Local lifestyle columnists

Click on the computer for free online gardening classes

By From page C4 | February 02, 2014

Do you need someone to teach you how to design your garden? Or do you want to learn how to prune but don’t have time to attend a class at your local college?

No problem.

Online gardening classes abound on the Internet. But don’t invest your time or money on an online gardening course unless you know the source is a reliable education provider.

The chances are you don’t even need to open your pocket book since several universities and other reliable entities offer no cost gardening classes on the Web. Let’s look at six reliable sources of free online gardening instruction.

UC TV lectures

Selected gardening lectures presented on UC TV can be accessed at http://ucmgvideo.ucanr.org. The video lectures cover a variety of topics ranging, from home vegetable gardening, the home vineyard, entomology  and turf management to principles for vertebrate pest control and understanding pesticides. You can also download any handouts and quizzes from the site as well.

The lectures are presented be well-known University of California faculty, such as Professor Emeritus Ali Harvandi (Turf Management) and Dr. Robert Norris (Vegetable Gardening).

These two instructors and others have taught classes in the Solano Master Gardener program for new trainees. So if you’re contemplating applying to become a Solano Master Gardener in the future, watching some of these lectures and going through the handouts will give you a peek at the broad spectrum of education you’ll be receiving if accepted into the program.


Water conservation is always important but more so in these lower than average rainfall years. Saving water not only saves the environment, it saves you money on your water bill. If you’re interested in becoming a water-wise gardener, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Family of Southern California Water Agencies offer both mini (15-minute) and more detailed (60-minute) tutorials on water wise plant selection, irrigation systems, plant care and maintenance. You can access the tutorials at www.bewaterwise.com/training01.html.

Utah State University

Course materials and instructional videos from over a dozen past gardening courses taught by professors in the College of Agriculture are accessible through their University Extension website. The courses, part of their Landscape Management Series, cover a wide range of topics from planning and design of a garden to pruning. Other related, but non-gardening courses such as cattle and sheep management are also available at the same site http://ocw.usu.edu/University_Extension.  Note that QuickTime is required to view the videos.

Brigham Young University

The Independent Study program at the university offers two free online gardening courses: “Planning and Preparing Your Garden” and “Growing Vegetables, Fruits and Nuts.”  Topics covered in the first course are:  How Much Should I Grow, How Much Space Will it Require? Garden Strategies You Need to Know, Designing the Garden, Preparing the Soil and Planting the Seeds. To find out more information on how to get started on these free courses, go to http://is.byu.edu/courses.

Tufts University

Tufts University offers a course on Agricultural Science and Policy that may be of interest to many gardeners. The course covers topics such as the major biological, chemical and physical components of the agricultural systems.  The course can be accessed at http://ocw.tufts.edu/Course/32.

California School Gardens Network

Although they do not provide online gardening courses, the network is worth mentioning because it provides access to curriculum, lesson plans, activity guides, gardening themed literature lists, and other instructional materials for students K-12. Even though it is targeted at teachers, parents interested in teaching their children about gardening will find many useful resources on their website at www.csgn.org/curriculum. Plus the site also offers a variety of videos covering everything from making a seedling paper pot to constructing a raised bed garden box.

Yes, there are still some things in life that are free.  And if you don’t have a reliable Internet connection to take advantage of these free learning opportunities, just remember you can always use the Internet-connected computers at your local public library.  And yes, you can use them for free!

Kathy Low is a Master Gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Fairfield. If you have gardening questions, call the Master Gardener’s office at 784-1322.

Kathy Low


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