Volunteer Files: A New EMGV’s Experience

Did you know that Master Gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions via phone, email, or in person? Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 – 4. The office is located at 721 Foster Street. The phone number is 919-560-0528. Some days are busy, so please leave a message if it goes to voice mail! If you prefer email, contact us at mastergardener@dconc.gov. Sometimes we can answer your questions right away, but occasionally someone asks us an interesting and tricky question. New Master Gardener Maggie Dolbow writes about one of those:

                   On the Phone

               by Maggie Dolbow

My first day working alone on the EMGV hot line came in October. This is my first year as a volunteer and I feel uncertain about answering. After gardening only in New England for my whole life, I have a lot to learn about North Carolina. Michelle (Wallace, our Horticulture Extension Agent) was in the office on this particular day, too, so that was a kind of comfort. Anyhow, on the particular call I am writing about I answered the call right away.

This gentleman had a big problem. Right away he let me know that his problem could not be answered by any of the research he had already done, mentioning the initials of something I did not recognize. He recounted his story of three Leyland Cypress trees, two of which had died within a week’s time! Michelle was in the room when this call came in. I repeated his problem and she asked how old they were. He said they had been planted in 1998. She said to tell him he was a good gardener since he had kept them alive that long. Then she told me to have him look for “armillaria” a white-fan shaped fungus behind the bark and at the soil line. Also, check for cankers. I gave the caller our email address as well so that he could email his findings. He realized that he had to get rid of the dead trees, but what could he replace them with? Would all woody ornamentals be at risk? It was a good question.

Later on in the day he emailed that there was no armilaria, and he sent me a chronology of how he cared for the trees. In that chronology he mentioned that the trees are watered daily as part of a regular sprinkler rotation. Hmm, I wondered. Really? Who waters their trees everyday? He is really vigilant. As it was getting near 3, I forwarded the email to Michelle, and got the office ready for closing.

 On my way home my brain continued to puzzle about the call. Had he drowned his trees, I wondered? Goodness it was such a wet summer, perhaps these trees just could not take so much water in our clay soil! Then I wondered if I sent the email to Michelle’s correct email address!

 I raced home and did some more research on Leyland Cypress. They need water when conditions are very dry, and then no more than 1” per week! (Willie Chance, Houston County Agricultural Agent) Oh gosh. I emailed Michele for confirmation of what I learned, and thankfully, she had already answered the caller. Yes, he had drowned his trees. Bad news and good news, (he had an answer) and an expensive lesson. One both of us is sure to remember.