You’ve got a burning gardening question … who you gonna call? It’d be wise to pick the Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, whose Garden Helpline is now open. In order to become an EMGV, prospective helpers must complete 40 hours of classroom training just to earn intern status. Then, there’s another 40 hours of supervised volunteer training before certification. Beyond that, all EMGVs are required to renew their certification annually with another 30 hours of hands-on time and 20 hours of continuing education. In other words, they know their stuff.
“We often deal with questions about plant identification and plant problems,” shares Debbie Green, chair of the EMGVs’ Office Resource Committee. “Although, we encourage people to contact us before they plan/plant if they want to get the maximum benefit from our knowledge.” She recommends soil testing as the very first step in getting growing. The extension office has information and kits available, and the EMGVs can help interpret results once they come back from the soils lab in Raleigh.
Despite their proficiency, Green admits masters are often challenged by the calls and visits they receive — walk-ins are welcome while the EMGVs man phones during the season. But, she says, if they can’t answer, local extension experts or specialists at North Carolina State University can.
The EMGVs have their share of comical, oops exchanges, too. Green recalls one woman who had been told her hemlocks had woolly adelgids — a very serious pest problem affecting these trees in area landscapes — and needed prompt treatment. After bringing in a sample, they were able to ease her mind: Not only did she not have woolly adelgids, she didn’t have hemlocks. Another time, an EMGV asked a caller for the name of the bushes about which she was concerned. The woman replied, “We always name our pets, but we’ve never named our plants!”
All garden-related questions are welcome, Green stresses. The public can call 828-255-5522 or visit the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension office (49 Mount Carmel Road) Monday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. EMGVs request that visitors bring samples large enough for plant identification.
Learn more at www.buncombemastergardener.org/garden-helpline.