There comes a time when we are faced with a garden problem that is beyond our experience. We need help NOW! With a well-stocked physical or online library of reference materials, help can be on hand for those garden emergencies.
If you prefer hands-on resources, stock up on several books. An excellent all-purpose guide to vegetables, flowers and shrubs is Barbara Damrosch’s “Garden Primer.” In this book, you’ll find a wealth of information on vegetables, herbs, fruits, annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. Easy to read and use, this 800-page book is a valuable addition to any gardening library. For more detailed information on perennials, I like Tracy DiSabato-Aust’s “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden.” This book gives excellent detailed instructions on how and when to prune and deadhead perennials and is a real boon to your library. For identifying and dealing with problem insects, an excellent and detailed book with 3,300 color photos, check out “Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs — Second Edition.” You can buy the print edition or go digital with an ebook.
For print or digital gardeners, The Learning Store at the University of Wisconsin offers an enormous selection of detailed booklets or pamphlets on almost all gardening topics. Available free online, the booklets can be ordered in their print version for a very low cost. Call 877-947-7827 and start stocking up today or visit https://learningstore.uwex.edu/Lawn-Garden-C2.aspx.
For online participants, help is a click away. For weekly updates on what pests are moving into your area and for advice on what to do about it, check out the Wisconsin pest bulletin. With different reports for forage crops, vegetables, fruits, etc., this weekly report can keep you alert about what to look for before the insects take control of your crops (https://datcpservices.wisconsin.gov/pb/?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1) You can even subscribe and get a link to the weekly version in your mailbox. For information on a wide variety of garden pests, check out the photos and guides at www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/garden-pests. Not all insects are covered but the 30 most common ones are well described.
Is your plant drooping, turning yellow, or simply looking sick? Cornell University provides a brilliant diagnostic service, complete with photos, at http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu. Sorted by disease or by crop, this site is one I turn to for identification of ailing plants. Sometimes you need more general advice about the proper growing conditions in order to determine what might be wrong. Check out this extensive library of fact sheets on individual plants at www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/vegetables/growers-library-vegetables.html.
If none of the above books or links serve your needs, give https://impact.extension.org/search a try. This search engine hunts the entire cooperative extension database for the information you want. To narrow your search to the University of Wisconsin or the University of Minnesota, go to https://hort.extension.wisc.edu or https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden respectively.
Sometimes you just need to talk with someone. This page lists the extension services grouped by counties. Click on your county and follow through to the contact information on that county’s website. The websites also contain valuable information that may be of help to you as well.
You can always write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I try my best to find a solution or diagnose a problem, but like you, I’m usually out in the garden and it can sometimes take several days to get a response. If you know of any super-helpful websites or publications, let me know and we can spread the word.