The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network designed to help individuals with many activities, one of which is gardening. It is actually managed on a federal level within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA provides federal funding to the system. Each state and territory has a state office at its land grant university. The state office then manages county extension offices. For gardening assistance, you will want to reach out to your county extension agent and depending on the office, you can:
- Get your soil tested free
- Find out what is wrong with your plant
- Get plant/pest information
- Obtain publications on specific topics
- Attend lectures and workshops sponsored by them
- Get involved in the Master Gardener Program
In Maryland, the University of Maryland manages the Maryland Cooperative Extension. For gardening assistance contact your county extension agent or the Home and Garden Information Center, 12005 Homewood Road, Ellicott City, MD 21042, (410) 531-5556.
In Virginia, the Virginia Tech University manages the Virginia Cooperative Extension program. Headquarters is at Virginia Cooperative Extension, 101 Hutcheson Hall, 250 Drillfield Drive, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0327; (540) 231-9347. Contact your Virginia county extension agent for gardening assistance.
In DC, the University of the District of Columbia manages the Cooperative Extension Service through its Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education. This is part of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences at 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008, (202) 274-5000. They offer classes, workshops and the Master Gardener program.
I was surprised that they are still active in San Jose. Nowadays, so much information is available online. Yet, people still stop by their office to drop off samples of plants with problems to be identified. I used to stop by to help them with those that they were having difficulty with.
Soil testing is a big topic in this area, but it is not free here. It costs $20+ depending upon what type of tests are being requested.