I answer a lot of questions about gardening on a regular basis, and I’m always happy to do so. I spend several days a week working at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa, raising butterflies and maintaining grounds for wildlife. Guests from around the country often ask how they can do the same at home. General answers are easy to provide: plant nectar and host plants, provide shelter, and so on. But gardening in Florida is very different from gardening in, say, Seattle. So when I field detailed questions about plants for a specific region, my answer is always the same: contact your local Cooperative Extension Service Office.
Extension Service Offices are part of a large program supported at the national, state, and local level called CSREES. The program supports research at designated universities, and in exchange those schools share their knowledge with the community. Local Extension Service Offices serve as the link between researchers and the public. They help to answer questions about agriculture, health, community economic development, and more. The expertise they provide varies from state to state, but in all areas gardening is one of their specialties.
Extension services include extensive online resources and printed publications, many available for free. My local extension office offers rain barrel and composting workshops. They staff tables at plant shows and community events, handing out brochures and answering questions. They support 4-H programs and sponsor recycled yard art contests. And, like many offices, they offer a master gardener help desk. Community members can contact expert gardeners by phone or email with specific gardening questions for the area. You can visit the extension service offices for soil tests, or to see their demo gardens. The list goes on and on.
The range of services available at your own local office will likely astonish you. Ready to find out about the resources available to you? Find your own local Extension Service Office by clicking here.