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Extension > Garden > Master Gardener > For volunteers > Yard and Garden Line > FAQs

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Yard and Garden Line FAQs

I would like to sign up on the Line, but I work during the day and the shift is also during the day. Can I still volunteer?

Even if you work during the day you can volunteer on the Line. Before you leave for work, or during your lunch hour, you can listen to, record, and then delete the calls you are willing to answer. Then, you can research and return those calls in the evening. Please just try to answer all of them within 24 to 48 hours. Also be respectful and do not call people after 8:30 p.m.

How do I access messages from the Yard and Garden phone line?

To learn how to access phone calls from the phone line, see Guidelines for Retrieving and Answering Yard and Garden Phone Messages.

You can also visit the Yard and Garden Line webpage for more information.

When I checked the line, there were over 20 calls. Am I expected to answer all of these during my shift?

Some Master Gardeners who have a lot of experience and know how to find answers quickly may be able to get through 15 to 20 calls per shift, while others may only be able to get through 10. You are encouraged to start with 10, and then if you have time, go back and get more. Remember, just try to answer all of the calls you took within 24 to 48 hours.

What should I do if there are saved messages on the phone?

If there are saved messages on the phone, you must assume that they have not been answered or responded to. Please treat them like new calls. Sometimes, people forget to erase them, and that is often the case, but since you don't know for sure it is best to follow through with them.

Why were there so many old calls on the Line during my shift? Am I supposed to answer those too, or just the calls that come during my shift?

It is not uncommon to have old calls, especially if you take a Monday shift and calls come in over the weekend. Sometimes, if the shift prior to yours does not get filled, those old calls will be there as well. Please respond to the oldest calls first. Most of the time you will be answering old calls. The calls that come in during your shift will be answered by the next volunteer.

If a person has their line blocked and I can't get through, or if a call is long distance, what should I do with those calls?

Please send messages that you are unable to answer to your local coordinator, if you have one. If you can, please give the coordinator the question and your researched reply to the caller, so all they have to do is make the call, not do the research too. If you do not have a local coordinator, email your question with reply to The Master Gardener volunteer center coordinator can make those calls for you.

What should I do if I don't know how to find an answer to a question?

The first place to start is with your mentor or a seasoned Master Gardener. The second step is to ask your local coordinator, if you have one. Lastly, send an email to The Master Gardener volunteer center coordinator can help you with those questions. Do not call Extension educators directly unless you have exercised these other options first.

Oftentimes people want to send, or bring in, samples. How should I respond to those requests?

Depending on the type of sample, you can have them send photos via the email. If you ask them to do so, it is then your responsibility to follow up on the email. You can then forward the photo to your mentor, or a seasoned Master Gardener or coordinator, for identification if you don't know what it is. Another option: the client can bring their samples to their local Master Gardener program where they live. They should contact their county office to determine the best way to do that. Many counties have Diagnostic Clinics. Disease samples can also be sent by clients to the University of Minnesota Plant Disease Clinic for a fee. Last resort is to forward photos to This email account is monitored by the Master Gardener volunteer center coordinator. Make sure you use the find answers page first to make sure you can't determine the answer on your own.

Can I report the entire 8-hour shift as volunteer hours even if there were only 1 or 2 calls?

During low call volume days, if you listen to the messages at the beginning of your shift and there are only 1 or 2 calls, you are not expected to check the line every 15 minutes for the next 8 hours. Do your research, return those calls that are there, and if you check the line one more time and there are no other calls, you can consider your shift over. Record a minimum of 30 minutes for any shift served. If you find you have a heavy call volume, and you take 20 or more calls off your shift, and it takes you 4 to 5 hours of your time researching and returning calls, please record all your time and round it to the nearest 30 minutes.

I often work on the Line 4 times per month. Do I have to report each shift separately?

It is acceptable to lump multiple shifts into one posting when you report your hours online. If you serve frequently on the line, please try to post your hours monthly. If you only serve on the line a few times in a season, you can post those as one entry. Under the description area, you can just note the dates served. For example: Dates served in May: 3,7, 12, 15, and 21. Or, Dates served: 4/12, 5/25, 7/11.

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