New gardeners and experienced green thumbs have a myriad of resources available to answer all their gardening questions. A common response to gardening questions is to “Call your local cooperative extension office.” Who are they and why should you call them?
The cooperative extension system is an educational research network sponsored by the USDA. Government and university researchers gardeners work together to provide information to commercial and home gardeners.
Every state has a central extension office at a land-grant university and local cooperative extension offices staffed with volunteers throughout the state. These volunteers, known as Master Gardeners, are experts in different fields of horticulture and they work primarily with home gardeners, answering questions about what to grow, when to grow it and how to identify plants and diseases. Extension offices also perform soil testing, which is what they are most commonly known for.
What’s great about the extension program is that their services and information is free or nearly free. Finding answers from on free fact sheets on extension websites or through a phone conversation with your local Master Gardener is a great alternative to paying for a gardening class. In addition, since the extensions are localized, the information you receive is relevant to your region.
So, next time you have a question about your garden, contact your local cooperative extension office for expert information tailored to your needs.