Extension Master Gardener Help Desk

In Person Services at the Extension Master Gardener Help Desk are Back in Business!

MGNV---Extension-Master-Gardener-Help-Desk-Got an insect or plant disease problem?   We can help.  At the Extension Master Gardener Help Desk, Master Gardener volunteers are available to answer questions Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to noon (except on holidays).

  • In Person
    Drop by the office during Help Desk hours (call before you come, just in case).
  • By Phone
    Call (703) 228-6414 to speak to a Master Gardener or leave a message with your name and phone number and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
  • Via Email
    1.  Submit your question to us directly by email with background information found in this form. Or you can print and scan this form to return to us.
    2. Please send this information and your photos via email to mgarlalex@gmail.com; volunteers are checking daily and responding in a timely manner.

The Help Desk is located at the Arlington County Office of VCE in the Fairlington Community Center. The address is 3308 South Stafford Street, Arlington, VA 22206.


What do we need to know in advance?

Before you contact us, check out this VCE publication with helpful plant problem diagnosis tips.

The more information we have, the better we are at diagnosing your problem. For example, samples or photos of plants or insects are extremely helpful. Please provide healthy and diseased or damaged parts from each plant, preferably on the same sample. It also would be helpful to know when they were planted, how often and how long you water them, whether any fertilizer, pesticides or fungicides have been used on or near them, and whether you have noticed any insect infestation (in which case, please try to bring in a specimen) or damage from recent high winds in the area. And don’t be surprised if we recommend soil testing – soil tests kits are available at our office.


Plant Disease or Insect ID Diagnostic Services at the Arlington VCE Office

There is no charge for plant disease or insect ID diagnostic services provided in the Arlington Office.  Hours of the Extension Master Gardener Help Desk are 9am – 12 noon Monday through Friday.  In the rare case that office staff are not present, there is a basket and blank submission forms on top of the filing cabinet just inside the door to our Help Desk area. and filled out forms and samples can be left there.  Please make sure that your name is on both the form AND the sample container.

Plant Disease Clinic at VCE:

If we can’t identify the disease in the Arlington office, we can send your problem to the Plant Disease Clinic at Virginia Tech. Beginning October 1, 2021, there will be a $35.00 fee for samples submitted to the VCE Plant Disease Clinic at Virginia Tech. The $35 fee applies to both digital and physical samples.  If we are not able to diagnose the problem from a digital submission, we will request a physical sample and there will be no additional fee incurred by the client. If a sample is diagnosed as “Insufficient”, a second sample (representing the same plant/problem) may be submitted and there will be no additional fee incurred by the client. (Simply include the “insufficient” diagnostic report when re-submitting the second sample—either as a hardcopy or a digital copy.)
Refunds will not be given.
The $35 fee applies only to samples submitted to the Plant Disease Clinic. There is no fee for the Insect Identification Lab or Weed Identification Clinic.

Payment will not be handled by the Plant Disease Clinic. Fees must be paid through Destiny One and the client must create an account in Destiny One where he/she will pay by credit card. The link to a google request form for a Destiny One registration site is:    https://tinyurl.com/DestinyOneRequest

For more information about how to submit a sample or to see a photo gallery of common plant problems go here:  https://spes.vt.edu/affiliated/plant-disease-clinic.html


How to take good diagnostic photos:

For best results, submit

  • A photo of the entire plant
  • A photo of the branch or section of the plant that is in question
  • Closeup photos of the problem, the top and bottom of a leaf if applicable, the signs of insects if applicable.

Tips for taking a picture of an insect

    • Put it in the freezer for a few minutes to slow it down enough to take a good picture;
    • Put it on a piece of sticky paper to slow it down;
    • Don’t smash it;
    • Place it inside of a small glass jar.

We recommend you watch Elaine Mills’ video on plant identification for tips on how to take the best photos to submit to the Help Desk.

Another excellent resource is Clemson University’s How to Take Good Photos for Your Extension Agent.


Need a Soil Test?

Soil Test Supplies and Locations:

  • Fairlington Community Center, 3308 South Stafford St, Arlington;
    You will find them outside our office or in a box affixed to a gate to our Small Space Garden adjacent to the loading dock at the rear of the building.
  • Greenstreet Gardens, 1721 W. Braddock Rd, Alexandria, 22302
  • Brown’s Hardware, 100 W Broad St., Falls Church, 22046
  • Bill’s Hardware, 2213 N Buchanan St, Arlington, 22207
  • Cherrydale Hardware, 3805 Lee Hwy Arlington, 22207
  • Ayers Hardware 5853 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22205

This video made by Friends of Urban Agriculture with Extension Agent Kirsten Conrad will walk you through how to collect a soil sample.

You will mail your samples to the Virginia Tech Soil Testing lab using the address on the Soil Sample Information Sheet that accompanies the container.

Allow 2 weeks for results to be returned via email.   For help with interpretation or a missing report please contact Agent, Kirsten Conrad at kirsten.conrad@vt.edu