Experts can find solution

KENNEWICK -- Washington State Unviersity's Extension Master Gardener volunteers are ready and willing to help you with garden or landscape problems.

All you need to do is ask and they will try to help determine the cause of the problem and recommend a research-based solution. This service is available at no charge.

The volunteers staff clinics where you can come to them with your questions, or you can call them at the Benton County WSU Extension office.

It has been a tough summer for gardens and gardeners. The WSU Extension Master Gardeners have been busy helping diagnose scads of problems.

The current "top five" problems that they have been seeing in the clinics are:

1. Leaf scorch is characterized by crispy brown edges on leaves of trees and shrubs. The complaint is most common on trees and shrubs planted within the last several years. Leaf scorch tells the Master Gardeners that the leaves aren't getting enough water. Lack of adequate water is just one of the causes. It's also often related to how it was planted and a lack of root growth after planting.

2. Excessive lawn thatch becomes a problem in mid-summer when temperatures get hot. Large areas of lawn start to turn brown no matter how water is applied to the lawn. When samples are brought into the Extension office clinic, the presence of thatch can be confirmed.

3. Blossom end rot where the bottom of a tomato develops a brown leathery area. This is a calcium deficiency within the fruit, but is usually not a caused by a lack of calcium in the soil. This is most often related to watering problems, either too little or too much ... or fluctuating between the two. Even soil moisture is the best prevention. Other veggie garden problems are heat related woes, such as bitterness in cucumbers, lack fruit set and uneven ripening of tomatoes.

4. Squash bugs are elusive, but they are most likely the cause of the suddenly wilting and dying of squash, cuke and melon plants, especially if the soil moisture is adequate. At dusk, check at the base of the plant and vines for gray squash bugs. Although, it's important to note that these vines normally will wilt during mid-day heat, then perk back up as temperatures cool off in the evening.

5. Lawn and garden weeds are a common problems seen by the Master Gardeners. The two most common ones in the clinics right now are crabgrass and bentgrass.

Where you can get help from WSU Extension Master Gardeners in Benton and Franklin counties:

Benton County WSU Extension Office, Benton County Annex, 5600 Canal Drive, Kennewick. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. By phone: 509-735-3551

Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive. They are in the lobby as you enter the building. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m.

Mid-Columbia Library, Kennewick Branch, 1620 Union Street, Kennewick. Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. They are in the lobby as you enter the building.

Mid-Columbia Library, Connell Branch, 118 N. Columbia, Connell, WA. Mondays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension Office.