Here are a few things we’ll need you to bring with you in order to make the best possible diagnosis:
The best way is make a diagnosis is with fresh-cut, living plant material. So make sure that the sample you bring in is alive, yet still shows signs of the problem you wish to diagnose. For best results, seal the sample in a plastic bag to retain any potential insect population. Also, be sure to sterilize any tools you use to collect the sample with rubbing alcohol or a 50/50 water/bleach solution to avoid spreading the problem.
Take a sample about the length and width of a phone book (8.5×11”) across the edge of the damaged area so as to include healthy, dying, and dead grass. Make sure to include the roots and all, just like a piece of sod. If you have small moths hovering around the lawn in the evening, try and bring a few of those too.
Shrub and Tree Samples:
Again, try to take your samples from branches and leaves that are in the process of dying, but are not completely dead yet. Examine the trunk for leaking sap or sawdust (a picture can help with this, but make sure it’s close enough to provide detail). If it’s a fruit tree, bring some of its fruit.
Annual, Perennial or Vegetable Samples:
Make sure your sample includes an entire plant, roots, flowers, fruit and all. Be extra careful not to touch any other plants in the process.
Water Application Estimate:
Knowing when and how much your plant is being watered will go a long way towards discovering what’s wrong with it. Make note of how often the plant gets water, and for how long. You can also use an inexpensive moisture meter to test the soil around the affected plant(s).
Take note of the soil in which the plant is growing; is it sandy or clay? Take a screw driver or other probe, and note if it is hard to get into the ground, or if it is easy. Have you recently fertilized or used weed killer on it? How much sun does the area get?
You don’t have to know exactly what’s wrong with the plant, that’s our job, but here are a few bits of information that could be helpful in the diagnosis process. When did the plant start exhibiting the problem? Has it happened before? Has it affected other plants in the area? Anything that you’ve noticed about your garden that seems different or off could help in the diagnosis.