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We tested prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) using six different germination treatments and found the best results with cold (40 °F), dry storage followed by direct seeding into a commercial germination mix placed in a 75 °F glass-glazed greenhouse with intermittent mist (5 seconds of mist every 8 minutes), and 600-W high-pressure sodium lighting with a 16-hour daylength. We found commercial laboratory viability analysis from tetrazolium staining did not correspond to germination results. Cold (34 °F), moist (2.3 g seed moistened with 2.5 mL deionized water) treatment, also known as cold conditioning, produced significantly less germination and fewer transplantable seedlings, and is not recommended for prairie dropseed.

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A new gardening curriculum, developed by Texas A&M University, the Junior Master GardenerSM (JMGSM program, has been taught in several locations in formal and informal settings in Minnesota. Two projects are outlined here, one an after-school program offered through a community education program, and the other a traditional elementary school setting. With hands-on activities and leader presentations, students learn horticulture as well as language arts, science, mathematics, and social science and are encouraged to volunteer in a community service project within each unit. Students reported they shared the information with their family and friends; most indicated more of an interest in gardening and horticulture after the classes. Teachers may find the curriculum helpful in developing environmental sensitivity and career interests in horticulture.

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Research at botanic gardens, from medieval times to the present day, has evolved to encompass a wide range of topics. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, part of the University of Minnesota, is an example of a diverse, successful research program within a public university garden setting. Collaboration, mission, organization, and publications are keys to a successful research program. Future research for public gardens, including putting collections to work for conservation, understanding global change, ecological genomics, restoration ecology, seed banking, and citizen science are collaborative ideas for all botanic gardens to consider. Research can strengthen the botanic garden's role by providing public value while improving ties to the university.

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Six hundred homeowners, equally divided among rural, suburban, and urban areas in Minnesota responded to a 1999 phone survey on their lawn size, maintenance practices, and the perceived environmental impact of their lawns. The average lawn size was estimated to be 0.62 acres (0.25 ha), with an estimated 872,660 total acres (353,427 ha) in home lawns in Minnesota. Annual spending on lawn care per home was about $200, with an estimated $150 million spent annually in Minnesota. Participants reported low maintenance practices and pesticide use. A majority thought fertilizers and pesticides were harmful to the environment and public health. Respondents felt strongly that the government has a right to regulate fertilizers and pesticides in public park and lawn areas, but were divided with regard to the appropriateness of regulation on private property. Many (78.9%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that their lawn was harmful to the environment. Most (60%) felt their lawn could have an effect on the environment and 71% felt they personally could make a difference in the environment by how they maintained their lawn.

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The demand for native plants has been increasing as consumers exhibit stronger interest in sustainable gardening and landscaping. To determine whether point of sale (POS) displays increased consumer knowledge of native grass (Poaceae) benefits and affected consumer purchases, a marketing study was conducted over 2 years at five garden centers in Minnesota. A POS display poster and plant tags listing four benefits of native grasses were displayed at the garden centers in 2016 and 2017. We surveyed 341 consumers at these garden centers to understand consumer knowledge of native grasses and the influence of the POS display. Respondents totaled 84 (30.7%) who indicated they had bought a native grass that day, and of those 84, 54 (64.3%) had seen the display. The binary probit model estimates showed that seeing the POS display increased the likelihood of a native grass purchase. If a consumer had previously purchased a native grass, they were more likely to purchase a native grass again. Consumers who expressed a greater willingness to purchase native grasses based on their environmental benefits were more likely to purchase a native grass. However, neither the level of knowledge that consumers possessed about native grasses nor demographics significantly increased likelihood of purchase.

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Chinese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis) is native to East Asia and South Africa and has been grown as an ornamental in the United States for over 100 years. Chinese silvergrass is on the invasive species list for 12 states in the United States and is regulated for sale in New York state. It is often found along roadsides in middle-Atlantic states and Long Island, NY. In 2019 and 2020, we sowed chinese silvergrass seed harvested in Fall 2002 and Spring 2003 from several locations in North Carolina where it had naturalized and from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, MN. The seed had been stored in a seed storage vault (4 °C) from 2002 to 2020. Germination in 2003 showed variation between 53% to 95% from 19 different individual plants. This same seed when resown in 2019 and 2020 had much lower germination that could be divided into three categories: no germination (five plants), germination of 1% or less (seven plants), and germination of more than 2% (seven plants). Results from this study show that seed viability may be a long-term problem in locations where chinese silvergrass has naturalized.

Open Access

Focus groups and surveys were used to align volunteers' work with the mission and organizational objectives of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (MLA) at the University of Minnesota. In focus groups, a cross-section of volunteers discussed several issues, including how they could more directly contribute to the mission and organizational objectives of the institution. Staff were surveyed on their perceptions of the volunteer workforce, including their current use of volunteers. Focus groups and surveys proved to be valuable tools to approach programmatic changes in volunteer involvement at the MLA by providing a platform to discuss the areas where change is needed, as well as what kind of change should occur. Focus groups can be a key tool in involving volunteers, by allowing them to provide input on changes that directly affect them, in addition to furthering the understanding of volunteer needs and motivations.

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Prairie dropseed [Sporobolus heterolepis (A. Gray) A. Gray] is a critical North American native grass that is often not incorporated into prairie restoration seed mixes due to its low survival and growth rates. This project investigated using hydrogels, landscape plugs, and native field soil to improve the survival and growth of prairie dropseed. At three tallgrass prairie restoration sites at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, we planted prairie dropseed plugs in Fall 2019, Spring 2020, and Fall 2020. When grown in the field from 42 to 94 weeks, we found that potting mix–grown plugs had increased growth as measured by dry weight compared with plugs grown in native soils. Soil medium did not influence survival rates. The use of hydrogels did not demonstrate increased survival or growth compared with plugs planted with water. We recommend land managers and restorationists use plugs grown in commercial potting mix rather than grown in native soils, and we found no advantage in using hydrogels over watering at planting.

Open Access

The North Central Consumer Horticulture Integrated Pest Management Working Group developed an online learning module entitled, “Introduction to Diagnostics for Master Gardener Volunteers: Approaches to Plant Pest Diagnosis.” The module is online in the campus or learn section of eXtension and is composed of three parts: part 1 covers the difficulties in diagnosing plant problems; part 2 discusses how to gather the information necessary for the diagnostic process; and part 3 covers the Ohio State Fact Sheet, “20 Questions on Plant Diagnostics.” The self-paced module takes a minimum of 2 hours to complete, although participants have access to the information for 10 weeks. The module costs $10 and the income is distributed between the module author(s), the state which the Extension Master Gardener (EMG) is from, and eXtension. Within 11 months, 451 people purchased the training. Participants reported a higher comfort and knowledge level of diagnostics after taking the training.

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Consumer horticulture encompasses interior and exterior ornamental, food, and community gardening. These activities influence the environment in many ways, affecting water quality and quantity, waste management, wildlife, and environmental sustainability. Consumer horticulture also impacts human health and well-being. In spite of keen consumer interest and the robust commercial impact, there is a paucity of support for consumer horticulture at both the state and federal levels. To explore strategies for increasing support for consumer horticulture, a workshop with four presentations was held at the annual conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science on 31 July 2014 in Orlando, FL. Presentations described the formation of a new Southern Experiment Extension/Research Activity, Landscapes and Gardens for Better Living (SERA44); the local funding sources and local issues that focus research, education, and extension efforts in consumer horticulture; and the need to develop shared goals to drive regional projects. The need for a national strategic plan for consumer horticulture, and a process for creating one, was outlined. A strategic plan could galvanize the support of diverse stakeholders; focus research, education, and extension efforts; and build a strong case for resources dedicated to consumer horticulture.

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