The Master Gardeners Information Desk offers customized advice to home gardeners about their garden problems. Our volunteer staff promotes sustainable gardening practices supported by research-based information from the University of California and other academic or government institutions. The volunteers have access to an extensive library, UCCE Advisors, university internet sites, and a stereoscope for identifying and researching home gardening problems.
You can contact us by email, phone, or an in-person visit:
In person visit and sample drop off location: University of California Cooperative Extension office in Santa Rosa, 133 Aviation Blvd, Suite 109
To provide a diagnosis and give advice on what to do about a problem, we need as much information as you are able to provide. If possible, bring samples of the plant that show the problem or samples that need identification to the information desk.
Plant specimens should be fresh and submitted in sealed plastic bags. Include leaves, stems, roots, flowers and fruits when possible.
Insects that are submitted for identification should be alive (if possible) and in plastic bags or jars with secure lids.
If you cannot get to our office when it is open, please leave your sample, labeled with your name and contact information, in the drop-box in front of the office. Please fill out the gold-colored form with your contact information and information about the sample. Be sure to fill out both sides of the form.
If you are unable to drop off samples, please send an email with detailed information about the problem and provide clear photos if possible.
Please be ready to answer the questions below when you visit the information desk. If you email us, include this information in your email. In any case, provide as much information as you can.
Questions to consider:
How extensive is the problem? (On one type of plant or several? In one location or all over the garden?)
What kind of plants are affected?
If you don't know either the botanical or common name of the plant, give a detailed description. Is it a tree? a shrub? a flowering perennial or annual?
Approximately how old is the plant?
If you haven't provided samples, what does the problem look like?
How much of the plant is affected?
If there are other plants of the same type near it, do they have the same problem?
Did the problem appear suddenly or has it been developing slowly?
Is this a new problem or has it occurred before?
Are insects present that seem to be associated with the problem?
Describe the insect. Color? Size? Any specific body parts that you observe?
Where did you find the insect?
When did these insects appear?
Do you know of anything that happened that may promote the growth of this insect population?
Describe the growing conditions:
What part of the county do you live in? Describe the specific microclimate if you can.
What kind of sun exposure does the plant get? (sun? afternoon shade? partial shade? shade?)
What type of soil is the plant growing in? (clay? loam? sand?)
What kind of irrigation is used? How often and for how long? Have you checked lately to see that it is working?
What fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemicals have been used around the plant?