The Virginia Cooperative Extension’s horticultural help desk is a good place to start if you have a gardening questions. Call 434-872-4583 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a Master Gardener volunteer. Our office hours are Monday through Friday between 9:00 AM and 12:00 pm from March 15th through October 15th. During the winter, we limit office hours to three days a week; Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. These hours go into effect after October 15th every year and we then return to our full schedule starting the week of March 15th.
You may also visit the help desk during our office hours located at:
Albemarle County/Charlottesville Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension, 460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Map of our location
For detailed directions for our office, click here.
If we cannot answer your question, we will research the topic or refer the problem to our appropriate Virginia Tech or Virginia State University affiliate. Virginia Tech handles all of our laboratory diagnostic work and will report back to our office with a solution and recommendations. Here are the types of testing that we can help you with to solve your horticultural issues:
- Soil Testing – A soil test is an important tool for the homeowner in diagnosing nutrient deficiencies that may impact plant health. If the test indicates the need for soil amendments or fertilizer, it will provide information on the proper amounts to apply, the appropriate time of year, and best application methods. However, for a soil test to be reliable, the sample submitted for analysis must accurately represent the soil in your landscape. For guidance on how to collect and submit a soil sample for analysis, see Soil Sampling for the Home Gardener.
- Plant Pathology – A plant sample may be needed in order to diagnose your garden problem. It is best to bring plant material into the VCE horticultural help desk office early in the week (Mondays or Tuesdays) along with a completed Plant Clinic form. We will not mail samples Thursdays or Fridays because we do not want packages of plant samples sitting and waiting for delivery. For instructions on preparing and submitting adequate plant samples for submission to the Virginia Tech labs, see How to Take a Proper Plant Sample. The Virginia Tech website also provides information on submitting samples to their various labs. As of October 2021, there is now a $35 charge for this test.
- Plant (or Weed) Identification – For help identifying plants, it is best to bring plant material to the VCE horticultural help desk office. We recommend bringing a sample as if you were planning on sending it to the Virginia Tech labs. Multiple pictures of your unidentified plant can also be emailed to us at the email address provided above. Please submit good, clear images of the leaves and stems. Also provide information on the location and soil conditions as well as any noteworthy characteristics. Additional information on plant identification is also available through Virginia Tech extension publications; www.ext.vt.edu
- Insect Identification – For help with identifying insects, submit specimens in a sealed bag or closed container. Good, clear images can also be emailed to us and then forwarded to the Virginia Tech insect lab. We will attempt to identify the insect in our office first before sending a specimen to Virginia Tech.
If you have any questions on submitting plant or insect samples, please call our office or email us and we will gladly help you out.
Mobile Help Desks
In addition to the main horticultural help desk at the VCE office, mobile help desks are available at the Charlottesville IX Market and the Crozet Farmer’s Market on alternate Saturdays from April through October. Check the Events Calendar for exact days and times with directions to both locations.
Master Gardeners also staff mobile help desks at the following annual events:
- Albemarle County Fair at Highland
- Wine and Roses Festival at Tufton Farm’s Center for Historic Plants
- Spring Plant Sale
- Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello
- Apple Harvest Festival at Vintage Virginia Apples
Check our Events Calendar for dates and details about each of these events.