Service helps residents with lawn, garden, insect queries

Posted: September 11, 2013

The Winchester Star

Virginia Hisghman (left), a member of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners, examines a tree branch being held by Cathy Dickey, an intern with the group.

WINCHESTER — Insects and plants are just two of the areas of expertise for a group of volunteers who work out of the Virginia Cooperative Extension office in Frederick County.

Since April 5, members of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners have staffed the Greenline help desk.

Greenline is a free service to the community to primarily answer lawn and garden questions, said Mark Sutphin, horticulture extension agent.

Queries about the types of insects in a person’s home are also common, he said.

Greenline volunteers use online and real-world references to help answer the questions they receive, master gardener Virginia Hisghman explained.

“We don’t always have an answer immediately, but we’ll research it and we’ll get back to the person,” Hisghman said. “Sometimes it has to be sent to Virginia Tech for identification or further clarification.”

Virginia Tech has an insect identification lab and a plant disease clinic, Sutphin said.

He added that the Greenline is part of the extension office’s mission of disseminating research-based information from the state’s two land-grant universities — Virginia Tech and Virginia State University.

“It has to do with information on water quality, on environmental practices, proper horticultural practices,” Sutphin said. “That is what we’re about.”

Greenline volunteers will be available in the Virginia Cooperative Extension office on the second floor of the Frederick County Administration Building from 9 a.m. to noon every Friday through October.

Additional assistance is available by emailing

— Contact Matt Armstrong at