MSU Extension’s Lawn and Garden Hotline continues to assist callers

Available now Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. EST, statewide responder teams answer calls.

A group of women sitting, posing for a picture
The MSU Extension’s Oakland hotline responder team consists of (seated left to right): Laura Sheffer and Ruth Marcy. Back row, left to right: Becky Irey, Barb Houchins, Susan Campbell, Dorthy McLaren, Lori Imboden. Missing is Karen Meyer. Photo by Chris Stanton.

Gardeners from all over Michigan continue to use the Michigan State University Extension’s Lawn and Garden Hotline (1-888-678-3464) Staffing the hotline are responder teams consisting of specially trained Extension Master Gardeners managed and overseen by consumer horticulture staff. This article is the second in a series highlighting a different statewide hotline responder team. This month features the MSU Extension state hotline responder team from Oakland County.

Eighty-one counties used the hotline in 2018 with 7,806 total calls answered. Responder teams assist callers from across Michigan and out of state. In 2018, 16% of calls were from Oakland County. The Oakland responder team provided callers with research-based information that saves gardeners time and effort while helping the environment. 

What do callers want to know?

Smart gardeners know that it all starts with the soil. They are very interested in properly interpreting their soil test results to determine their lawn and garden nutrient needs. In 2018, 308 callers were assisted with questions about soil testing. Rather than guessing their soil type and pH and nutrient needs, they are receiving specific soil test results that support successful growth and development of the designated plant, i.e., lawn, vegetable, flowers. Knowing if fertilizer is needed, how much and when to apply saves time, money and effort. Properly applying fertilizer also reduces nutrient runoff that is detrimental to the environment.

How do I get rid of this bug?

Insect issues are another popular hotline call. From bugs raining down from trees to grubs in lawns, many callers are simply annoyed by insects invading their landscapes. They want to know, "How do I get rid of this bug?" In 2018, the statewide hotline responder team assisted with 702 calls related to insects and pesticide use. Twenty-one percent were steered away from unnecessary pesticide use.

Why is this so important? Use of pesticides when only needed is key to pollinator protection. Making use of other techniques such as proper cultural practices and choosing the right plant for the right place helps protect the population of pollinators and natural predators, i.e., the good bugs that predate upon the bad bugs that eat your plants. Pesticides may kill more than the intended bad bugs eliminating some of the good bugs as well. Often times, insect populations are seasonal and fluctuate yearly due to differences in weather patterns. They may subside without treatment.

Other helpful identification resources available through MSU Extension include MSU Plant & Pest Diagnostic Services and Ask an Expert at the Gardening in Michigan website. The Michigan State University Extension’s Lawn and Garden hotline is now available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon EST. Call us at 1-888-678-3464.

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