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Yard and garden hotline
Excerpted from the Grand Rapids Herald

Whether you're a Sunday gardener in Winona with a fertilizer question or a late night seed catalogue shopper from Moorhead who is interested in recommended tomato varieties, Yard and Garden Line has answers as close as your telephone. The new University of Minnesota Extension Service telephone information line offers all Minnesotans several options for gardening help and other kinds of Consumer information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Yard and Garden Line, which began service April 15th, has been receiving more than 200 calls per day. Callers to 888-624-4771 (toll-free) outside the Twin Cities can get information in several ways depending on which option they select via their touch-tone telephone. Callers can leave a message and request a free call back from a Master Gardener in their own county who is knowledgeable about local conditions. Other callers may listen to free recorded information on dozens of yard, garden and household pest topics through the fully automated Info-U message and fax service.

Callers whose question requires a more detailed answer or who don't want to wait for a call back from a Master Gardener can transfer their call to the Yard and Garden Clinic on the University of Minnesota campus. There, for a $5 fee billed to a credit card, callers can question University experts in horticulture, plant diseases, and insect problems. Staff hours for that service are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. The only other fee-based services connected with Yard and Garden Line are a $5 fee for submitting garden or insect samples for identification or $7 for a soil test.

Yard and Garden Line callers may also have their questions about wildlife or water quality transferred to other University experts for free answers. Wildlife questions, including such topics as controlling garden damage from squirrels, birds and raccoons, go to staff at the University's Bell Museum of Natural History every day from 2 to 5 p.m. Questions about water quality, shoreland management and septic systems are transferred to an expert at the University's Water Line. That service operates weekdays during normal business hours.

Yard and Garden Line also sponsors a site on the World Wide Web with links to a variety of University publications, Info-U scripts and other services. That web site is at www.extension.umn.edu/Documents/B/L/Ygi.html. Beth Jarvis, Yard and Garden Line coordinator, updates the site regularly with university information and links to other sources for reliable lawn, garden and insect information.