The 7 Best Online Gardening Classes of 2020

Work on your green thumb

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Here’s something that may surprise you: Gardening is for everyone. You don’t have to have a sprawling backyard to hone your green thumb. Growing and maintaining vegetables, herbs, and other plants can happen in a community garden, in pots on a fire escape, or even in containers on a sunny windowsill.

Of course it takes a little know-how to help these plants thrive, which is where online gardening classes can help. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned planter, there’s always a new skill to learn. We’ve rounded up the best courses, touching on a variety of gardening and assuming a range of different skill sets. Read on to see which class might be the one for you.

Ron Finley Teaches Gardening: Best Overall

MasterClass

MasterClass

This MasterClass taught by Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener" of south Los Angeles, helps aspiring green thumbs working with non-traditional planting spaces learn how to cultivate their own gardens. In this 10-part class, Finley lays out how to grow everything from succulents to vegetables in any planting vestibule, from sidewalk planters to pots in rooftop gardens.

The class is about two hours long and includes sections on turning nutrient-poor soil into fertile ground, maintaining compost piles, planting and harvesting vegetables like sugar snap peas and sweet potatoes, creating and maintaining an herb garden, and how to propagate plants. The sections are generally between eight and 21 minutes long, making them ideal for gardeners on the go. The class also comes with a downloadable workbook filled with home gardening tips.

MasterClass is an annual subscription-based membership that costs roughly $180 per year, billed in increments of about $15 per month. With that, subscribers not only get access to Finley’s gardening class but more than 85 other courses taught by leaders in their fields. MasterClass also offers a full refund within the first 30 days of purchase.

Flower Gardening Simplified: Best Budget

Kerry Ann Mendez

Kerry Ann Mendez

Starting a garden can be expensive, but in this class led by Kerry Ann Mendez, novices learn how to design a garden while working within a budget. Mendez goes into the specifics of garden design before teaching students how to get the most bang for their buck.

Mendez gives tips on where to score plants on the cheap (or even free) that will thrive for more than a season and divulges how to save money when shopping. Students also learn what kinds of plants will work where in regard to light conditions and growing zones. This course also focuses on creating pollinator-friendly gardens that require less water and maintenance than traditional gardens.

One important note: This on-demand video class is best suited for students in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. Whether working out of a container garden or the ground, these tips will help students stretch their buck far, since it costs only about $14. It's a win-win.

Gardening 101: Best Introduction

SkillShare

SkillShare

In this on-demand Skillshare course taught by herbalist and gardener Geraldine Lavin of Suntrap Botanical, newbies will learn everything they need to kickstart their own garden. Whether in a container, community garden, or a backyard, Lavin teaches everything from plant propagation techniques like seed starting and divisions to harvesting. Because Lavin is an herbalist, she also spends time explaining herbs for the home garden.

This Skillshare course is broken down into 10 lessons that total around 46 minutes. The class revolves around one project, propagating an herbaceous cutting, but also teaches students how to maintain their garden and proper storage methods. It is also heralded in reviews by Skillshare users for its clear instruction and for inspiring students to take action in their own gardens.

In order to take the course, students must sign up for a Skillshare Premium account at the cost of roughly $9 per month for an annual subscription or about $19 per month for a monthly pass. Both memberships come with a two-month free trial.

Planting the Piet Oudolf Way: Best for a Perennial Garden

Learning With Experts

Learning With Experts

Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, whose work notably appears along The High Line elevated park in New York City, is known for his texture-rich, contemporary design with perennial plants. In this course hosted by Learning With Experts, Oudolf and host Dr. Noel Kingsbury explore the former's family garden, Hummelo, while unpacking the site’s structure, texture, form, and color and how it informs the designer's garden aesthetic.

This is not a course for beginners, but rather for seasoned green thumbs looking to expand their knowledge about garden planning. The class is broken down into four sections, with corresponding assignments exploring plant structure, plant combinations, seasonality, and planting by region.

Class participants can begin the course whenever they want and will be a part of an online interactive classroom of no more than 20 individuals. Members can group chat and direct message each other in this collaborative learning environment.

Learning With Experts offers two-course tiers: For about $99, the Peer option comes with lifetime access to the videos, notes, and online classroom, in addition to the course, assignments, and collaborative learning environment. For roughly $299, the Expert option includes all of the Peer-level benefits but also comes with four weeks of access to an online tutor who provides personalized assignment feedback and coaching, assignments marked by Oudolf and Kingsbury, and a certificate of completion.

Introduction to Growing Organic Food Sustainably: Best for Sustainable Food

Alison

Alison

This free class from the online course site Alison is all about learning how to grow organic vegetables with as little negative environmental impact as possible.

Although it seems counterintuitive that growing can have environmental drawbacks, Introduction to Growing Organic Food Sustainably teaches the fundamentals of growing vegetables in an environmentally friendly manner in order to ensure prolonged soil health.

The six-module, on-demand course kicks off with lessons on how to grow roughly 27 different kinds of vegetables, from Swiss chard to broad beans and onions, with an in-depth lesson for each variety. It continues with a module on how to maintain vegetables, including practices in crop rotation, soil health, and how to make compost.

While taking Introduction to Growing Organic Food Sustainably, students will get insight into building raised beds and sowing seeds. The class lasts between one and a half hours to three hours, and learners can receive a certificate upon completion (if they wish). In all, it’s a solid introductory course to growing food and learning about environmental impact.

The Cutting Garden: Best for Bouquets

Learning With Experts

Learning With Experts

For those whose goal in gardening is to be able to make beautiful bouquets and arrangements, Charlie Ryrie’s Learning With Experts course The Cutting Garden is a great place to start. The course is suitable for everyone, but it's aimed at gardeners who already possess basic skills.

The Cutting Garden introduces students to a huge variety of plants suitable for cutting gardens and explains how and where to grow them. It also teaches successional sowing, or staggering blooms, in order to get two crops of quick-maturing annuals a year from a garden. The course is broken down into four sections, including a practical guide in deciding how much time and effort you can allocate to your garden, as well as how to maintain a cutting garden.

The Cutting Garden offers two course tiers: The Peer option comes with lifetime access to the videos, notes, and online classroom, in addition to the course, assignments, and collaborative learning environment for roughly $99. The Expert option includes all of the Peer-level benefits but also comes with four weeks of access to an online tutor who provides personalized assignment feedback and coaching, assignments marked by Ryrie, and a certificate of completion for approximately $299.

Online Basic Botany Course: Best Botany

Oregon State University

Oregon State University

Among its full roster of online gardening courses, Oregon State University offers a basic botany class that will help any green thumb improve their gardening game. Taught by Master Gardener Signe Danler, this on-demand lesson teaches students how to identify plants, distinguish monocots from dicots (and why that’s important to know), and recognize garden capers like fungus, lichen, algae, and moss.

By the end of the class, participants should be able to identify plants, name their basic parts, and the roles they play in their growth and development, as well as recognize a variety of leaf and root systems.

This on-demand course costs around $45 and takes between four and six hours to complete. This class is part of the university’s larger Master Gardener Short Course Series which, including the botany course, comprises 12 lessons of varying themes, including plant pathology and pesticide safety.

Should students want to take more than one lesson, each additional course costs roughly $45.

How We Chose the Best Online Gardening Classes

When selecting the best online gardening classes, we considered a number of variables including cost, time commitment, diversity of techniques and skills taught, and existing skill set. We also aimed to include classes that could be adapted to a range of environments, such as container versus traditional garden and varying climates.

For example, Ron Finley’s MasterClass is staged in a community garden, but the skills taught can also be applied to a container garden or home garden by emerging gardeners. Piet Oudolf and Dr. Noel Kingsbury’s class, however, is for more seasoned gardeners looking to expand their knowledge about perennial planning for traditional gardens in regard to the textures, colors, and growing patterns of various plants. Oregon State University’s botany course is for outdoor lovers looking to take their skills to the next level by fully understanding the intricacies of various kinds of plants, as well as their life cycles. In this roundup, we’ve touched on a wide swath of skills and abilities that, when combined, provide a comprehensive view of gardening.

What Are Online Gardening Classes?

Online gardening classes are courses that teach a variety of topics related to starting, growing, and maintaining a garden. These courses are taught through instructional videos and often include at-home projects, with some lessons offering peer or instructor feedback.

Who Should Use Online Gardening Classes?

Anyone can take online gardening classes, though it’s important to choose a class that teaches skills that are applicable in a students’ USDA plant hardiness zone, unless the skills are also applicable to an indoor container garden. Online gardening classes cover a broad range of topics, so it’s important to choose a class based on a student's existing skill set and what they hope to learn from it.

How Much Do Online Gardening Classes Cost?

Online gardening classes are offered at a variety of price points. In this roundup, the cost of recommended classes ranges from free to roughly $299. Sometimes a general membership is required instead of a pay-per-class fee, which can account for higher costs.

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