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Get help to protect your turf
Stafford residents can get answers to just about any lawn or garden question from local Master Gardeners or at the county's Virginia Cooperative Extension office

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Date published: 6/23/2004


AS YOU READ this, Japanese beetles probably are munching on your rose bushes. Fire blight may be infecting your pear tree. Tent caterpillars could be building a home in your maple. And diseases are likely attacking the blades of grass in your lush, green lawn.

It's a jungle out there, all right.

And no one is more familiar with all the dangers than Guy Mussey, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Stafford.

One of Mussey's duties is to manage the Master Gardener program and train a volunteer army that can help you defend your turf--literally and figuratively.

To become full-fledged Master Gardeners, volunteers receive 50 hours of classroom instruction and perform 50 hours of hands-on work during their first year. After that, there is an annual recertification process.

The hands-on service includes activities such as visiting schools and conducting homeowner seminars. Among the programs available to Stafford residents this summer is a weekly plant clinic conducted by Master Gardeners at Porter Library every Tuesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

"The questions we get at these kind of clinics tend to change as the seasons change," Mussey said. "But they cover just about every subject you can imagine--garden plants, lawns, trees, insects, mosquitoes, moles, voles, beavers and raccoons."

He said perhaps the strangest question came last year, when someone found the skeleton of a cow in the woods behind his home and wanted instructions on how to assemble the bones.

I had to ask why.

"Who knows?" said Mussey with a laugh. "We're horticulturists, but we were able to help him."

He said another caller reported an insect in his home that looked like a praying mantis on steroids.

"It turned out to be a dobsonfly," Mussey said. "It's a large flying insect, but not as dangerous as it looks."

For lawn care, Mussey recommends that homeowners start with a soil test kit, which is available at the Cooperative Extension office at 405 Chatham Square Office Park. Kits also are available at many lawn and garden stores and at the Porter Library plant clinics.

The kits are free, but there is a $7 charge to have the soil analyzed at Virginia Tech. Homeowners then receive a report that includes the levels of various nutrients in the soil and the degree of acidity, along with recommendations for care and treatment.

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