Info on Free Online Horticulture Courses
There are a handful of organizations and universities offering free online courses and training programs in agriculture, garden planning, landscaping and pest control. Current versions of Web browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox are usually needed to access these materials. Students will also need a PDF reader, such as Adobe Reader. Because these courses are offered for self-enrichment purposes, students do not receive university credit for completing them.
ACS Distance Education
ACS Distance Education began as a horticultural correspondence school in Australia. Its online courses are delivered as PDF files and supplement textbook-based learning.
- Hydroponics was designed as a companion to Commercial Hydroponics by John Mason and consists of two parts. Part one covers hydroponic cropping strategies, such as hanging gardens, tiered beds and trellis systems. In the second part of the class, students learn how to grow more productive crops and prevent plant loss. In addition to readings, the course includes four tests and an optional research project.
- Landscape Design was originally published in Your Backyard magazine and includes four lessons addressing the basic principles behind garden design, environmental studies and landscape planning.
- Vegetables and Herbs supplements Growing and Using Vegetables and Herbs by John Mason. It consists of four lessons covering topics in site preparation and small-space gardening. Students also learn how to create a formal herb garden and an herb lawn as well as grow vegetables without chemicals. Optional assignments include reporting on a student-created vegetable garden or designing an edible ornamental garden. Four tests are also included.
Tufts University offers an extended course in agriculture that was originally taught over two semesters. While distance learners do not have access to the same discussions, field trips and labs as on-site students, they can use the course lecture notes and slide presentations to study conservation and its relationship to agricultural food systems.
- Agriculture Science and Policy I cover topics in soil conservation, air pollution, agroforestry, greenhouse gases and wetlands.
- Agriculture Science and Policy II examines crop breeding, plant nutrients and the relationship between pests and plants. Additional activities for each course include a research project comparing historical and regional farming techniques.
University of California
The University of California's Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program is designed to teach homeowners and agricultural professionals how to address pest-related issues with as little impact on the environment as possible. Students will need a Flash player to access video presentations.
- Maintenance Gardener Pesticide Applicator Exam Preparation includes six chapters covering topics in pesticide hazards and laws, pest diagnosis and equipment handling techniques. Students also learn how to respond to pesticide-related emergencies and protect the environment. A workbook containing sample test questions is included in the materials.
- Guide to Healthy Lawns contains instructions for identifying grass species, amending and irrigating soils, seeding lawns and applying fertilizer.
Utah State University
Utah State University's extension program offers 15 landscape management courses that can introduce students to a variety of topics. Content is specific to the western interior of the United States, and students will need QuickTime to view the video presentations. These are short segments that range from 1-20 minutes in length.
- Annuals and Perennials addresses the role of seasonal and returning plants in landscape design. Course topics include plant choice and care as well as non-invasive gardening techniques.
- Plant Diseases and Chemicals shows gardeners how to diagnose and treat fungi. Video presentations focus on chemical pesticides that can be used in commercial or home gardens.
- Plants and Landscapes includes topics in plant life cycles, annuals and perennials, plant physiology and plant selection.
- Pruning shows how to prune a variety of trees and plants, including conifers, shrubs, vines and yews. Video topics discuss pruning rationale and equipment. Viewers also learn when to prune and how to make the right cuts.
- Weed Control is one of the last installments in the landscape management series and covers topics in pre- and post-emergent chemical weed controls. Students also examine common weeds and their effect on landscapes and plants.