Blue skies and warm weather draw people out of their homes and into their gardens and landscapes. Some people are busy planting flowers and vegetables. Others are considering updating their landscapes, and others are finding problems in their gardens they need to tackle. Kerry Smith, the state coordinator for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System's Master Gardener program, says frequently these people have questions and need answers.
"The Alabama Master Gardener Helpline is an excellent resource for homeowners and gardeners to get their questions answered," says Smith. "Master Gardener volunteers will give answers over the phone. They will also direct callers to sound, research-based information available on the Web or send you printed information.
"Master Gardener volunteers will also refer callers to Extension horticulture professionals if they are unable to help."
Smith points out that the service is free.
People can call the Helpline at 1-877-ALA-GROW (1-877-252-4769). Most Helpline centers are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and several are open until 4 p.m. Callers can leave a message if they call when the Helpline is not open.
Smith points out that callers will be able to select the region of the state that live in.
"This enables callers to talk with Master Gardeners who live in their area and who are familiar with the plants, pests and conditions of the region."
Master Gardeners staff call centers in more than a dozen locations serving the seven Helpline regions.
Dr. Paul Mask, assistant Extension director for agriculture programs, says the Master Gardener Helpline allows Extension to expand its reach to citizens.
"Alabama Master Gardener volunteers supplement the work of Extension agents," says Mask. "They provide answers and information to the general public who are interested in gardening and landscaping as well as pest information."
In 2011, Smith points out that Master Gardener volunteers worked almost 8,000 hours on the Helpline.
Facebook users can find the Alabama Master Gardener Helpline on Facebook. Smith encourages people like the Helpline page so they can get Helpline updates in their newsfeeds.
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