In the past, anyone calling a local Michigan State University Extension office with a gardening question might have to get an answer from someone in a field other than consumer horticulture. That all changed when Master Gardener volunteers from Genesee, Kalamazoo, Kent, Livingston, Oakland and Washtenaw counties stepped up and generously donated their time to answering questions that come through the existing toll-free number. Now statewide, people can get answers to questions from a consumer horticulture expert concerning vegetable and flower gardening; lawns, shrubs and trees; indoor plants; and garden and house pests.
Bob Bricault, MSU Extension horticulture educator and project leader on this program, is proud of the Master Gardeners. Bob knows that change is often challenging, yet the volunteers took on this task – even though it was different from what they were used to – and accepted the challenge.Bob explained. “That’s what’s great about Master Gardener volunteers. They’re taking their training to educate the public, helping them make decisions that affect their lives and the environment.”A team of horticulture educators developed the state garden hotline. The team included Bob, Rebecca Finneran, Terry McLean, Gretchen Voyle, Linda Whitlock and Mary Wilson. The team has provided educational materials for answering the calls from across the state and helped with the planning and development process for the hotline. The team will use webinars for future training sessions for Master Gardener volunteers that are staffing the hotlines.The project is part of the targeted program through the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute and just another example of how we use technology to provide Michigan gardeners and consumers with the information that they need to help them improve their lives.The MSUE Lawn and Garden Hotline uses the same toll-free number that people use to reach county offices: 1-888-MSUE-4MI (1-888-678-3464). It is answered weekdays between 9 a.m. and noon and 1 and 4 p.m. People who call during other times are directed to the “Ask an Expert” feature at http://www.migarden.msu.edu/.