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Ask a Master Gardener
Northern Neck Master Gardener volunteers are here to answer gardening questions. 

  • Are your zucchini plants failing to bear?  
  • What can be done about the stink bug invasion? 
  • When should spring blooming bulbs be planted? 
  • When is the best time to prune abelias? 
  • What varieties of apples (tomatoes, string beans, blueberries, lawn grasses, etc.) do best in this area?
  • What kinds of grasses are suitable for shoreline planting?
  • And more...

We are here to advise and help.  Questions can often be answered quickly; however, there are times when additional research is needed to provide the correct answer.  This can include sending your samples to specialists at Virginia Tech for further analysis.

Help Desks
The Northern Neck Master Gardeners staff Help Desks located at Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) offices in Northumberland, Lancaster, and Westmoreland.  Master Gardeners take phone calls and emails and inspect samples brought in by local gardeners and homeowners.  Hours and contact information are as follows:

Northumberland Extension
7154 Northumberland Highway, Heathsville
Tuesdays, 9:00 AM – Noon
February through November
(804) 580-5694

Westmoreland Extension
18849 Kings Highway, Montross
Mondays, 9:00 AM – Noon
April through October
(804) 493-8924

Lancaster Extension
8311 Mary Ball Road, Suite 302, Lancaster
Thursdays, 9:00 AM – Noon
April through October
(804) 462-5780

VCE offices are open to the public from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM weekdays.  Soil test kits, a variety of brochures on plant care, and information about upcoming Master Gardener events can be obtained during regular office hours.

You may also send us a description of your problem by email.  Include a phone number where you can be reached during the day.  Attach photos of the plant or pest, where appropriate, to help diagnose the problem.

Plant Clinics at Farmers Markets and Special Events

At farmers markets and special events throughout the Northern Neck, Plant Clinics function as traveling Master Gardener Help Desks.  Plant Clinics are a regular feature at farmers markets in Tappahannock, Irvington and Heathsville.  Local merchants and special event sponsors provide other venues during the year.

Below is the Farmers Market Plant Clinic schedule.

  • Irvington Farmers Market
    First Saturday of the month, May - November
  • Tappahannock Farmers Market
    Third Saturday of the month, April, May, and  July - November
  • Heathsville Farmers Market
    Third Saturday of the month, April - October
  • Stratford Hall Wine Festival
    Date to be determined

Help Us Help You

When calling, emailing or visiting our Help Desks, be prepared with information about the ailing plant:  its name, location, lighting conditions, water conditions and what it looks like.  It’s also helpful if a sample of the plant, including both a diseased and healthy section, is provided. To keep the sample fresh, put the cut end of the stem in a moist paper towel and bring it to a VCE Help Desk as soon as possible.  Wilted plants are difficult to diagnose.

Other tips apply, depending on the type of sample:

  • If requesting plant identification, please bring in a sample large enough to determine size and growth habit.  Samples should include leaves, buds, stems, flowers, roots, and fruits/seeds or as many of these features as possible.
  • In case of suspected disease, submit as much of the plant as possible, including roots.  Include both diseased and healthy tissues in the sample so that a comparison can be made.
  • For insect identification, preserve butterflies, moths and bees by freezing.  All other specimens should be preserved in alcohol.

Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

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