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Gardening Hotline Helps Struggling Green Thumbs

As spring weather hits the Ozarks and gardeners start digging, local horticulture experts get on the phones to help those struggling green thumbs. KSMU’s Kristian Kriner reports.

That’s the sound of volunteer Gary Jones flipping through what he calls “the gardener’s bible” to answer a caller’s question.

This is Jones’ second year answering gardening questions for the Greene County Master Gardener’s Hotline.

The hotline started in 1982, and its volunteers have been answering over 2,500 gardening calls each year.

Jones says he gets around eight to 10 calls in a four-hour block.

“If I don’t know the answer off the top of my head I will take their number and I will look for guides, guide sheets that the extension service put out. Or we will go online and look for some information from another extension service. Ohio State gives us really good information and we’ll maybe then print that off and mail it to them,” Jones said.

Jones says on about half the questions, he has to look up the answer because they aren’t in his area of expertise.

He says the types of gardening questions change every year, especially if there is flooding or colder weather.

“You’ll always get them whenever the Japanese Beetles hit and it hits over night practically, so everyone’s having trouble at the same time and don’t know what to do with it,” Jones said.

Jones says he expects more calls this year because the economy is making more people go out and buy seeds to grow their own food.

He says there are several things new gardeners should do to get started on their gardens.“Get their soil test, get their garden prepared, the soil prepared, plant the cool season things if they’re going to do a vegetable garden. Spinach, lettuce, onions, peas could be planted now with no problem,” Jones said.

Jones says he will try his best to answer any question a new or old gardener wants to ask.

If you have a gardening question, you can call the hotline at 862-9284 from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.

For KSMU News, I’m Kristian Kriner.