A Case for Garden Classes


How do people learn how to garden? I asked this question in a survey of over 100 people and was surprised to find that most people learn from books or online. Many people also learn from family or friends, but only one quarter of them had ever taken a garden class or workshop.

I love books and often look stuff up online, but it can be frustrating and time consuming. One question can lead to many different answers. Who can you trust? What is the best way to do it in your area?

Learning from family and friends can be nice, but this is also how a lot of misinformation gets spread. Did you know rhubarb leaves aren’t really poisonous? Sure they have oxalic acid in them which can be toxic in large doses, but carrots, spinach, parsley, chives, and rhubarb stalks also contain oxalic acid in the same or higher quantities. Many people also mistakenly think that they need to till their soil or use pesticides in their gardens and pass this information on.

I have also found that many people copy what their friends and neighbors are doing without learning if this is the best way. If everybody has 4’x8’ raised beds, then I must have to do that too. Or if everyone plants in narrow rows with a path between them, that must be how it is done.

In my opinion, there is no substitute for in-person, in-the-garden training. First off, every location is a little different and has different challenges and opportunities. What works in one area of the country may not work in other areas. Secondly, pictures are no substitute for seeing something in real life. Even better, experiencing an activity in the garden such as planting, thinning, or turning compost, is much more effective than reading about it. And lastly, it’s always handy to have someone to ask questions too, no matter how bizarre they might seem.


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