Home & Garden

Helpline offers advice on plants and insects

Powdery mildew is a diagnosis commonly made at UCCE helpline offices.
Powdery mildew is a diagnosis commonly made at UCCE helpline offices.

Q: I used to call the UC Master Gardener Program in Orange County for advice with my plant and insect ID questions. Is this service available in this area?

Christian, San Luis Obispo

A: Yes, these services are available through the UC Master Gardener helpline. We have three helpline locations in the county — San Luis Obispo, Templeton and Arroyo Grande.

There are four ways to access the helpline:

▪  Visit the Master Gardener helpline office.

▪  Call the helpline office number and talk to a Master Gardener or leave a voicemail.

▪  Drop off a sample and fill out a questionnaire when Master Gardeners are not in.

▪  Email Master Gardeners and include information and photos of your plant or insect issue, using anrmgslo@ucanr.edu.

Tips for collecting samples

For plant problems: It’s ideal for the sample to be collected just before it is brought into the Helpline Office. If that’s not possible, store the sample in the refrigerator until you can bring it in (don’t add any water to the sample bag). Select a sample showing distinct disease or insect symptoms. Include plant parts to show various stages of the problem with diseased and healthy plant tissue for comparison.

For plant identification: Collect as many parts of the plant including flowers and leaves attached to the stems, and any fruit or berries. Flowers are especially crucial in plant and weed identification. If submitting a root sample, place it in a paper bag separate from any other plant samples. Dig roots carefully; don’t pull, as diseased roots are fragile.

For pest identification: Handle the insects gently to prevent damage. Include any leaves with evidence of damage caused by the insect.

No problem is too small for the MG helpline!

Helpline locations

San Luis Obispo: 2156 Sierra Way, 805-781-5939. Helpline is staffed on Monday and Thursday 1-5 p.m. Drop off samples weekdays, 8 a.m-5 pm.

Templeton: 350 N. Main St. B, 805-434-4105. Helpline is staffed on Wednesday 9 a.m-noon. Drop off samples weekdays, noon-2:30 p.m.

Arroyo Grande: 810 West Branch St., 805-473-7190. Helpline is staffed on Wednesdays, 9 a.m-noon. Drop off samples weekeday, 8 a.m-2:30 p.m.

Jutta Thoerner is a UCCE Master Gardener.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.