This course is designed to give both an in-depth look at the principles and methods of organic gardening, and to give students hands-on experience in their own gardens. There will be homework, quizzes and other assessments, and hands-on exercises to be done by every student. There is also an online discussion forum in which ideas and questions can be aired. We assume no prior knowedge or experience with gardening on the part of the student.
Each week, we start a new chapter. Chapters consist of resources to read, activities, and forums. We expect everyone to complete each week's set of lessons the week they are assigned. Since we will be moving on to the next chapter the following week, catching up can pile up quickly. If you know ahead of time that you will absent for a week, let us know, and try to do some reading in advance so you can catch up more easily.
The first three chapters cover the basics of gardening common to all kinds of plants. The following chapters focus on particular kinds of plants, such as vegetables, flowers, lawns, and shrubs. The last chapter explores some further topics that might be of interest to an experienced or curious gardener who is looking for somewhat more advanced subjects.
Through this course, we hope to inspire in students the desire to garden as beneficial participants in their local ecology, rather than as antagonists of nature. True organic gardening is not just substitution of organic products for synthetic ones. It consists of encouraging and understanding the ecological role of the garden, and working with natural processes to grow healthy plants. This 'systems approach' is fundamental to the way this course is designed.
1. To learn the basics of best gardening practices, such as planning, seeding and planting, and harvesting.
2. To understand organic gardening as a systems approach to fertility, plant health, and pest management, rather than substitution of organic products for synthetic ones.
3. To learn to build healthy soil, increase organic matter content, and use the many forms of organic fertility sources effectively.
4. To identify and understand the use of organic gardening supplies and tools, such as organic fertilizers, row covers, and biological controls.
5. To recognize the important and generally benign role of insects in the garden, and how to encourage healthy populations of insects and other beneficial organisms.
6. To understand the importance and criteria of plant selection and location in successful organic gardening.