Organic gardening

Raised bed vegetable garden

This online course was developed in response to a strong, growing interest in organic gardening and is intended to examine the basics of small-scale organic gardening. The topics and depth of information offered will help new gardeners learn the basics and feel comfortable getting started, while also offer more experienced gardeners the opportunity to expand their knowledge base. This course may not be ideal for very experienced organic gardeners.  Additionally, students will walk away with a wealth of resources to look into for further study

The course has a strong foundation in soil health and its impact on plant health and a whole systems approach to gardening. The course also explores various techniques for growing different kinds of garden plants – annuals and perennials, food plants and ornamentals.

Participants are required to read assigned material, participate in online group discussions with other students, complete reflective writing/design work and take part in some hands-on activities. Though the class isn’t “live”, it is designed to keep a pace of one topic each week (see outline and syllabus below). The content for the week is posted every Monday. You work at your own pace during the week, and assignments are due Sunday. Most students spend approximately 5 hours/week with the content, though there are always ample resources and opportunity to do more.

The course is non-credit, and we present a certificate of completion to all those who participate in the whole course. 

Required reading

We will be using the Site Assessment by Charles P. Mazza. This booklet can be purchased for about $20 online from PALS Publishing Cooperative Extension

Course outline:

  • Week 1:Introduction: What is Organic Gardening?  Knowing Your Site.
  • Week 2: Soil, Compost, and Mulch
  • Week 3: Vegetables and Flowers: Site Design & Planning for the Season
  • Week 4: Vegetables and Flowers: Early, Mid, Late Season Crops; Harvesting, Herbs
  • Week 5: Maintenance a & Managing Pests Organically
  • Week 6: Trees, Shrubs, and Herbaceous Perennials: The Long-Term Landscape
  • Optional Extra Readings: Advanced Topics for the Adventurous Gardener

View full syllabus.

About the instructor

Fiona Doherty

Fiona Doherty is an Educator Enrichment Specialist for Cornell Garden-Based Learning. Her background is in both nutrition and garden-based education and she brings a passion for food gardening in particular to educator enrichment. For the past five years Fiona has facilitated horticulture classes in Ohio and New York. She has presented at several national conferences including the American Community Gardening Conference and the National Children and Youth Gardening Symposium. She also teaches Cornell’s online Introduction to Garden Design course and leads professional development workshops for Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators.