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.

DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, NO SOIL/PLANT/INSECT SAMPLES WILL BE ACCEPTED IN OUR OFFICE.  You may email your problem or concern to  Include in your email, your name, phone number, detailed information and good quality pictures (close-up and of the whole issue) and a Master Gardener Volunteer will get back with you.



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 ONLY  (so samples don't sit in the Post Office and expire over the weekend - which leads to no results). Note the general collecting instructions at the bottom of this page or contact the volunteers at the office.

View the YouTube video for more information on how to prepare your plant disease/insect sample
If possible, please complete the appropriate Help Desk online (printable) 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 (click on the appropriate tab)

  1. Insects
  2. Plant Disease
  3. Plant or Weed Identification
  • NO live insects will be accepted.  Insects may be submitted in the following ways: drowned in rubbing alcohol, drowned in water, frozen (at least a week) or suffocated in a zip-lock bag.
  • Submitting close-up pictures are helpful and may be emailed to the Help Desk.
  • The insects should NOT be crushed.
  • Provide as much 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.
  • Make sure your name is on all bags/containers so that they stay together.
  • Complete the Insect Identification form and submit with your sample.