What is This in My Garden? Or Penn State Master Gardener Hotline Opens Soon

Connie Holland
Adams County Master Gardener

With this warmer than normal weather of late, spring plants are up and growing. However, weeds and some insects are just as active. If you are wondering what "UFO’s" are growing in your yard or garden or attacking your plants, then the Penn State Master Gardener "Hotline" is for you.

The Hotline is staffed in person starting in April (running through September) on Mondays and Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm at the Penn State Cooperative Extension offices located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road (just across from HACC and Weis). Questions may also be phoned in to 717-334-6271 during business hours by leaving a message for the Hotline.

The Penn State Master Gardeners of Adams County are dedicated, trained volunteers who share a love of gardening and horticulture. The MG program educates and promotes research-based horticultural information to the gardening public. Such information is based on proven research specific to Adams County’s local climate, soils and plants.

The following pointers can help when seeking a solution to a gardening problem from a Master Gardener volunteer:

Stopping by Extension Office in Person

  • Bring a recent FRESH sample of the plant in question. Picking it right before coming in is ideal. If not on a Monday or Friday during Hotline hours, bring anyway and the sample can be refrigerated until then.
  • Seal the sample in a plastic bag. Bring the diseased portion and some adjacent undiseased plant whenever possible.
  • Write down all pertinent information about the plant; i.e. its name, age, location relation to other nearby plants. Include time of disease onset, duration of problem, anything you have tried to mitigate the problem.
  • For insects, secure them in a plastic bag, being careful not to crush or otherwise change the appearance of the specimen. A smashed insect may bear little resemblance to the actual live creature.
  • For insects, information such as is it a single find or an infestation is useful. Is the insect found inside or outside? If found outside, on what specific plant and in what specific area? What kind of damage is associated with it?
  • Because not all insects are a problem, it is important to identify them correctly since many are beneficial and should be left to flourish.
  • Bring a photo if possible. In this age of digital photography, this can often be accomplished with minimal trouble.

Calling the Hotline

When calling in a problem, please keep in mind that the Master Gardener on the phone does not have the advantage of seeing what you are looking at and trying to explain. It is very important to have as much information as possible available about the plant, insect, or disease. If calling other than the staffed times on Mondays and Fridays from 10 am - 2 pm, leave a detailed message including your name and phone number.

No Specific Problems, Just Need Advice?

Call or stop by with any general gardening questions. Pick up a soil test kit whose results will indicate how to amend that soil with specific fertilizers or an acidity adjustment for what ever is being grown in that area. Soil tests are highly recommended as many plants, such as blueberries or azaleas require acidic soil in order to thrive.

If you stump the Master Gardener, then the extensive horticultural resources at Penn State University can be called upon to help answer the problem. However, there is a small fee to mail them samples.

The Penn State Master Gardener Hotline to answer gardening questions is open April through September, on Mondays and Fridays, from 10 am to 2 pm. Call 717-334-6271 or bring in your samples for a diagnosis to 670 Old Harrisburg Rd, Gettysburg.

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