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  • Author or Editor: Kenneth M. Tilt x
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Before analyzing the responses of Alabama garden center employees about the training they had received, we determined how satisfied 100 Alabama Master Gardeners were with the employee-s who helped them in the store from which they most often purchased plants for their homes, landscapes, or gardens. We mailed the primary survey to 472 employees of 130 retail garden center businesses in Alabama to determine the percentage of employees who received job training and the amount, frequency, and methods of training they received while working for their current employers (37% responded). Employees were categorized as managers (28%) or subordinate employees (72%) and full-time (72%) or part-time (28%). Forty-four percent of the employees had received some training at the time they were hired. Training continued for 68% of the respondents. Only 39% of the employees had a written description of their job responsibilities discussed with them. Most (85%) believed the training they received had prepared them to do their jobs well, but 82% said more training would increase their confidence in their work performance. Most employees were trained by one-on-one instruction (60%) and small-group sessions (5 or fewer persons) (65%). Few employees received training from videotapes (5%) or educational seminars (26%), and most that did were managers and full-time employees.

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The effect of short interval cyclic flooding on root and shoot growth of ‘Shamrock’ inkberry holly (Ilex glabra), ‘Henry's Garnet’ sweetspire (Itea virginica), and ‘Winterthur’ possumhaw (Viburnum nudum) was studied in a greenhouse in Auburn, AL. Liners (4.4 inches long) of each species were planted into trade 1-gal pots in 1 pine bark:1 peat by volume (PB:P) or fine textured calcined clay (CC). ‘Shamrock’ inkberry holly and ‘Henry's Garnet’ sweetspire were planted 18 Apr. 2008; the experiment was repeated with the addition of ‘Winterthur’ possumhaw on 16 June 2008. Plants were flooded to substrate level for 0 (non-flooded), 3, or 7 days. Flooding cycles were repeated at least five times with 7 days of draining between each flood cycle. During draining, plants received no irrigation. Non-flooded plants were watered as needed. Flooded plants for all species except ‘Winterthur’ possumhaw showed decreased root dry weight, shoot dry weight, and final growth index when compared with non-flooded plants. Survival was higher in CC than PB:P for both experiments. All plants maintained good visual quality and shoot growth. As a result, overall, these plants seemed tolerant of flooding despite differences in growth.

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Planting shrubs above-grade with organic matter has shown potential for improving landscape establishment. To further investigate this technique, wax myrtle [Morella cerifera (syn. Myrica cerifera)] (3 gal) and mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia ‘Olympic Wedding’) (5 gal) were planted on 30 Oct. 2006 (fall planting) and 12 Apr. 2007 (spring planting) in the ground in a shade house in Auburn, AL. At each planting date, plants of each species were assigned one of four treatments. Three of four treatments used a modified above-grade planting technique in which shrubs were planted such that the top 3 inches of the root ball remained above soil grade. Organic matter, either pine bark (PB), peat (PT), or cotton gin compost (CGC), was applied around the above-grade portion of the root ball, tapering down from the top of the root ball to the ground. In the fourth treatment, plants were planted at-grade with no organic matter (NOM). In general, both species had higher shoot dry weight (SDW) and root spread (RS) when planted in the fall than when planted in spring. Among all treatments, plants also typically had larger RS when planted above-grade with PB or PT. For easy-to-transplant species (such as wax myrtle) and especially for difficult-to-transplant species like mountain laurel, fall planting using this modified above-grade planting technique with PB or PT may improve post-transplant root growth and speed establishment in the first growing season.

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Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.) is an underused edible aquatic perennial vegetable currently evaluated as a potential functional food source and promoted in the southeastern United States as a rich source of phytonutrients. There is a paucity of information concerning consumer acceptance and willingness to purchase edible, value-added lotus products in the southeastern United States. The purpose of this exploratory study was to evaluate the potential demand and consumer preference for fresh lotus rhizomes and value-added products namely lotus salad, baked lotus chips, and lotus stir-fry. Results of two taste panels indicated that lotus stir-fry was the most preferred value-added product with 77% of participants strongly liking stir-fry, whereas 92% of the participants were willing to recommend this preparation. Results suggest socioeconomic characteristics such as gender (P = 0.014), age (P = 0.005), income (P = 0.043), education (P = 0.003), shopping habits (P = 0.013), and type of meal purchased (P = 0.004) are the factors affecting consumer choice and willingness to recommend lotus stir-fry. Results provide information on consumer acceptance of fresh lotus rhizomes and value-added products. Findings of this case study will assist in analyzing consumer behavior and development of sustainable niche markets for locally cultivated fresh edible lotus rhizomes.

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