Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


September 16, 2013

PLATEAU GARDENING: Become a plant detective

CROSSVILLE — Master Gardener training involves learning how to identify and solve plant problems. That is appropriate since problems in their yards and gardens are what my friends and neighbors most frequently ask about. I still chuckle remembering trying to do crunches and at the same time answer questions about azaleas with leaf spot and hydrangeas that would not bloom, after my exercise instructor announced to the class that Rae had just become a Master Gardener.

A three-element relationship known as the Plant Disease Triangle was part of my studies. I still use it today. The first side of that triangle is a susceptible host plant, the second a pathogen capable of infecting the plant and third a favorable environment. All three must come together to produce a problem. In other words, only if environmental conditions are right will the pathogen interact with a susceptible host plant in a way that produces disease.

That honeysuckle vine with powdery mildew growing along the north side of my neighbor’s house cited in last week’s article is a classic case. Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) is a susceptible host, different powdery mildew fungi cause the disease on different plants, but the fungi are common and spread by the wind (pathogen), temperatures from 60 to 80 degrees F and shade favor this disease (conducive environment).

I got on-the-job training in plant problem analysis while examining samples of infected, infested and damaged plants homeowners brought to the Ask-a-Master-Gardener desk at the University of Tennessee Cumberland County Extension office in Crossville. Sometimes after consulting available in-office research materials and conducting online searches, the identity of the plant and/or the exact nature of the problem still remained a mystery to me. In that situation, a digital camera was used to take photos of the plant material or insect pest in question (including highly magnified images taken using a microscope with the camera). A text form with environmental details and the images were transmitted to resource professionals at the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Center in Nashville through an Internet program called Distance Diagnostics. Within a day or two, we would receive an email answer giving the identity of the plant, diagnosing the problem and detailing appropriate treatment. One of the experts in Nashville at that time was Alan Windham.

Though never officially enrolled in one of professor Windham’s classes at UT, I’ve learned a lot from him over the years.  I caught his presentation titled "Be a Plant Detective: Solve Plant Problems" in August during the Fall Gardener’s Festival at UT Gardens Crossville.

Plant detective strategies are:

1. Identify the host plant because plants have certain primary insect pests and diseases. Knowing the plant can lead to the problem identity.

2. Look for signs and symptoms which are clues to identifying problems.

3. Identify biotic (living) pathogens like fungi, bacteria, viruses and nematodes or non-living ones like moisture (too much, too little), temperature extremes (heat or cold), pesticide injury, soil pH extremes and nutrient deficiencies as probable causes

4. Use a digital camera to document damage, symptoms or signs associated with the unhealthy plant.

5. Collect a specimen. Helpful resources are the county Extension office, the Soil, Plant and Pest Center Facebook page (, the online image library showing various plant problems (, becoming a Master Gardener and the Soil, Plant and Pest Center webpage (

• • • 

Plateau Gardening is written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region. Contact UT Extension Cumberland County at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (484-6743) for answers to horticulture questions, free publications and how to become a Master Gardener. Send email comments or yard and garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae, 


Text Only
  • Melling, Sounds of the Country¬†at Hebbertsburg Community Center

    Jack Melling and Sounds of the Country will entertain at the Hebbertsburg Community Center on Saturday, May 3, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

    April 22, 2014

  • Marriage licenses (Published April 23, 2014)

    April 22, 2014

  • Pleasant Hill Ramblings CSA.jpg Pleasant Hill Ramblings: CSAs are a win-win situation

    Every Wednesday after 1 p.m. from May through October, there is a steady stream of people converging on the kitchen of Heritage Hall on Church St. in Pleasant Hill with baskets and bags. Inside the kitchen there is excited chatter as they discuss the array of vegetables, some varieties never tried before. Farmer Dave Myers and his helpers provide this largesse of vitamins to the members of the CSA.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • plateau gardening.jpg How to collect and submit soil sample

    Garry, a new resident in Crossville, emailed to ask how to gather a soil sample and where to take it to have testing done. Your local University of Tennessee Extension office is the place to go. Those in the Crossville area should call UT Extension Cumberland County at 484-6743. A staff person at the office can explain how to collect soil samples. (Those new in town who may not know where the Extension office is located may also call for driving directions.)

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 5-2 white cane days.jpg Lions Club White Cane Days returns May 2 & 3

    The Fairfield Glade and Crossville Lions Club members will hold their annual White Cane Days fundraiser Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3, at several locations. This is a major fundraiser throughout the state of Tennessee and many parts of the world to help assist blind, sight impaired and deaf individuals. This is an event that only happens once a year.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140412_110402.jpg Kids get creative at Youth Expo

    Cumberland Artisans for Creative Expression (CACE) held its annual Youth Expo Saturday, providing young people an opportunity to try their hand at a variety of artistic endeavors, from music and writing to painting and traditional crafts of weaving and spinning.

    April 17, 2014 4 Photos

  • AROUND THE TOWN: The Easter egg hunt that never was

    The Easter Bunny should be able to deliver his baskets in pretty nice weather this weekend. The Good Friday and Easter holiday weekend should feature much warmer temperatures than we had earlier this week when snow showers fell on Cumberland County. Cumberland County students were released Tuesday for spring break, but their last day of school for the week found snow and ice falling from the sky and temperatures in the 20s. Students will return to class on Monday.

    April 17, 2014

  • 127 Seniors.jpg Jay Fox performs for seniors after receiving new prosthesis

    On Friday, April 11, the members of the 127 Senior Center had another good time playing bingo and dominos. Bingo was called by Arlene Simmons and Helen Lord, and the bingo gifts were provided by Bob Folger of State Farm Insurance.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marriage licenses

    Publised April 16, 2014.

    April 15, 2014

  • pleasant hill ramblings.jpg PLEASANT HILL RAMBLINGS: Pancake breakfast held for cancer research

    During the year various groups connected with the Pleasant Hill Elementary School provide a Saturday morning pancake breakfast to support the Relay for Life campaign.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide