Berks County Master Gardeners are once again available to address your gardening questions during the growing season through the Garden Hotline.

The Berks County Penn State Extension office is temporarily closed to the public, so the Master Gardener Garden Hotline currently is unable to accept telephone calls or plant samples. However, you can still reach a trained Master Gardener with your plants question or concerns by sending a detailed description via email to berksmg@psu.edu. You may attach two or three clear photos. Master Gardeners will retrieve your email and respond. 

Master Gardeners with advanced diagnostic training staff the hotline, which receives about 1,200 questions annually, related to lawn care, landscape plants, houseplants, fruit, vegetables and herbs, and more. In addition to plant care, the hotline can advise on insect and disease issues, and can provide identification of unknown plants or insects. All advice is based on Integrated Pest Management strategies and environmentally-friendly approaches. 

Many plant questions are readily answered by email. Garden Hotline volunteers are trained to gather all information that might influence a plant’s health or growth and can tailor advice to each individual situation. Due to temporary office closures, Garden Hotline volunteers currently are unable to accept physical specimens. However, clear photos of the plant or pest specimen can be emailed to assist the Master Gardeners in diagnosing the issue. With or without a physical sample, an accurate assessment of the growing site and conditions will lead to the best recommendations.

Master Gardener Coordinator Natalie Marioni says that “though the Garden Hotline is unable to accept in-person questions or phone calls during this unprecedented situation, we recognize that people are finding new ways to stay active, such as through gardening. Our volunteers are eager to continue connecting our communities with research-based gardening advice and have really stepped up to the plate, adapting quickly to the need for this work to be done from home.”

This season, Garden Hotline volunteers are again anticipating many queries about the Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive insect causing problems for homeowners as well as for commercial operations in our area. Volunteers are armed with the most current research and with guidelines for residents trying to identify or manage the pest. 

The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact us at 610-378-1327 in advance of your participation or visit.

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