Master Gardeners Help Desk

Program Overview

Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Master Gardener Volunteers can answer your horticultural and environmental questions year round. Citizens can contact the Extension Horticulture Help Desk.


VCE Master Gardener Volunteers can assist in:
  • Diagnosing plant disease or insect problems
  • Identifying plants and weeds
  • Providing advice on lawn and plant care
  • Providing other Virginia Tech VCE research-based information and publications relating to landscape and gardening issues
Yorktown Onion

Sample Process

Submitting a sample of a plant or insect to identify or diagnose a disease is the best practice for researching the answer. The Help Desk MG Volunteers can also assist you by submitting the samples to the Virginia Tech Clinics. Specimens may be submitted Monday through Wednesdays. Note the general collecting instructions at the bottom of this page or contact the volunteers at the office.

If possible, please complete the appropriate Help Desk online form and bring with you when you visit:
This will allow you to investigate many of the questions the volunteers will explore with you.

Specimens may be dropped off at the VCE Office. Place specimens and form in the Green Box at the front desk. Ensure that your name is on each specimen.

Collecting Samples

  1. Insects
  2. Plant Disease
  3. Plant or Weed Identification
  • Close-up pictures are helpful.
  • Insects may be submitted in the following ways: placed in rubbing alcohol, drowned in water, frozen (at least a week) or suffocated in a zip-lock bag.
  • Insects must be dead before they are brought to the VCE Office.
  • Insects should be placed in a sealed plastic bag or container prior to bringing to the office.
  • The insects should not be crushed.
  • Provide information pertaining to infestation location and number of insects observed.
  • Soft insects such as grubs may be placed in boiling water for 1 minute then placed in rubbing alcohol.