Master Gardeners – Plant Detectives?

by Ann Barnes, EMGV

Did you know that Master Gardener Volunteers have office hours? If you have a question, you can email, call, or stop by the Cooperative Extension building at 721 Foster St. (See the sidebar of this blog page for contact information)

A shift in the office can be unpredictable. Sometimes all is quiet. Often, multiple callers are experiencing similar problems and volunteers are able to quickly provide answers. Occasionally, though, working in the Master Gardener office can be a bit like stepping into the plant version of a gritty detective novel.

Imagine the scene:

A citizen contacts the office with a grainy iPhone photograph of a plant in decline. The volunteer on duty knows a list of questions to ask, then researches the problem in the office library and on research based websites. Often, our intrepid volunteers have seen the problem before and can provide advice the same day. If the mystery isn’t easily solved, our volunteer may ask the citizen to provide additional photos or even bring a sample into the office for diagnosis. Sometimes it is necessary to look at the plant with a hand lens to search for tiny pests or signs of disease. Leaves, stems, roots, and even soil can hold clues. It may not always be easy, but Master Gardeners are trained to know what questions to ask, where to look for answers, and who to contact when the clues don’t add up to an easy diagnosis.

Does this sound like something you’d love to learn to do? 

The Durham County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program conducts a 15-week training program once every two years. The next program will be conducted January-April 2017. Classes are once a week, on Thursdays, from 9:00-12:30 at the Durham County Extension Office, 721 Foster Street. In order to apply to the program you must:

1. Attend one information session (dates listed below).

2. Submit your application by Monday, November 7, 2016.

3. If you are selected, pay the $120 registration fee by December 31.

The fee covers training materials.

Info Sessions

To begin the process, attend one required information session conducted at the Durham County Extension office at 721 Foster Street.

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2-3pm
  • Thursday, September 29, 10-11am
  • Wednesday, October 5, 2-3pm
  • Thursday, October 13, 6-7pm
  • Saturday, October 15, 10-11am
  • Wednesday, October 26, 2-3pm

To find out more about the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program visit Or plan to attend an upcoming information session. Call 919-560-0525 to register for an information session.