By Tim Clancy.
In the time before the internet, when you needed information, often you would begin by consulting your collection of encyclopedias. If that was not fruitful, then a trip to the library was in order. Even then, you might not have been able to find what you wanted at your local branch and a research librarian might be needed to find the book you needed elsewhere. This, of course, often meant waiting for a few weeks until your material. Then, when the lending period was over, you would return the books to the library.
Another option was to purchase the material you were interested in and add it to your personal library. This is how my personal library of reference books about trees was created. I have somewhere around 100 books about tree care. I still refer to them from time to time, however, the Information Age has ushered in a new way to answer my questions. Most of the information that I am interested in is now a simple internet search away. In a few seconds, I can find just about everything I want to know related to trees.
Searching the Internet
One of the best places to find information about pests and diseases is the UCIPM website. This site has information not only for farmers but also for home gardeners, including information about pests and disease for many of the ornamental plants used by homeowners and garden enthusiasts.
Although searching on the internet is quick, a note of caution is in order. While there are many internet sites where legitimate information is readily available, there are many more that purport to be educational but are in fact just sales tools. These sites can appear to be legitimate, since they provide some information that is, in fact, horticulturally sound. However, in an effort to drum up business, these sites sometimes make claims for products or tools that are dubious at best. It is always best to seek out authoritative information from sources such as public agencies and universities.
The U.S. Forest has created an excellent online resource: the "Tree Owner's Manual-National Edition." This is a wonderful tool when it comes to trees. It covers many topics important to the homeowner and offers advice on how to choose and plant trees. The Manual even discusses trees that come with excess soil on the root ball and how to correct that, or when to return the tree to the nursery. Tree-planting instructions rarely address this topic. If you follow all the advice in this publication, you will have gone a long way towards ensuring a successful tree-planting project.
For those of you who like to go down the rabbit hole, an excellent source of information on trees and water can be found online in the "Water and Tree Health Manual.” This is not light reading by any stretch of the imagination. However, it has valuable information that will help even the novice gain a better understanding of how water and tree health are related.