What’s Wrong with My Plant…Picture

What’s Wrong with My Plant…Picture

Homeowners and businesses will often send in plant and insect pictures to the Extension Office. This is a convenient practice for both clientele and Extension Agents, but sometimes it may make diagnosis more difficult and more time-consuming. More often though, a fresh or living specimen is necessary for proper identification.

In an age when high quality pictures can be taken and viewed within milliseconds, plant, disease and insect ID can still take time. Often it is due to the fact we simply don’t know the answer right away and research is required. Sometimes poor picture quality and scale can make the diagnostic process more difficult. To improve identification turnaround time follow these basic steps:

  • When it comes to taking pictures for diagnostic purposes, more is better. The more pictures depicting angles and magnifications received for a sample the better. If you want a plant identified, take a picture of the entire plant including flowers, leaves, and roots. Take pictures of various stages of spots on leaves, stems, and fruits if you suspect a disease or nutritional disorder. Take pictures from multiple angles and of various body parts for insect identification.
  • Place an item in the frame of the picture to give a good idea of the size of the specimen through the concept of scale. You could use a ruler, a coin, or even a ballpoint pen. Objects such as coins work well for tiny insects when the measurements on a ruler may be too hard to see in the photo. You can even place the insect on the coin.

    A computer keyboard used to show scale for a photo of an aphid. Photo Credit: Julie McConnell - UF/IFAS Extension Bay County

    A computer keyboard used to show scale for a photo of an aphid. Photo Credit: Julie McConnell – UF/IFAS Extension Bay County

  • Pay attention to focus on the subject. This is especially true when taking closeup photos and photos of small things with a cell phone camera. Cell phone cameras tend to focus on the background instead of the foreground. Sometimes the quickest solution is to place your hand behind the subject to change the automatic focus and then either leave it in the picture for scale or remove it and snap the picture quickly. It is also important to have a contrasting background such as placing a white or black paper or plastic card behind the subject.
Poor picture of carpetweed.

A poor picture of carpetweed growing in a peanut crop.

A good picture of carpetweed.

A good picture of carpetweed using a hand for focus and perspective.



















Although it is quicker and easier to email or text plant and insect pictures, the most accurate identification can be accomplished with a fresh sample. Whether you are bringing a sample into your local Extension Office or one of the diagnostic clinics located throughout the state, it is important to follow the guidelines detailed in this publication http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/sr007.

Extra Credit – If you want to improve you ability to take magnified photos, you may want to build the device featured in the following video “Turn Your Smartphone Into a Digital Microscope”.

A Better Search Engine for Gardeners

A Better Search Engine for Gardeners

snip of PIE searchSo often, we are searching for research-based information to solve our gardening questions but the search engine turns up all sorts of sites that we may or may not know and trust. There is now a better way to search for reliable gardening information from trusted universities. The University of Florida IFAS Center for Public Issues Education just announced on January 22, 2016 a custom search engine for Extension service publications. Many top land-grant universities are participating in this project to bring you facts sheets, news releases and other publications that are relevant and science-based.

This valuable tool is not just for gardening information but for any topic that you would expect to be addressed by a university or Extension such as oysters, healthy living and raising chickens.

I have used it a few times to test it out and it works marvelously! Try it yourself!


How Do I Easily Determine the Square Footage of My Lawn?

How Do I Easily Determine the Square Footage of My Lawn?

When you know that your lawn needs an application of fertilizer, herbicide, insecticide or fungicide, the question becomes how much to buy and put down. For these products, success stems from applying the right amount, not too much or too little. The label on those products always tells the consumer how many square feet of lawn can be treated, but how do you figure that out?

You could always do it the old-fashioned way with measuring tape and a calculator, estimating the angles and the areas of those curvy, irregular flower beds. This method takes a bit of time and you will still wonder about the accuracy of your final numbers.

Here’s an easier, and more accurate way to do it!Sod Solutions

Sod Solutions, Inc. offers an online tool that is easy to use and very accurate. Enter your address and GPS locates the aerial view of your property. Create an overlay by plotting points and the square footage is automatically calculated. The instructions under ‘How to Use the Calculator’ are very clear and makes this tool so easy and convenient to use.

For more information on lawn care topics:

Gardening Solutions: Lawns


How Do I Find Plants to Suit My Landscape?

How Do I Find Plants to Suit My Landscape?

We all seem to have this dilemma: A desire to re-landscape or just add a few plants to an area, but not knowing what would be the best choice. Plants need to be compatible with their location. The right plant should be chosen for the right place.  Many have particular light, moisture and zone requirements in order to do their best. The ultimate size of the plant is also an important consideration; if you want to avoid constant pruning, choose plants that only grow to size you would like to ultimately have. Some great resources are provided below to get you the information you need.

FFL AppUF IFAS Extension has a brand new app for your mobile device or web! The app contains a database of over 400 Florida-friendly plants is searchable by plant name, type, shape, native status, light requirements and more. The yearly subscription is only $1.99 to have great info on the go.

The downloadable 104-page Florida-friendly Landscaping Guide to Landscape Design and Plant Selection not only has photos and detailed information about plants by category, it also has great ideas on how to improve your landscape design! FFL Guide to Landscape Design and Plant Selection

UF’s Florida Yards & Neighborhoods maintains a searchable Florida-friendly Plant Database. Make choices based on region, plant type, light and moisture quantity, soil texture  salt tolerance.

For native plants, the Florida Association of Native Nurseries has two websites where you can find plants for your particular zone, plant community (like at the beach or in pine flatwoods), plant type and by wildlife usage. There is a site designed for nursery professionals that lets you find local wholesale growers and also a similar site for homeowners that has resources on where to find desired plants at local nurseries.

Speaking of native plants, the Florida Native Plant Society also has a searchable list of plants appropriate for your particular needs.

Gardening Solutions has lots of great information for lawn, landscape and garden by category, and it is easily accessed.

Happy Gardening!


The Technology Garden

The Technology Garden

In this age of tablets, smart phones, and whatever they come up with next, even the gardener can benefit from new technology.  Although gardening and landscaping to beautify our surroundings is a way to connect with the past, there are many new tools that are ready to help!  Here are a few web sites and phone apps that may prove useful to the gardener.

Sod Solutions Area Calculator 

Sod Solutions has made it easy to know how much sod you need to order by using a mapping system to create overlays that measure square footage.  Measuring square footage can prove tough for irregularly shaped beds or turf lawns.  This website can help measure accurately so one can also apply the correct amount of herbicides, pesticide, or fertilizer.  The website can be difficult for the technology challenged among us.  An easy solution is to find anyone under the age of 15 and they should be able to help!

sod solutions

Smartirrigation App: For Urban TurfSI turf app

The Smartirrigation Turf app is designed to help homeowners with automatic irrigation systems in scheduling their watering times correctly.  This app takes everything into account from soil type to local weather conditions.  For example, you set a watering schedule for Zone X of 15 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then, it does not rain for an extended period of time. Because your lawn does not get the supplemental rain that was predicted, the app may tell the home owner to change the setting to 25 minutes.  To read more about using the app correctly, click on the link above.


Other apps that might prove useful are:

  • NCSU Lawn Care App – An App by North Carolina State University all about lawn care.
  • SoilWeb for Iphone – Produced by The California Soil Resource Lab that will tell you what kind of soil you are standing on.
  • Leaf Snap – Developed by Columbia University, University of Maryland, and Smithonian Institution.  The app uses visual recognition software to identify plants by taking pictures of its leaves.