Sometimes as gardeners we have a bug that’s buggin’ us, a fungus among us, or plant that is an indeed a weed. There is...

Sometimes as gardeners we have a bug that’s buggin’ us, a fungus among us, or plant that is an indeed a weed. There is a positive way to identify the problem, the Cooperative Extension office. I had a chance recently to visit Mike Likins, County Agent at the Chesterfield Cooperative Extension office. The office is located at the county government complex behind the old courthouse and adjacent to the museum. The physical address is 6807 Mimms Loop, Chesterfield. I asked Mike a few questions about collecting samples and how the Extension Service can help citizens with those pesky pests:

If you think your plant has an issue, why should you collect a sample?

First, plants cannot talk; they show symptoms such as yellow leaves. The yellow leaves are not a result of just one issue. Yellow leaves can be a result of one of several issues, and that is one reason to collect a sample for proper diagnosis. The purpose of a correct diagnosis is to cure or control the problem. After all, you want the plant to look like it did when you bought it.

What parts of the plant are needed for a good sample?

Mike prefers a sample that contains healthy plant tissue connected to plant tissue that is “sickly” connected to recently dead plant tissue if there is dead tissue. Bringing a dead leaf or a dead branch is not an ideal sample. Once the tissue is dead, the pests move on to living tissue. For turf issues, collect a sample about four to six inches wide and include the roots and soil. Use aluminum foil to contain the soil and roots. Think of it as a turf cupcake. For weeds, bring the whole weed if possible. No soil is necessary for weed samples.

Can anyone bring a sample to the Extension office?

Yes, and it’s the preferred method. Collect the sample and place it in a plastic sandwich or freezer bag depending on the size and bring it to the Extension office. You will be asked to complete a sample submission form and if time permits, the diagnosis will be performed while you wait. If you cannot wait, a diagnosis will be performed and a “prescription” will be sent by e-mail or by phone if you prefer. You can also take a sample to your local library. The library staff can direct you to the sample collection area. Place the sample in the earlier described plastic bag as well as a paper bag. A sample can also be mailed to the Extension office.

What about insects?

Please bring any insect samples directly to the Extension office.

Mike advises anyone who has questions about how to collect a sample to please call the office at 751-4401. Someone will be available to guide you on how to take a good sample because good samples lead to good diagnoses. The best part is the service is free. “Free” is a four letter word we don’t hear enough.

Follow me on Twitter @vngardener