Extension's Horticulture Help Desk opens April 17

University of Illinois Extension DeKalb County Master Gardeners offer a free service answering garden questions at the Horticulture Help Desk.

The Horticulture Help Desk will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting April 17 until the end of the month. The Help Desk will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday starting in May.

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 for specific circumstances. Master Gardeners do not make house calls, but people can 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.

Residents can call in their question at 815-758-8194 or stop at the office. Questions also can be emailed to uiemg-dekalb@illinois.edu. Master Gardener volunteers will ask some diagnostic questions to understand the horticulture situation, then will call 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 if appropriate, 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.

It may be necessary to wait until the plant blooms for a botanical identification.

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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