Root rot, leaf spots, brown patch – these are all things Stafford residents may be noticing in their yards right now. Thanks to a rainy spring, summer and so far, fall, our landscapes are seemingly under attack. Do not despair. There’s an office out there full of help for you, and most of it’s free! The Stafford County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension is standing at the ready to help you with numerous services and programs.
“Our goal is to help people have a nice lawn with low impact to the environment,” said Guy Mussey, Stafford County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent. “We will evaluate your lawn through our Smart Green Lawns program, test soil samples and provide a report to you on what you need to do with respect to fertilizers and pesticides.”
The Smart Green Lawns program emphasizes the proper way to utilize fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals. Mussey points out that pesticides are both heavily researched and regulated. Homeowners should take the time to read the information on the label and use it by those instructions. This action will help eliminate any issues for the environment or person. Mussey says that there is a perception that golf courses and farms cause the most pollution but he cites the misuse of fertilizers by homeowners as the primary source of contamination for Stafford’s waterways.
The Extension office provides proper pesticide training to commercial pesticide applicators as well as government employees and private citizens – mostly farmers. Individuals who are responsible for the use of restricted pesticides have to be certified as well as recertified.
The Extension office’s Smart Green Lawns and pesticide certification programs are just two of the many programs the office has that benefit Stafford County. Statistics show that for every dollar invested by the Commonwealth of Virginia in Stafford County, there is a return of investment of $5.75. This return comes from the value of the programming, expertise and volunteer time offered by the Extension office. Their efforts are also supported with local funding from Stafford County as well as the federal government.
The office’s expertise includes three areas of outreach: agriculture – which translates to mostly horticulture in Stafford County; child development in the form of 4-H programs; and Family Consumer Science which includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Among the many horticultural offerings by the Extension office is a Master Gardener Program with more than 130 active volunteers who hold plant clinics for citizens, work with schools on things like school gardens and visit homes to assist with gardening questions. Their volunteer hours are estimated to be valued at $537,461 in benefits to Stafford County.
Stafford has a thriving 4-H program with hundreds of children participating. Adult volunteers, who have been trained and passed background checks, facilitate activities like livestock, horse, leadership and sewing clubs. Their signature program is a sleep-away, week-long 4-H camp located in Front Royal. This camp, held in July, is open to any children, regardless of participation in 4-H.
The Extension office also provides a SNAP program designed by the state to help limited-income children and families acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to practice a healthier lifestyle. Families are taught how to buy, access and prepare healthier food. Fewer families go hungry through the facilitation of SNAP.
Best of all, all the resources available at the Extension office are backed by research. Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station researchers and specialists work in Blacksburg and at the state’s 11 Agricultural Research and Extension Centers to create knowledge that benefits the Commonwealth. They then share the knowledge with Virginia Cooperative Extension agents, who share the information with the citizens of Virginia to help individuals, businesses and communities thrive.
For more information, please visit the website of the Stafford County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension at www.stafford.ext.vt.edu.