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, OUR MASTER GARDENER HELP DESK CONVERTED TO A VIRTUAL FORMAT.  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

UPDATE:  Starting October 1, 2021, samples that are sent to Virginia Tech Plant Disease clinic for diagnosis will incur a $35 charge.

Plant Disease Clinic Flyer

Yorktown Onion

Guidance for Submitting a Good Digital Submission to the Plant Disease Clinic

Although digital diagnosis is more difficult for disease samples than for insect or weed identification, we can often provide at least a preliminary diagnosis if we receive images of good quality. Smartphones generally take good images if you follow a few guidelines.

1. Submit only digital images that are clear and in focus.

2. Include ~3 to a maximum of 7 well-focused images that show:

a. the pattern of the problem in the location (e.g. field, orchard, nursery, landscape, garden)

b. the overall symptoms on the whole plant

c. a close-up of the symptoms on an affected plant, including images of both leaf surfaces if there are symptoms on leaves

3. Try to avoid strong shadows on the sample; outdoor images taken on a cloudy day are best. When taking pictures indoors, try to           illuminate the plant from both sides to eliminate shadows in the photo and place on a neutral background.

Image Size/File Type

•    All images must be in GIF, JPG, PNG, or PDF, but we prefer GIF or JPG.

•    Do not send small-size images (e.g. < 500 pixels); ~2,000 pixels is great.

Examples of Good Digital Submissions

Overall image of the whole plant

overall image of boxwood

Well focused close up image

Close up of boxwood

Image of the plant in the landscape

image of plant in landscape