How do I ‘Ask a Master Gardener’?

~ Kristy Lund, TCMGA President

Tillamook County Master Gardeners are people like you, interested in learning more about the art and science of growing and caring for plants in the garden, the landscape, and the home. In exchange for classroom instruction, Master Gardeners agree to help local Oregon State University Extension faculty and staff extend the resources of OSU to the community by offering Reliable, Relevant and Reachable gardening information and education opportunities.

  • Reliable: our gardening advice and education is science-based.
  • Relevant: customized information for your gardening situation.
  • Reachable: Call us on the phone, email us a question, or visit with us at markets or gardens in your community.

As we are all aware, the “Reachable” element has been difficult for the past year. In the past, Master Gardeners have been available in-person on a regular schedule, at the OSU Extension Office on Third Street, as well as local Farmer’s Markets and our Learning Garden at the Tillamook County Fairgrounds. In all these in-person situations, we answer client questions on the spot, or start the information gathering process necessary to research problems. We refer to these events, whether in the office, or at other venues, as Plant Clinics and they are a core function of the Master Gardener program.

The Covid-19 pandemic has required a shift in how Master Gardeners conduct Plant Clinics due to lack of access to the Master Gardener Office and no in-person contact with clients, so are now developing another way to be “Reachable”, via our Virtual Plant Clinic. 

For any of our Plant Clinics, Master Gardeners strive to:

  • Gather thorough and accurate information while conducting client intake;
  • Identify a variety of online reputable and research-based resources;
  • Effectively communicate diagnoses/recommendations with clients.

Our goal is to not only provide a research-based solution to a client’s question, but to provide the best solution for each client and their specific situation, and we are now providing that service virtually.

In our Virtual Plant Clinic process, you can reach us via our Tillamook County Master Gardeners Association website: https://tillamookmastergardeners.com

On our home page, you’ll see a tab at the top titled “Have a Gardening Question” which will send you to a short form you can fill out with your contact information and a brief description of the problem. Within 24 hours after you submit the form, a Master Gardener will be assigned to your case and will contact you via email or phone to gather the information we need to begin researching your issue.

You may also email us directly, at: tillamookaskamastergardener@gmail.com  In addition to providing us your contact information and a brief description of the problem, photos of plants or insects are always valuable aids in helping us identify the problem and find a solution quickly. With digital photos, tools such as PlantSnap for plants, and iNaturalist for both plants and insects are available to us and such tools are being used with good success throughout the Master Gardener program.

When we provide you with a solution, we are striving to make it as complete and usable to you as possible, so when we can, we will provide you with documents and photos, that you can access immediately, not just links to websites, and highlight critical information such as chemicals approved for homeowner use. If we have difficulty finding a solution to a problem, or there are multiple problems to research for a single client, we will reach out to other Master Gardeners for help, as we want to provide complete answers within one week of the initial contact.

Some of the benefits of the Virtual Plant Clinic are that we can get problems assigned and solutions researched more quickly. Just yesterday, I happened to be working in our email account when a client submitted a problem, and I was able to begin helping her immediately. Her initial description was well-detailed, and after our initial contact, she provided some good photos. As I began doing more in-depth research, I sent her some questions of my own, for clarification and requested additional photos that can help me provide the best solution for her situation. She didn’t have to wait until business hours on Monday, and drive to the Extension Office in Tillamook to submit her questions and I was able to work on researching solutions late last night, which is ideal for a night owl like me.

While Master Gardener volunteers are focused on providing home horticulture information via our Virtual Plant Clinic, there is another virtual way of getting information on a variety of topics from OSU Extension Office Staff, and that is via Ask An Expert.  Ask an Expert is a way for you to get answers from the Oregon State University Extension Service experts in family and health, community development, food and agriculture, coastal issues, forestry, programs for young people, and gardening. A link to Ask An Expert is on the Tillamook County Master Gardeners Association website, immediately below the client form under the “Have a Gardening Question” tab.

Oregon State University Extension Office staff are extending the resources of OSU to our local community, so please take advantage of the research-based information we can provide to you, throughout your home.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: