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  • Author or Editor: Mary Hockenberry-Meyer x
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Master Gardeners (MGs) were paired with homeowners who volunteered their lawns for demonstration sites in Edina, Minn., as part of a yearlong community-wide campaign to teach low-input lawn care. Project objectives were to 1) promote locations where community members could see low-input lawn care, 2) provide individualized instruction to homeowners via MGs, and 3) explore the feasibility of home lawns as public demonstration sites. Surveys suggest that participants changed practices because of the individual instruction from MGs. Further recommendations are given for using private homes as demonstration sites.

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Homeowners in Edina, Minn., were surveyed in conjunction with a low-input lawn care community educa- tion project. Surveys were sent at the start and finish of the yearlong project, and asked questions pertaining to the respondent's lawn care knowledge, practices, and environ- mental attitude toward lawn inputs. The responses from before the program, compared with those afterward, show overall that homeowners lawn care did not change signifi- cantly by the end of the educational campaign. Responses are useful, however, in targeting future educational efforts. For example, while >80% of respondents were aware of the benefits of leaving mowed clippings on the lawn, <6% knew how much fertilizer is needed yearly for a medium mainte- nance lawn. Participants indicated a 10% weed tolerance was acceptable, but 25% was not; and disagreed with the state- ment &quot;pesticides are not harmful to the environment.”

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The effectiveness of Internet or online training was compared to traditional classroom training in the Master Gardener Core Course/Horticulture 1003 at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. Overall horticultural knowledge was significantly greater for both groups in posttest results, and there was no significant difference in horticultural knowledge between the two groups. Online learners did not perceive the lack of instructor face-to-face interaction to be as important as did classroom participants. Online learners also placed a greater value on flexibility of class time and no commuting. Both groups spent approximately 75 hours on the class. However, 20% of classroom participants' time was commuting. Online training was an effective method for teaching Master Gardeners in this study.

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A decision case was developed and used to train volunteers at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The case presents a real life dilemma for volunteers at public horticultural institutions, allowing volunteers to experience a realistic decision making process, applicable to their volunteer jobs. Volunteers are able to identify that the decisions they make in their volunteer position ultimately affect the institution as a whole including visitors and volunteers. The case is written as an active learning tool for use in a volunteer orientation or continuing education workshop. Volunteers benefit from an enhanced understanding of the importance of communication of changes in life commitment, including how these changes relate to their particular volunteer interests.

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Five ornamental grasses {little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash], prairie dropseed [Sporobolus heterolepis (A. Gray) A. Gray], feather reedgrass [Calamagrostis ×acutiflora(Schrad.) DC. `Karl Foerster'], flamegrass (Miscanthus Anderss. `Purpurascens'), and variegated Japanese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensisAnderss. `Variegatus')} were propagated by transplanting plugs or field divisions into 480-mL (10-cm round), 2.7-L (no. 1), and 6.2-L (no. 2) nursery containers with media ratios (v/v) of 0:1, 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, 1:0 rice hulls to sand, resulting in aeration porosities in 2.7-L containers of 5%, 12%, 22%, 28%, and 41%, respectively. Planting dates were between 28 Oct and 10 Nov. 1997; 30 Apr. and 7 May 1998; and 23-28 Oct. 1998 and 1-10 May 1999. Plants were covered with plastic and straw from the second week in November until the second week in April. Winter survival was evaluated 6 weeks after uncovering and for finished dates every 2 weeks thereafter. Species had a significant effect on overwintering survival, but container size and media did not. Sporobolus heterolepis and M. sinensis `Variegatus' had significantly lower overwintering survival than the other species. Container size significantly influenced growth; the 6.2-L containers had the highest values for all growth parameters. Growth response to media was a weak (nonsignificant) quadratic response, indicating for these species no clear trend for the best media aeration porosity.

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Fifty-five online survey responses, 15 phone interviews, and 9 site visits were conducted to collect information on academic (for credit) classes, internships, and Cooperative Extension programs at botanic gardens and arboreta in the United States. Academic programs investigated were primarily instructional credit classes. Thirty-five (64%) of the respondents indicated their garden offers an entire or partial academic class on-site. The most limiting factor in offering more academic classes was faculty time or staff limitations, as indicated by 21 participants (38%). Thirty-one (56%) gardens offer some type of internship, although only 16 (30%) were offering an academic (for credit) internship. Respondents indicated extension involvement as follows: Extension Specialists/Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) teach classes on-site, 23 (42%); EMG training was held on-site, 17 (31%); EMG answered questions on-site, 16 (29%); and 26 (47%) indicated “other” extension collaboration. Sixty-six percent reported their working relationship with extension as minimal or fair as opposed to 33% who described their extension relationship as good to excellent. Examples of successful programs in these three areas are presented, which offer models for collaborative work between botanic gardens, academia, and extension.

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A survey of e-mail discussion list participants found 84% rated the program as a valuable or very valuable educational tool. Most participants, 82%, thought it was equal to or more valuable than printed materials such as fact sheets or bulletins. Participants cite advantages as rapid response, unique, specific information not found in other sources, and a sense of connectedness to the Master Gardener program. Disadvantages include too much e-mail, frustration with participants who do not look up easy traditional questions, chitchat, and nonhorticultural postings. A summary of messages by subject shows tree and shrub questions are asked most often.

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A survey of gardeners in Minnesota found they get their information from friends and garden centers. Older gardeners were less likely to use the Internet. The highest interest was indicated for annuals, perennials, and containers, followed by trees and shrubs. Most participants had not attended a gardening class in the past year and indicated they learn best from talking with friends. Publications are of interest to gardeners, and they highly value color photos and illustrations. The University of Minnesota and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum were perceived as significantly more credible and trustworthy than garden centers, and participants felt these institutions should provide educational programs, even if survey respondents were not participating in these programs. About half the participants were not able to comment on the level of bias of the university and arboretum, and other traits (credible, trustworthy, expert, and knowledgeable) were unknown to one-third to one-half of the participants. Participants knew more about these traits for garden centers and home stores. Participants in this survey indicated they look for convenient sources of gardening information and, although many felt the land-grant university and arboretum were highly credible and knowledgeable, they were still more likely to use other sources for their gardening information. This poses a challenge to universities and arboreta to use new ways to reach gardeners.

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A long-term, landscape grass hardiness study was initiated in Summer 1987 at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen, MN, USA [United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone (USDA PHZ) 4b, –20 to –25 °F]. This location averages a 158-day growing season (frost free), summer temperatures of 79.9 °F, and winter temperatures of 10.4 °F. Over 35 years, 392 different kinds of plants from the grass (Poaceae) and sedge (Cyperaceae) families were planted to evaluate winter survival, landscape value, flowering, and pest resistance. Most plants (n = 271, 69%) survived at least 4 years, 186 (47%) survived 10 years, 81 (21%) survived 20 years, and 29 (7%) survived 35 years. Sixty-eight plants (17%) were deemed not winter hardy in this location (USDA PHZ 4b), and 53 are listed with insufficient data for a hardiness rating. Changes in maintenance as well as challenges encountered with long-term trials of herbaceous plants are discussed.

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A bibliography of references on Native American agricultural traditions is proposed to integrate horticulture into classroom teaching with a multidisciplinary approach. Five teaching themes are given as examples of using the references to incorporate horticultural activities across diverse disciplines such as mathematics, history, language arts, economics, and social sciences.

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