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Extension's New Course on Soils, Plant Nutrition for Landscapers
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 09/14/2020

Penn State Extension, working with the landscape industry, is offering a new online course focused on soils and plant nutrition for ornamental landscapes.

The self-paced training, which is intended for green industry professionals including landscape contractors, landscape-maintenance workers and horticulturists, will teach participants about soil properties, amendments and tests, as well as plant nutrition and fertilizers.

The course is ideal for landscape businesses that want to provide additional training to employees and will be beneficial to people seeking employment in landscape design, installation and maintenance, according to course coordinator Ruth Benner, extension educator who works with the green industry.

Introducing soils and the essential nutrients for plant growth, the training consists of educational videos, short readings and knowledge-check questions that teach participants about soil and its properties. Participants will learn the role of nutrients for plant processes so they can choose appropriate fertilizers and safely apply them.

They also will learn to identify physical, chemical and biological properties of soil; take a soil sample and understand the laboratory analysis; understand the role of plant nutrients for plant processes; choose appropriate fertilizers for ornamental landscapes; and amend and improve soil, Benner said. Another topic featured is how container soils differ from mineral soils.

In addition, the course includes information on how to protect soils and plants while working, and the basics of grading soil in landscapes, as well as managing water using drainage systems.

Consisting of six sections -- each with a quiz at the end -- participants who achieve a score greater than 80% on each quiz will pass and receive a certificate of completion for the course.

The "Soils and Plant Nutrition for Ornamental Landscapes" course is part of a series of trainings designed to support workforce development in the landscaping industry, Benner pointed out.

"Our online courses can help landscape companies by providing on-demand trainings that fit into their employees' schedule and allow supervisors to track their progress" she said. "Our courses are designed to complement the hands-on training that employees get on the job. The courses offer a deeper understanding of the topic so that employees will better be able to make good decisions and solve problems."

To register for the online course, go to

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