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Margaret Balbach

Introductory Horticulture at Illinois State University is approved for inclusion in the University Studies Program. This program is comprised of courses whose content is considered of general importance to the educated layperson, rather than to the specialist in the field. Departments may use the University Studies Program as a means of attracting students to the field. This has been done with fair success with Introductory Horticulture. Because the course must provide personal enrichment, be broad in scope, offer a systematic design for further learning, and assure a breadth of knowledge and understanding, this course has been designed to focus on the economies of the various horticultural industries, how they are related to the socioeconomic history of the various regions of the country and how the marketing of horticultural products and enterprises affects the personal life of individuals. Acceptance of this approach has been two-fold: first: student evaluations are positive, a steady enrollment has been maintained, and the course has steadily provided 10% to 15% of new Horticulture students, and second: the University Studies review committee has twice affirmed the “tenure” of Introductory Horticulture in spite of increasingly stringent guidelines that discourage many traditional science courses.

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Margaret Balbach

The traditional content in introductory horticulture courses emphasizes plant structure, physiology, and production. At Illinois State Univ., however, the course work has been designed to meet University Studies requirements as well as departmental needs. The students taking the course are viewed as a market, and basic principles of marketing are used to gain and keep the interest of a wide variety of students, few of which have had any previous contact with horticulture. Extensive coverage is given to the historical, social, and economic status of horticulture in the United States. This nontraditional approach has been successful in the view of students and faculty. Postcourse surveys found that 98% of students felt that they had gained a good working knowledge of horticulture, and that 95% believed they would be a more knowledgeable consumer. Some departments use the University Studies program as a means of recruiting new majors, and this potential was not ignored in designing a marketing approach to the course content.

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Harold E. Balbach and Margaret K. Balbach

Thousands of property owners annually attempt to develop a natural landscape on their property. Annually, thousands of people are cited for violation of “weed laws,” nuisance laws, subdivision covenants, and other local ordinances. Often, these regulations allow the city to mow the “weeds” first and follow up with fines, bills, and other legal actions. How reasonable are these requirements? What is the basis of the regulations? How do they vary by state and locality? Is every property required to have a smooth, unbroken bluegrass lawn? A variety of case studies across the midwest shows much local variation in both the wording of the ordinances and local tolerance for diversity of landscaping goals. The most successful responses require considerable planning and effort, and the least successful attempts are simplistic “no more mowing” declarations.