Garden detectives solve plant problems

University of Illinois Extension DeKalb County Master Gardeners offer a free service answering gardeners’ questions at the Horticulture Help Desk. The Horticulture Help Desk is open 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Starting April 28, it will be open 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

Master Gardeners research topics about insects, trees, shrubs, plants, vegetables, fruits, gardens, lawns, and more. Master Gardeners supply research-based answers to questions, and take time to find the information you need for your specific circumstance. Master Gardeners do not make house calls, but you are free to bring samples to the University of Illinois Extension DeKalb County office, located in the Farm Bureau Center for Agriculture building at 1350 W. Prairie Drive in Sycamore.

Reach the Master Gardeners by calling in your question 815-758-8194 or by stopping at the office. You may also email your question uiemg-dekalb@illinois.edu. Master Gardener volunteers will ask you some diagnostic questions to understand your horticulture situation, then will call you back after they have done their research. The Horticulture Help Desk is a free service.

Clients are encouraged to email or bring in photos or drop off samples of their troubled plants, trees, or shrubs. Here are some helpful tips for collecting samples:

• Bring in or email photos of the plant. Be sure to include the surrounding environment. If possible, bring in the entire plant, especially if it is a vegetable, annual or perennial flower.

• Woody plant samples should be as large as practical. Collect samples from areas that are still alive and showing symptoms.

• Do not collect dead plants. Often their tissues have been invaded by other fungi and bacteria and the original pathogen is no longer detectable.

• Collect several plant specimens showing a range of symptoms. Collect both healthy and damaged plant parts.

• Provide as much background and related information as possible. Make note of flooding, shade, environmental changes, pesticides used and fertilizer history. Watch for any observable patterns or uniformity.

• After collecting samples, do not expose them to direct sunlight. Keep them cool and do not allow them to dry out. Weeds tend to wilt quickly; consider placing them between two pieces of moist paper towel and bring them in as soon as possible.

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