Surface Creek
Monday August 03, 2015

We’ve had a few hot days and our cottonwoods have produced some early “snow flurries.” Our Delta County Master Gardeners diagnostic team has been operating for a month now and so it seems appropriate to discuss plant problem-solving diagnostics and how you can help.

First, let me provide you with two ways you can get answers to your plant problems. If you live in the Surface Creek area (Cedaredge, Eckert, Ward Creek, etc.) the Cedaredge Tree Board is hosting its annual Sick Tree Day on June 21. As its name implies, this opportunity only addresses tree problems. If you sign up for this service, you will have a yard visit by a team of tree board members and master gardeners led by Vince Urbina, a Colorado state forester out of Grand Junction. This is a first come, first served event with a home visit limit set at about 15. This is all we can cover in an eight-hour day. Sign up at the Cedaredge town hall or on the website: www.cedaredge
Your second opportunity for solving plant problems comes through the Master Gardener program of Delta County Extension. Master Gardeners can help you all through the summer on any gardening problem including ornamentals, vegetables, fruit trees, annuals, perennials, soils, you name it. All you need to do is call the extension office in Delta at 874-2195 or visit the office on Dodge Street, behind the courthouse. But in order to insure you get a speedy and accurate diagnosis, we, the Master Gardeners need your help.
Some problems are pretty straightforward and don’t need a lot of your help. But many others need information that only you can provide. We also often need a good plant sample. For a proper diagnosis we will need either a good description of the problem, a picture showing the problem, or a plant or soil sample. All of the above may be necessary to solve your particular problem.
Knowing about past gardening practices, when the problem first appeared, what the area around the problem plant looks like, are all key elements of a good information package. If you have a lawn problem such as brown dead spots appearing, don’t just give us a few dead blades of grass or even a sample containing the dead grass with soil attached. We need that sample to be taken at the edge of the problem area to include both healthy and unhealthy grasses with their soil. Otherwise we may only be able to confirm with you that your grass is indeed dead. Not the answer you were looking for!
Once we can identify the problem, we often can find solutions that only require a change in your gardening practices. But there are times we will have to recommend a pesticide such as an herbicide, insecticide or fungicide and maybe fertilizer as well.
If the information and samples in hand do not provide a ready answer, Master Gardeners will often suggest a house call where we come out and look at your yard and problems. Sometimes we can see something that helps solve the problem that you as the client can’t readily see. Master Gardeners are, after all, well-trained in all aspects of gardening through intensive day-long classes, once a week for thirteen weeks. And in following years we continue to gain hands-on training by doing diagnostic work with other, more experienced, master gardeners. We also continue to attend trainings and workshops to improve our ability to solve your plant problems.
But house calls are not free. We currently charge $25 per visit. These monies go into a scholarship fund to help defray our costs for attending additional training courses or workshops.
Sometimes we can solve your problem in a short,w 15-minute visit or like last week when two of us visited a yard in Cedaredge and spent two hours with the homeowners. I think they got their money’s worth. So the next time you suspect you have a gardening problem, please give us a call. And don’t pass up our generally free help.
Jim Leser retired to Cedaredge after a career with Texas A&M University Extension in entomology. He is a member of the Cedaredge Tree Board and a master gardener.

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