explanation came up.

They also have publications on all the topics, dozens for each item. Of course, since this site is based in Maryland, the plant choices won’t apply to Nevada; we won’t have many of the diseases because we are so dry; and our insects will be different species (but with similar issues), but the site can serve as a good tool to start an investigation. Would you have thought of a gas leak? In addition, their “Links” tab brings up more than 100 other great resources. Another section I really think is valuable is the wildlife section, which covers birds, carnivores, large mammals, reptiles/amphibians and rodents/small mammals. Animal problems are resolved much the same across the country.

While you are checking out websites, try the national Cooperative Extension website, for researched-based information from all the land grant universities in the United States. For horticultural information look under the “Farm” or “Organic Agriculture” resource areas. The world of reliable science-based information is at your fingertips.