This article is about short, self-guided online courses. It’s not about degrees or formally-recognized certificates and diplomas. I intend to do a guide about those at some point, but the topic is just so huge. I haven’t got the will to start ploughing through university prospectuses and wrap my head around all the various awarding bodies and qualification systems…I’m getting bored just thinking about it.
The good news for those who want a simple, short online course is that there are lots of great options. Video tends to work really well for gardening and can often be more useful than the written word for getting advice across. My focus is obviously on vegetable growing and I’ve kept an emphasis on that throughout.
Generally speaking, there are two types of course provider. Independent websites like Craftsy and Udemy, and universities that offer short courses that are entirely online. Both can be good and there are a range of options, depending on how much you want to spend. Anyway, let’s dig in.
They offer a mix of their own courses along with selections from other companies (like Garden Tribe and The Great Courses). Craftsy have found a great balance between price and quality. What’s notable is the fact that all of their courses are taught by experts, many of whom are recognized in their field. Production quality is brilliant.
Of all the course companies I researched, Craftsy have to be my top pick. Like I say, the bar is set very high in terms of quality and the prices are very reasonable.
Good for container/urban gardeners: Drip Irrigation and Container Crops is an obvious choice for urban gardeners. Designing Elegant Edible Gardens is also another good option. I really think the art of city growing is about finding a balance between beauty and scrumptiousness. This course tackles that problem head on. Innovative Small-Space Solutions is another top pick for anybody short on space.
My Garden School is the premier online course provider for gardening topics. Whatever your area of interest, you will likely find something that suits you. Last time I checked there were 27 courses in total, priced between $100 and $600.
My Garden School is part of the “Learning with Experts” network and one of the big selling points is that you get one-on-one time with a professional instructor via feedback on assignments that are completed after each lesson.
Good for container/urban gardeners: A few courses caught my eye. Designing City and Urban Gardens is a pretty exhaustive course that covers various aspects of small-space design and planting. Self-Sufficient Vegetable Gardening and Container Gardening are both shorter courses. The former is geared towards food growers (and the self-sufficiency angle makes it very interesting) while the latter focuses on ornamentals.
The good thing about Udemy is that it’s inexpensive (courses tend to be around $10) and there is some quality content available. Interaction from course creators (who you should be able to ask questions) can be a bit hit-and-miss so make sure that there’s recent activity in the student area.
Good for container/urban gardeners: There’s a course specifically about container growing (including veggies). It’s beginner level, so is best if you’re just starting out. Otherwise, a course from either Craftsy or My Garden School would probably suit you more. There is also an interesting one about natural pest control.
I really like The Great Courses. They’re on the lower end of the price spectrum and they’re a great option for people looking for in-depth and comprehensive information but don’t want the involvement of My Garden School courses. All of the courses are actually available through Craftsy site.
There are four courses about gardening, each covering an individual topic: landscaping, food growing, container gardening and trees and shrubs. You can buy them all individually and there are also sets available (which combine two or more).
Good for container/urban gardeners: The container gardening course offers a good overview. The focus is more on ornamentals but there is lots of transferable advice.
Short University Courses
Alongside all the course providers above, you can also enroll on a number of short courses that are provided by universities. They’re all completely online, reasonably priced (never more than a few hundred pounds/dollars), and available all of the time. Some include one-to-one time or feedback with an instructor while others don’t. All, however, are of a very high quality.
- Oregon State University offer a wide range of short, inexpensive courses. Most are around $40 – $100 and the quality is very high. Their “Master Gardener” series is particularly worth checking out.
- Cornell University has a small number of in-depth courses.
- The Academy for Distance Learning has a selection of courses from which a recognized qualification can be obtained. It’s mainly for people from the UK.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!
Have you tried any of the courses listed here? What about any that I’ve missed? I want this guide to be as dynamic as possible, regularly updated with new courses. Please get in touch if you have any to share!
Image credit: Is that an Onion in your Pocket? by Susy Morris