“How do I submit a soil sample, what will it tell me, and why should I do it?”
You should always take multiple samples, or “cores,” from various points around your garden, lawn, flower bed, or whatever area you are looking to plant in. We recommend collecting 8 to 10 cores in a zig zag pattern throughout the area so we can determine the average nutrient levels. You can use a coring tool, shovel or trowel to dig up the sample. For lawns, we recommend collecting soil 3-4 inches below the surface. For vegetable gardens, ornamental plantings, and other deep rooted plants, we recommend 4-6 inches. Combine all of your cores in a clean non-metal container, mix them well, and transfer to a sandwich bag. Label all your bags if you are taking soil from multiple areas, and bring them into the office where we will transfer and process them, and finally ship them to the soil and water lab at the University of Georgia. Results are emailed to you within 5 to 10 business days and will show you not only what nutrients are available in your soil, but also how to make any amendments. Test lawns every 2 to 3 years, and vegetable garden plots every year. For more information, see our publication “Soil Testing for Home Lawns, Gardens, and Wildlife Food Plots.”
“My plant is dying! How can I find out what’s wrong with it?”
Our agriculture and natural resources agents as well as our Master Gardeners can help diagnose plant diseases a variety of ways. If you have an issue, the best course of action is to bring in a fresh physical sample of an affected plant. Bringing in a whole plant is best (such as vegetables or small flowering plants), but clipped tissue samples and high quality images will also work if this is not possible (such as in cases of trees or large shrubs). It is important to bring these into our office the day they are collected. It is best to submit these samples Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in case we need to ship them to our diagnostic lab.
“I think something may be wrong with my water. What should I do?”
We offer various water tests to diagnose a multitude of water problems in the home. A basic water test that detects the most common pollutants is recommended in cases of a foul smell, discoloration, odd taste, staining, or other symptom. We also offer tests for bacterial contamination, pesticide pollution and various other issues. Each test has specific instructions on how to collect your sample: please call us so we can instruct you on what test is best and how to collect the water for it.
“How do I become a Master Gardener Extension Volunteer?”
We hold MGEV trainings every year in collaboration with Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties. The application process starts in September and final selections are made by the end of October. Classes start the following year and run once a week from January through April. After you complete your coursework, you have one year to complete 50 hours of educational community service as a Trainee. Upon graduation, you are officially considered a Master Gardener, and will only need to complete 25 hours annually (though we have so many fantastic project you’ll easily find yourself involved with much more). For information on our next class, please click here.
“Do you offer credit for pesticide license holders?”
Yes! We regularly hold programs such as landscaping seminars and the “Getting the Best of Pests” webinars that qualify for continuing education credits across all categories. To stay informed about these programs, please join our email list and keep track of our social media. If you are unsure how many credits you have or need, or are interested in obtaining your license, visit the Georgia Department of Agriculture to learn how you can get started today.
“How do I start a community garden in my neighborhood?”
Starting a community garden is no small task, and keeping it going is an even bigger one! UGA Cooperative Extension Specialists have published several resources to help you through to process from start to finish. To get an idea of how to plan for, start and run a community garden, check out our “How to Start a Community Garden” publication. More information on this can be found in our Resources section.
“I think my tree might be dying. Can someone come out and look at it?”
We unfortunately do not have a certified arborist on staff, so we are unable to advise on tree removal due to liability. However, we do have a useful publication that can help you troubleshoot your trees. You may also visit the Georgia Arborist Association to find information about how to find tree care near you. If you need help selecting proper varieties for your yard, feel free to give us a call!
“Is my soil safe to build a house on and install a septic tank?”
Unfortunately, our soil tests do no help answer this question. However, there are a lot of certified soil classifiers who can perform structural assessments and percolation tests. Check out the list here.
“I just bought an acre/five acres/twenty acres and want to start a farm. What do I do now?”
To be a successful farmer, always start with knowing what grows well in your area, what markets you might want to enter, and what you’re interested in *before* you purchase your property. We are always happy to provide perspective and ideas to help bring you to your decisions. Check out our publications page for a wealth of information on vegetables and fruits in Georgia, market recaps and predictions, and useful tips for both large scale and small scale farms.