Rutgers Garden Helpline
What is the Rutgers Garden Helpline?
Sussex County clients may call RCE with any plant or insect question and Rutgers Master Gardener volunteers and Rutgers staff will diagnose plant problems, recommend proper horticultural practices and provide informational fact sheets.
What is the best way to contact the Helpline?
Email is the best way to communicate, because if clients can provide pictures it helps to make the best diagnosis and offers a way for volunteers and staff to send links to resources which provide recommendations and step-by-step management options.
Contact RCE Sussex at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can I send you a picture?
Yes, pictures are very helpful. They must be very sharp and in focus in order to be able to provide a diagnosis. (Using a flashlight to provide supplemental light when taking photographs close up will help the camera focus on the details.)
For plants, take a close-up picture of the symptoms, a slightly further out photo to show where the damage is occurring on the plant, and then a picture of the whole plant, showing where it is sited/its location and surroundings.
For insects, a photo looking down on the insect, a side/profile angle, and the bottom of the insect (belly and legs) provides the best chance for identification. Wing patterns, eyes, mouth parts, antennae and legs are important defining characteristics for insects.
What are the Garden Helpline Hours?
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Can I drop off a sample at the office?
Yes, we will look at samples under the microscope to identify issues. The office is open 8:30am-1:00pm; 2:00pm-4:30.
If you need to drop off a sample after hours, please contact the office before you drop it off to be sure someone will be available to look at the sample first thing in the morning (so it will not degrade before we get to it).
How do I provide a good sample?
When providing a sample to RCE please follow these directions:
Make sure your contact information is noted on the container: name, telephone number and email address.
Plant samples degrade very quickly, the sooner you can bring the sample to the office from cutting or digging it, the better the chance for a successful identification/diagnosis.
For plant identification samples – a plant in flower provides the best chance of identification. If you can provide the entire plant, roots and all, that provides the most amount of identification information. Pot it up, water it a little bit and bring it to RCE as soon as you remove it from the ground. For a cut sample, place it in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel on the cut end to help keep it fresh.
For plant diagnostic problems (sick plants, damaged plants) – put the sample in a sealed plastic bag (to keep potential insects inside the bag). Samples should include both a section representative of the symptoms as well as a section showing healthy plant tissue.
Insect identification – place the insect in a rigid container such as a pill bottle or small box. This will protect the insect from being crushed. Crushed samples cannot be properly identified. Do not stick the insect to tape. The tape will not allow the microscope to focus properly and causes difficulty with handling the sample.
Do you make site visits?
No, we do not make site visits to residential clients.
Rutgers Master Gardeners
What is a Rutgers Master Gardener?
Rutgers Master Gardeners are trained RCE volunteers who provide support to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension mission through outreach efforts, educating the public and engaging communities throughout New Jersey with unbiased research-based information in horticulture, agriculture, and natural resources. Rutgers Master Gardeners provide support to educational gardens, and deliver horticultural enrichment programs, outreach at public events, and educational presentations.
How does a person become a Rutgers Master Gardener?
The first component is completing the Rutgers Master Gardener horticultural education. Then Rutgers Master Gardener Intern volunteers apply what they have learned through 60 hours of volunteer service to RCE. They may receive additional training specific to certain volunteer tasks, such as helpline diagnostics, or research support. Having completed both components, volunteers then earn the title of Certified Rutgers Master Gardener. To remain an active Rutgers Master Gardener, volunteers complete a minimum of 10 hours of continuing education and 25 hours of volunteer service annually.
Will the Rutgers Master Gardeners come take care of my garden?
No, Rutgers Master Gardeners are volunteer educators. Contact us if you need training provided on horticultural and environmental topics.
When are Rutgers Master Gardener Training Classes held?
Class schedules and costs vary annually based upon client interest and availability of teaching faculty and staff. Contact our office to find out when the next class will be held.