Whether you've found spots on your gardenia or insects in your pantry, we can help!
Virtual Help Desk
Within our new normal, there are so many changes to the ways we go about our daily routines. One thing that hasn’t changed is our dedication to helping you with your gardening & landscaping questions, and that’s why we’re happy to share a new way for you to reach us through our Master Gardeners Virtual Help Desk.
Simply email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll assign a Master Gardener to assist you. If needed, you may attach photos or a short video to illustrate your question; review guidance on submitting your photo to the Plant Disease Clinic. Our Master Gardeners will respond, and we’ll either call (if you choose to provide a phone number) or email you with our response.
If you have a flock of backyard chickens or thinking about getting some we can help. Submit you question to out help desk and our 4H technician can help find you an answer.
General Tips for Choosing a Sample
- Collect a fresh sample: Collect a sample on the day you are submitting it to our office or shipping it to our office. Don't leave samples in vehicles overnight. Intense heat or cold will destroy the sample.
- Submit samples that are not in transition: Show symptoms of dying. Diagnosis is difficult to impossible with dead or dried plants.
- Send in a sufficient sample: Whole plants, including roots, are more desirable than individual leaves or branches, whenever possible.
- Submit a sample of the soil if possible: Keep soil off foliage by wrapping the root ball in plastic, aluminum foil, or submitting in a separate bag from the plant tissue.
Trees and Shrubs
Collect a 12 to 24-inch-long branch with leaves attached. Samples should show transition from healthy to affected foliage.
For Weed/Plant Identification
A single leaf or grass blade is not sufficient. Include as many parts of the plant as possible, including:
Dig a 2 to 3-inch-deep, shoebox-sized, rectangular sample (including roots) which shows transition from healthy to affected turf. Wrap the roots with aluminum foil to keep soil intact and prevent contaminating blades.
Include a dozen bugs, not just one, to ensure a good sample Single specimens are not always complete. Insects are hard to identify when parts are missing. Larvae should be placed in 70 percent rubbing alcohol.
How to Submit Your Sample
When mailing samples for insects, package your sample in a crush-proof container.
When sending your sample through the library, place it in a sealed, Ziploc-type bag inside a brown paper grocery bag. Do not add any water to the sample. Staple your diagnosis form to the outside of the paper bag.
When mailing the sample for plants, do the following:
- Wrap the sample in a dry paper towel.
- Do not add any additional water.
- Place wrapped sample in a box with crumpled newspaper or similar material to stabilize the sample.
- Wrap root ball/soil separately from plant to avoid contamination of the plant tissue.
- Place your sample information/form in a separate, sealed plastic bag.
- Moisture from the sample can disintegrate paper and cause ink to run if packaged in direct contact with the plant tissue or soil.
Where to Submit Samples
Chesterfield County Cooperative Extension
P.O. Box 146
Chesterfield, VA 23832-0040
If mailing, mail early in the week to avoid sitting in the post office over the weekend. Use overnight services whenever possible.
Cooperative Extension Office
Stop by our office with your sample to see one of our Master Gardener volunteers at the Help Desk. Note: If it’s possible, please bring the sample directly to our office; it will be fresher and arrive in better condition for diagnosis.
NOTE: We ask that you first to send in a picture of your plant/ID to the Virtual help desk @ email@example.com.