Fall 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 3 // Ideas at Work // 3IAW1

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Reaching the Beginner


A. J. Lewis
Extension Horticulturist-Floriculture
University of Georgia-Athens

The greenhouse industry is an attractive one, especially to those looking from the outside in. People, such as retirees, those looking for supplemental income, or even those abandoning traditional farming often are attracted to the industry. As a result, Extension specialists are frequently called on to talk with "people thinking about getting into the greenhouse business" or with people who have taken the plunge and realize they need more advice. Such visits often require a full day, and often only scratch the surface.

The greenhouse industry is becoming increasingly complex. Not only must successful greenhouse managers be able to grow plants, but they must also know about pests and pest control, marketing, business and personnel management, and a broad array of other subjects.

For several years now, we've offered annually a Basic Greenhouse Management Workshop. Designed for the beginner or the new employee, it's a short course in greenhouse management compressed into a week-long workshop. The workshop, held in Athens at the university's main campus, is a cooperative effort of the Extension Horticulture Department, the Horticulture Department, and the Georgia Commercial Flower Growers' Association.

The workshop has always been full, with registration limited to 40 participants. The registration fee includes the cost of a notebook, textbook, handouts, and the graduation luncheon. Other meals and lodging aren't included in the fee.

Student educational backgrounds vary widely. Some are college-educated, but in fields other than horticulture. We try to use a variety of ways to present the subject matter. In addition to lectures, the program includes visits to the Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Labs, the Plant Disease Clinic, and the State Botanical Garden and Conservatory. Greenhouse and lab activities are also built into the program, along with visits to local greenhouses.

Here's the schedule of subjects covered for the week's workshop:

Day 1: Plant growth and development, greenhouse construction, environmental control, and energy conservation.

Day 2: Plant growing media, soil sterilization and fumigation, containers, watering and watering systems, nutrition and fertilization, and plant growth regulators.

Day 3: Propagation and propagation systems, followed by a discussion of the various segments of the industry and the major crops produced in each segment.

Day 4: Insect and disease control in greenhouses, and pesticide safety and certification.

Day 5: Personnel and business management, production costs, and pricing.

This workshop has served our purpose well by providing a concentrated learning experience to a small target audience, while at the same time reducing the number of one-on-one visits normally required to provide the same service. Other specialists seeking to provide basic entry-level information may also be able to use this approach.