Help Desk

The Help Desk is usually staffed on site at the Extension Office on Brambleton Avenue on the following:

April 1 - September 30:  11am - 1pm  Monday - Thursday

October 1 - March 30:  11am - 1pm Tuesday & Thursday

Master Gardeners are a volunteer service and may not be at the Help Desk during those hours but you can drop off questions and plant materials any time the Extension Office is open and someone will get back to you to answer your question which may take a week or two. 

Call anytime and leave a message and one of our Master Gardeners will return your call.  Send them an email to  The Help Desk has a form that you can complete and attach up to 5 photos if you like.  Click here for the form.

Check out some of the most asked questions to the Help Desk.  Maybe one of these might be what you are seeking.

Flower Gardening

Question:  What is the difference between Annual and Perennial?

Answer:  An Annual has to be  replanted each year.  A Perennial comes back on it own every year.

Question:   My neighbor and I have been arguing about when to plant bulbs.  Please sort this out for us.

Answer:  The ideal time to plan bulbs is in the fall.  With that being said, springtime is just as acceptable for those in the lily family.  Rule of thumb is if it blooms in spring, plant in the fall.

Vegetable Gardening

Question:  I am trying to eliminate chemicals in my vegetable gardens.  Do you have any suggestions?

Answer:  This is always the best practice.  Many backyard farmers use intercropping or companion planting quite successfully!  This is achieved by planting vegetables that "like or protect" each other.  For example, carrots love tomatoes.  Other companion ideas would be to plant flowers alongside your vegetables to lure the good insects into your beds.  There are many books available on this subject and it is the easiest way to help your veggies a helping hand.

Question:   Good bugs seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate on my property.  I would like to import some to my vegetable garden.  Would you please tell me a few of them?

Answer:  Lady Bugs, Praying Mantis, Green Lacewing, Ground Beetles, spiders, and Parasitic Wasps are a few of them.  To help attract more of them to your gardens, try planting some natives such as Yarrow or Goldenrod.  Include some herbs such as Lavender, Mint, Sage, Fennel, Dill, and Lemon Balm .

Indoor Plants

Question:  Several of my houseplants have leaves turning yellow and dropping off.  What am I doing wrong?

Answer:  There are several reasons that this may occur unfortunately.  Water is usually the main cause.  Not enough or too much.  Stick your finger in the soil about an inch down to determine if it is dry or wet.  If dry, go ahead and water. If wet, let it dry out a bit more.  The second reason might be sunlight. Try a different window.  What one plant needs in the way of sunlight, the other might need just a short day of it.  Of course, there is always a chance of disease or critters especially if you move your plants outside for the summer.  In that case, check with the Help desk to determine exactly what is causing the slow death of your house plants.



Trees & Shrubs

Question:  My boxwood has something wrong with it.  How can I bring it back to health?

Answer:  Boxwood blight (also called “box blight” in Europe), caused by the fungal pathogen Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum.  It infects leaves and branches of boxwoods, causing severe defoliation and dieback. Infected branches develop long blackish-brown cankers that appear as stripes on stems.    Extensive information and remediation can be found on a Virginia Tech Publication.

Question:  My Dogwood tree doesn't look good.  The leaves have something like powdery mildew on them and I can't get rid of it.  Please help!

Answer:  This would be a fungal disease.  Try using a fungicide spray that contains myclobutanil and/or propiconazole.   Powdery or Downy Mildew on roses, pumpkins, or lilacs are also a fungal disease which can use the same type of spray.





Turf & Lawn

Question:  What is the difference between warm and cool grass?

AnswerWarm grasses prefer temperatures of 80-95o F and will have a winter dormancy period (i.e. loss of green color) of 3-5 months depending on where they are used in the state.  As a group, these grasses have fewer pest problems, greater water use efficiency rates, and less sensitivity to environmental extremes of summer. Cool grasses prefer temperatures of 60-75 o F and have active growing periods in the late summer to early winter, and early spring to early summer.  Their growth rates in mid-summer drop sharply as they encounter the typical high temperatures and possible drought of the summer season.  These grasses are best adapted to the hill and valley regions of the southwest, the Shenandoah Valley, and northern Virginia.  Tall fescue is grown in all regions of the state but is likely to struggle during summer extremes in the southern Piedmont and Tidewater regions.   Spring establishments are possible, but fall is the preferred time for planting. 

Question:  What are some of the types of grass for warm and cool?

AnswerCool:  Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Fine-leaf Fescues, Perennial Ryegrass.   Warm:  Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede, St. Augustine,  (Centipede and St. Augustine are adapted only to the Tidewater region.)

Question:  My lawn has these strange weeds growing in it.  What are they and how do I get rid of them?

Answer:  There are so many to list here.  There is a Weed Identification Guide available that you should be able to locate the culprit.  After you discover what it is, there will be information about eliminating the intruder.  Click here for the University of Missouri Plant ID Guide.

Invasive Plants or Species

Question:  Where can I find a list of invasive plants?

Answer:  The USDA National Species Information Center website has several lists and information on non-native and invasive native plants on the their website:  More information can be found here: 

Question:  Do I need to report an invasive species that I find?

Answer: Yes.  Images and a form to submit can be found here: 

Question:  Is there information on how to control or eliminate invasive plants?

Answer:  After much research, there isn't any recent information on this subject.  However, there is a 2018 Non-Native Invasive Plant Species Control and Treatment publication available in our library.  Click here to access.