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Denny Schrock

Consumer horticulture surveys conducted 7 years apart examined the scope and trends in home horticulture in Olmsted County, MN. Master Gardener volunteers were trained to conduct the telephone surveys. Landscape horticulture was important in terms of numbers of people involved and reasons for gardening. Fewer people viewed vegetable gardening as important. Young people were less likely to garden than older ones. Lack of space was the biggest barrier to gardening.

It was concluded extension should expand newspaper and newsletter media efforts. Development of cooperative programs with garden centers and other agencies was suggested. Opportunities exist for training consumers in pesticide safety and best management practices for horticulture.

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Denny Schrock

A new course, Topics in Home Horticulture, was developed at the Univ. of Missouri in Fall 1996. The course incorporated a mix of traditional lectures, hands-on laboratories, and technological teaching tools. Approximately 1/3 of the lectures were developed with computer presentation software; the remainder with slides or overhead transparencies. Class notes and some reading assignments were posted on the Internet. All students participated in a class e-mail discussion group. The course evaluation assessed students' use of and reactions to technological tools for the class. Students who used the Internet most frequently were more likely to agree that the class web pages enhanced learning. The greatest barrier to use of the Internet web pages was inconvenience of access. Students found the e-mail discussion group most helpful to get answers to questions outside class and to receive comments from peers. No strong preferences were expressed by students for type of lecture format. On a 5-point scale (1 = none to 5 = a lot), students' self-assessment of experience with the Internet as a result of the course increased 1.3 points, on average, while experience with e-mail increased 0.8 points. On the same scale, home horticulture knowledge gained was self-assessed to have increased by an average of 1.4 points.

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Andrew L. Thomas and Denny Schrock

Hundreds of perennial plant species native to the midwestern United States have potential as ornamentals, but information on how best to use such plants in the landscape remains scarce. Many horticulturists are looking for species that perform well under low-maintenance conditions and that also attract and benefit desirable fauna, such as butterflies and birds. While many of our native plants may fit into this category, not all such species will meet aesthetic criteria for home landscapes. Some native species respond to seasonal changes in temperature and rainfall by browning or going dormant. Others have very specific site requirements for moisture, soil, and humidity that may be difficult to meet in an urban landscape, or their size, growth habit, or other characteristics may make them aesthetically undesirable in the typical home landscape. This study evaluated the performance of 67 plant taxa native to the midwestern United States selected for their promising potential in a low-maintenance landscape situation.

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Michele R. Warmund and Denny Schrock

Master Gardener training was delivered via interactive television (IT) or face to face (FTF) in Missouri in 1997. IT and FTF participants were surveyed on their acceptance of the Master Gardener training method and their perceptions of program quality and technology to evaluate the newly developed multiple site IT training. Demographic characteristics were also recorded to determine if IT format attracted a different clientele than that of FTF training. Those who participated in IT training generally had more years of education than those in the FTF training and lived in suburban rather than rural areas. IT participants missed fewer training sessions than FTF participants. However, IT participants rated the slide quality, sound, and overall training lower than the FTF group. Some problems associated with IT training identified by the participants are correctable, which should improve future acceptance of this technology.

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Bryn Takle, Cynthia Haynes and Denny Schrock

Recruitment and training of new volunteers is necessary to grow a Master Gardener organization, but retention of current individuals has advantages. Aligning reasons for volunteering with recruitment and continuing education topics with the interests of volunteers is essential in a successful recruitment and retention plan. The objectives of this study were to determine the motivations for volunteering in the Iowa Master Gardener program and to identify popular continuing education topics, preferred delivery methods, and social media usage among this audience. Learning about gardening and horticulture was the most important reason Iowa Master Gardeners volunteer with the program. In addition, altruism is important to these volunteers, but they do not recognize the full impact their projects have on their local community. They have a strong interest in learning about native plants and sustainable horticultural practices. The most preferred delivery methods were live presentations and workshops. Video presentations and webinars were generally less preferred. Respondents used certain social media sites, such as Facebook and Pinterest, some or a lot. Although this study was limited to Iowa Master Gardeners, results regarding motivation factors align closely with previous studies. We speculate that the results for advanced training topics, delivery methods, and social media usage would similarly align for Master Gardener programs across the country.

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Jyotsna Sharma, Steve Pallardy and Denny Schrock

Perennial wildflowers, once established, are a low-maintenance alternative in a flowerbed. However, water stress and poor root development in field soil can be detrimental to young plants at the time of transplanting. A fully expanded hydrogel, HydroSource, was incorporated to replace 0% (control), 7.5%, 15% (recommended rate), and 30% of the volume of a clayey field soil to determine its effect on plant water status. Addition of hydrogel reduced water stress in Asclepias incarnata and Gaillardia grandiflora plants. Plants growing in hydrogel amended soil had: 1) significantly lower stomatal resistance (P < 0.01); and 2) significantly higher leaf water potential (P < 0.01). Gaillardia grandiflora control plants showed considerable wilting (reflected in high stomatal resistance and low water potential readings) on the 3rd day of the drought period while those with 15% and 30% hydrogel were turgid even on the 5th day. Hydrogel-amended soil appeared less compacted, and root growth in Asclepias incarnata increased with the increasing rate of hydrogel added to the soil.

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Denny Schrock, Mary Meyer, Peter Ascher and Mark Snyder

A survey was conducted of current and former Missouri Master Gardeners to identify the demographics of volunteers and to determine if Master Gardeners fit the demographic pattern of volunteers in general. Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents were active in the program, while 32% were inactive. Females accounted for 65% of respondents and males 35%. Nearly 60% of Missouri Master Gardeners were 50 years old or older; however, those in their 40s comprised the largest demographic group. The majority of Missouri Master Gardeners were married with children. Over 50% had at least a college degree, while 22% had post-graduate work. One-third had household incomes of $60,000 or greater; in addition, just under one-quarter had household incomes between $40,000 and $60,000. The largest occupational group was retired persons, at 26.9%; the second largest category was homemakers at 14.6%. Missouri Master Gardeners are more likely to be from small towns or rural areas than from medium or large cities. They tend to be long-term residents of their communities; 57.2% had lived at their current residence for more than 10 years. Missouri Master Gardener volunteer demographics fit the pattern of volunteers in general, but demographic data proved to be a poor predictor of intent to continue volunteering in the Master Gardener program.

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Denny Schrock, Mary Meyer, Peter Ascher and Mark Snyder

Current and former Missouri Master Gardeners were asked to respond how strongly they agreed or disagreed with a list of benefits provided by the Master Gardener program. The survey instrument was an adaptation of Rohs and Westerfield's (1996) Master Gardener Societal and Personal Benefits survey. Questions were assigned to one of the six principal components of volunteer motivation developed by Clary et al. (1998): Understanding, Values, Enhancement, Social, Protective, and Career. Master Gardeners who are currently active volunteers in the program were more likely to respond favorably to many of the benefits provided by the Master Gardener program. Respondents most strongly indicated their agreement that the Master Gardener program, more than any other similar organization, provides benefits related to new learning experiences, exercising knowledge, skills, and abilities, categorized as understanding (U). The overall mean for U was 4.35 on the 5-point Likert scale, a significantly higher score than any other category according to Duncan's multiple range test. Benefits related to personal growth and self-esteem, labeled enhancement (E); those related to altruism and humanitarian concern, labeled values (V); and guilt reduction over being more fortunate than others and addressing one's own personal problems, labeled protective (P), formed the second tier of benefit importance. Benefits related to preparation for a new career or maintaining career-relevant skills, categorized as career (C) were next. Benefits concerning relationships with others, classified as social (S), concluded the list.

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Denny S. Schrock, Mary Meyer, Peter Ascher and Mark Snyder

Current and former Missouri Master Gardeners were asked to respond to each of 30 reasons (an adaptation of the Volunteer Functions Inventory [VFI]) for doing volunteer work. Principal factor analysis confirmed the presence of six principal components of volunteer motivation. Master Gardener functions related to new learning experiences (understanding) were equally as important as functions related to altruism (values). Satisfactions related to self-esteem (enhancement) ranked next in motivational importance. Motivations concerning relationships with others (social), protecting the ego (protective) and functions related to preparation for a new career (career), concluded the list. In addition, respondents were asked to indicate whether they were presently volunteering as a Master Gardener, how many years they had been active in the program, and level of volunteer time commitment to the program in the past year. In most cases, no correlations or statistical differences were found among respondents belonging to different demographic categories, making demographic information a poor predictor of motivation for volunteering. However, those who volunteered more time during the past year were more likely to highly rate certain motivational factors.

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Michele R. Warmund, Denny S. Schrock and Doris P. Littrell

A two-way interactive home horticulture course was developed for undergraduate and graduate students and for Master Gardener training. The three-credit course was offered at the broadcast site, as well as four other remote locations. Three-hour sessions were presented by state and regional Extension Specialists each week over a 15-week period. In addition to live broadcasts over the fiber optic network, each session was video-taped and sent to each location. Takehome exams and special student projects were required. Evaluations indicated that comprehension of subject matter was not impeded by the mode of delivery. This course was a cost-effective means of delivering Master Gardener programming and teaching nontraditional students simultaneously at remote locations. Moreover, travel time and expenses were reduced, allowing faculty to devote their time, usually spent traveling, on other endeavors.