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Several traditional print extension resources have been published on program evaluation, including Evaluating Impact of Extension Programs, by R. Rennekamp, P. Warner, and R. Maurer, 1996, Univ. of Kentucky; and Evaluation for Accountability, by B. Sawer, 1992, Oregon State Univ. Additional resources from other agencies, such as the Minnesota Department of Human Services' publication Measuring the Difference Volunteers Make can aid in the evaluation of extension programs. New reporting methods are now being used to present information and program evaluation such as Minnesota Impacts http://www3.extension.umn.edu/mnimpacts/index.asp, and Oregon Invests. This workshop session will define terms important in evaluation reporting, suggest resources to use, and propose a method of reporting evaluation information of similar projects in environmental horticulture programs throughout the United States.

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Development of a new children's horticulture curriculum, the Junior Master Gardener program, from Texas A&M Univ. has lead to several youth projects in Minnesota. In Chisago County, Minn., Master Gardeners have instructed 4-H leaders who taught weekly sessions to elementary age children. Older teens have been leaders in this project as well. In Hennepin County, Minn., the program has been used by teachers and Master Gardeners in a formal classroom setting. Additional programs in Anoka, Rice, Winona, and Washington Counties, Minn., have used this curriculum. Leaders say the strengths of the program are the extensive and detailed list of projects, the impact on the local community when children do the service component, and children's learning of the scientific concepts that are the basis of the program. Cost of the materials and distribution are negative features. Further program examples will be highlighted and detailed at this workshop.

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Miscanthus sinensis was investigated where it has naturalized and invaded native plant communities in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Washington, D.C. area, western North Carolina, and Iowa. Plants were identified; inflorescences were collected; seed was cleaned and tested for viability; and soil was collected for seed bank analysis. Many individuals were interviewed at each location. Locations were mapped to show miscanthus. The species or “wild type” Miscanthus sinensis that has naturalized at the above locations is rarely sold in the nursery trade. The numerous, popular, ornamental cultivars derived from this species are vegetatively propagated clones that are common in the nursery trade. Miscanthus is self-incompatible and sets seed only when two or more genotypes are grown together. Individual isolated plants set little seed. Plants of the wild type which have naturalized each represent a unique individual or genotype and thus set heavy seed, quite different from ornamental cultivars. Further complicating this is the high variability of seed set due to environmental conditions. Management guidelines were developed along with recommendations which include: Do not plant the species Miscanthus sinensis. Cultivars of the species, especially when two are more are grown together, represent a high risk for self-seeding in the Mid Atlantic states. Cultivars should only be planted in areas where they can be watched and managed for self-seeding. No miscanthus should be planted where it can seed into native areas, such as highways, fields, meadows, or wooded areas. A comprehensive website with identification, pictures, management guidelines, and recommendations was developed: http://horticulture.coafes.umn.edu/miscanthus.

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Homeowner surveys conducted in Edina, Minn., showed varying levels of horticultural knowledge on lawn care. A majority of consumers, 75%, knew the value of lawn clippings was equivalent to one fertilization treatment, but 72% did not know the amount of fertilizer needed for a medium maintenance lawn. A total of 77% indicated spring as the single best time to control broadleaf weeds, and 39% thought spring was the best time to fertilize, whereas 48% indicating fall as the best time to fertilize. Current practices included the following: leaving clippings on the lawn, 75%; bagged and removed clippings,16%; 83% apply fertilize in the spring; 67% fertilize in the fall; 61% apply herbicides; 74% mow weekly; 51% mow at 2–3″, but 27% mow at 1–2″. Environmental attitudes were rated on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being strongly agree and 4 being strongly disagree. Consumers strongly agreed that pesticide (1.5) and fertilizer (1.7) applications should be posted in public areas. The statement “A well kept lawn increases property values” also found strong agreement, (1.6). Consumers disagreed that pesticides are not harmful to the environment (3.3) and public health (3.3); while fertilizers were only slightly less harmful to the environment (3.0) and public health (2.9). A 10% weed population was acceptable (2.2) but 25% was not (3.3). Areas for consumer education exist in the time and amount of fertilizer, timing of weed control, and mowing height. Because of negative attitudes toward pesticides and fertilizers, recommendations for medium to low input grasses should be well received.

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Many different vegetatively propagated cultivars of Miscanthus sinensis Anderss. are popular ornamental grasses sold at garden centers and nurseries. Large stands of the “wild type” or species (not ornamental cultivars) of this grass have self-seeded near Asheville, N.C.; Valley Forge, Pa.; and Washington, D.C. In order to document the competitive ability of this self-seeded naturalized species, a greenhouse competition study was conducted with Panicum virgatum L. `Forestburg' (P), switchgrass, and several non-native, naturalized biotypes of Miscanthus sinensis (M) grown from seed collected from the above locations. Seedlings were transplanted into #1 (2.88 L) containers in nine different planting arrangements: 2M; 4M; 8M; 2M2P; 4M4P; 8M8P; 2P; 4P; 8P, and grown for 15 weeks. Growth measurements were taken during the 15 weeks. At harvest, shoot and root dry weights were calculated. Panicum had significantly larger root (0.50 g vs. 6.00 g) and shoot (6.96 g vs. 2.3 g) biomass, respectively, than Miscanthus. Intraspecific competition in monocultures was significantly higher for Panicum than Miscanthus. Panicum showed higher competitive ability than all Miscanthus biotypes, with one exception: root dry weights of one Pennsylvania biotype. Panicum increased in dry weight at the expense of Miscanthus. Panicum dominated Miscanthus during the 15 weeks and, in this study, proved to be a better competitor than Miscanthus. Miscanthus and Panicum did not fully share the common limiting resources and they showed partial resource complementarity. Miscanthus biotype variation was evident; the highest dry weights were from a Pennsylvania biotype and the smallest weights were from a Washington, D.C., biotype.

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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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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