Berks County Master Gardeners will again staff a Garden Hotline this growing season, from the Penn State Extension office at the Berks County Agricultural Center.

The phone line is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. weekdays at 610-378-1327. Queries and photos may also be submitted via email to berksmg@psu.edu at any time.

Master Gardeners with advanced diagnostic training staff the hotline, which receives about 1200 calls annually, dealing with 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.

“The best diagnosis,” notes Master Gardener Coordinator Beth Finlay, “is usually from actual plant samples.” With or without a physical sample, an accurate assessment of the growing site and conditions will lead to the best recommendations. Garden Hotline volunteers suggest calling ahead to speak with a Master Gardener before bringing a sample, to get advice on what parts of the plant and how much material will allow the best diagnosis.

Some plant questions are readily answered by phone or 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.

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.

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