To a good look at bare limbs before the green returns in spring. It's time to admire beautiful lines, mark problem branches for pruning and, sometimes, take note of irregularities.
Many times, it's a springtime observation of lumps or odd colors that gives us the jump on trouble later. Cherry branches infected with black knot (pictured at right) can be pruned out, tent caterpillar egg masses knocked off, and mysteries photographed for showing at the Extension or posting on a Forum.
To letting knowledge get you down. Some people would rather not learn about plant problems because, "Then that's all I see!" Yet we've studied trouble for 30 years and have only increased our respect for plants through continual confirmation that a well grown plant can dodge any bullet.
Take advantage of digital technology plus the collective wisdom in your gardening community. Take pictures of what you see. Post them where they'll be seen, and someone will recognize them or have a clue.
Our Forum is a good place to display mysteries. It has plenty of experienced eyes and sharing souls -- our Members and Moderators.
Internet search can be a powerful detective, too. Try our four-step approach to solve your next unknown.
What's Up 175: Spruce gall, prune redtwig, pest I.D., oak flare