AMES, Iowa – Iowans have gotten their lawn and garden questions answered by Iowa State University horticulturists for three decades by calling Hortline at 515-294-3108, an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach hotline. With the expansion of the Internet, an email option was added in 1997 with inquiries directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now the Iowa State horticulturists who support Hortline have assembled frequently asked questions on a Yard and Garden FAQs website at http://expert.hort.iastate.edu/.
“The website lets individuals find answers to common garden questions whenever they wish,” said Richard Jauron, ISU horticulturist and author of the weekly Yard and Garden column. “Hortline hours are limited to 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, so the Yard and Garden FAQs website allows people to look for answers at other times of the day, evenings and weekends.”
The website currently has answers to more than 750 commonly asked questions on a wide range of gardening topics. The FAQs cover topics on vegetables, fruits, annuals, perennials, roses, bulbs, lawns, trees, shrubs and indoor plants. Searching the site is as easy as typing in one or more keywords or browsing the subject categories.
“Answers are specific to Iowa gardeners,” Jauron said. “The information may not be appropriate for individuals in other regions of the country because of different weather and soil conditions.”
Jauron is the horticulture specialist behind the scenes answering many of the more than 3,200 phone calls and 1,400 emails each year. He has been instrumental in building the database for the new website, calling on his extensive history with the horticulture help line and his understanding of the most common questions asked. Assembling answers to common questions on a website may cut Hortline contact numbers – but it will definitely expand the horticulturists’ reach to even more people looking for answers.
“With the addition of the website, gardeners now have a full range of options for having questions answered by an Iowa State University horticulturist,” Jauron said. “Some questions will be resolved by the website questions and answers. Other gardeners will want to talk to someone and will call Hortline; while others may want to send a photo and prefer using email.”
Jauron also answers yard and garden questions in his weekly news column published on the ISU Extension and Outreach website http://www.extension.iastate.edu/.