Horticulture Help Line Set to Respond to Gardening Questions

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Provided by Prince William County

The Virginia Cooperative Extension-Prince William Unit (VCE) has a horticulture helpline staffed by master gardener volunteers who can help with most questions about gardening. If someone asks a question they cannot answer, the volunteers know where to go to get the answer.

“We’ve been around for 100 years. We are a joint effort with Virginia State and Virginia Tech, and we answer all sorts of questions,” said VCE Agriculture Extension Agent Thomas Bolles. “We answer questions about wildlife. We answer questions about insects and diseases. Every now and again, we get very strange questions, but for the most part, we were able to answer them. If not, we reach back to one of the universities and get that information for the client.”

Master gardeners keep VCE programs running. “A master gardener is a volunteer who has gone through about four months of classroom training plus a year internship, and they volunteer for all the programs. Basically, they kind of leverage our programs. Typically, in terms of volunteer hours. It’s usually five or more full-time equivalency positions with the number of volunteer hours they provide,” Bolles said.

One of the most common concerns among Prince William County residents is how to care for lawns. The extension has a program to help with that. “The Best Lawns Program is where we send out a team of master gardeners and they measure and sample someone’s lawn. We send the soil sample down to Blacksburg and get it analyzed and when it comes back, we provide a custom report for the client. It tells them what kind of fertilizer they need, how much they need to apply, and when they need to apply it. If they have weed or pest issues, we give them recommendations on how to deal with those,” Bolles said.

The extension will also test to determine if well water is OK to drink, or if something is wrong so that people can make informed decisions about how to treat their wells. “We do an annual event where we distribute kits and then collect them for lab analysis. The lab, in the Biological Systems Engineering Department of Virginia Tech, does the analysis,” Bolles said.

VCE also offers classes on vegetable production, general landscaping, and lawn care. “We also help establish school gardens. We’ve worked with over 100 schools in the Greater Prince William area.” Bolles said.

People can also take their questions to the master gardener volunteers who staff booths at the Dale City and Manassas farmers markets.

Call 703-792-7747 for the help desk or email mastergardener@pwcgov.org for answers to gardening questions. Visit Virginia Cooperative Extension for more information about the extension.

See a video about the extension here.

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