Horticultural growing medium components must be selected with regard to their influence on properties such as cost, availability, ease of mixing, appearance, pH, nutrient levels, soluble salt levels, exchange capacity, aeration, particle size distribution, bulk density, water-holding capacity, and consistency. Over the past several decades, various types of compost products made from urban waste materials have been evaluated as components in horticultural growing mixes. The highest-quality compost products tested have frequently compared favorably with peat as one of the organic components in growing mixes. The lowest-quality compost materials tested have retarded plant growth and, in extreme cases, contributed to plant mortality. Occasionally, compost products that performed well in research trials did not prove to be satisfactory when used in commercial nursery crop production because of the lack of repeatable consistency between batches produced in large-scale municipal composting operations. One of the major reasons for the lack of consistency in compost quality is the highly variable nature of organic feedstocks accepted by many large-scale composting operations. The highest-quality composts tend to be produced in composting operations in which facility management decisions are made with consideration on their impact on the economic, physical, and chemical parameters of the end product.
Florida is one of the nation's leading states in citrus, foliage, vegetable, and ornamental crop production. The Univ. of Florida is the only public institution in the state of Florida that offers a bachelors degree in horticulture and /or environmental horticulture. The main campus in Gainesville is centrally located ≈400 to 500 miles from either end of the state. Changing population demographics within Florida have emphasized the necessity of developing programs to reach non-traditional students. Students who are place bound due to work or other responsibilities represent an increasing part of the potential market. The Univ. of Florida, recognizing the specialized needs of non-traditional students, established Bachelors of Science degree programs in environmental horticulture at the Fort Lauderdale and Milton research and education centers. The centers teach the same core curriculum being taught in Gainesville, but the centers also teach additional courses specific to their geographic location to allow for a tailored program. The off-campus facilities have teaching faculty at the centers to teach the courses and also use satellite technology to down link courses from Gainesville. The development of off-campus programs in Fort Lauderdale and Milton allow the Univ. of Florida to improve the effectiveness of educational programming to reach place-bound students.