Master Gardener Helpline
Inside the Master Gardener Helpline
By Mary Giambalvo
Your blighted tomatoes bear absolutely no family resemblance to the catalog photo. A nasty-looking bug is lumbering along the stem to your prize rose; friend or foe? Your hydrangea doesn't tell you why it’s changing from blue to pink. Who are you going to call? We hope you'll call on the Master Gardener Helpline.
The Helpline is comprised of a group of your neighbors who fulfilled a course of training with the University of California Cooperative Extension to earn a place in the Master Gardener program. They contribute their time as volunteers solely to home gardeners with questions, conundrums and botanical tribulations.
When you call or email or walk into the offices for help, your problem becomes a committed Helpline project. After collecting as much pertinent information from you as possible, the Helpliners go to work. Out comes the microscope, heads peering over it. Books pile up, filing cabinets fly open, and computers whir. Flanked with scientific references, a vast body of UCCE research and input from experts, the volunteers delve into the latest and best information available. Callers, if they wish, will often be mailed a wealth of material related to their concerns.
Helpline volunteers are generally in the offices one or two days a week. Telephone messages will be answered on those days. Feel free to bring in sample problems any business day, and be sure to seal them in a plastic bag. Diseases and pests have a way of sharing themselves if allowed to spread. Refrigerators are available to keep them fresh and contained until a volunteer arrives to research the problem.
There are now three offices which offer Helpline assistance. A new Arroyo Grande office opened in January to better serve the South County, and is located to the left of the South County Library/Regional Center at 810 West Branch Street. This new office will work in conjunction with the North County and San Luis Obispo offices.
Helpliners love gardening, teaching, and, I suspect, detective work. They must love it - the only payments are immense satisfaction and a bit of new knowledge each day. Please call, write or stop in with your questions. You will find friendly people eager to help discover the true intent of that bug hiking up the rosebush.
Master Gardeners are ready to answer your home garden questions. We can be reached in three ways: by calling us, by visiting us and by e-mailing us.