Organic Gardening


4 credits – BS GenEd

Summer II: July 17 – Aug 25, 2023

Instructor: Sarah Berquist,  she/her/hers

Contact Information:

Office Hours: Email me to make an appointment via Phone or Zoom!

Click here to Enroll

Course Overview:

This course provides an integrated approach to understanding the science and practical aspects of organic gardening; layering wisdom and experience from contemporary organic growers, we will explore the intersection of science and practice relevant to beginners and experienced growers. 

Through lecturettes, quizzes, case studies, weekly discussions, and peer review, students will immerse in both science and methods in organic agriculture. Interviews, audio podcast-style interviews, and resource libraries will further layer practical narratives from growers and soil scientists to foundations of organic gardening. 

Week 1 Introduction: An overview of the history, vocabulary, certification processes, & introduction to organic gardening & climate change

  • What is “Organic”?
    • Discerning “Organic” vs. “Organically Grown”
  • Certification processes & protocols
  • Important agencies and organizations in certification
  • Examples of organic gardening in action
  • Organic gardening & climate change

Due: Paper #1: Case Study, Introductory Discussion

Week 2  Healthy soil & plant nutrients overview

  • Compost & balancing nutrition in the soil 
  • Microorganisms: bacteria, fungi & nematodes
  • Reading soil tests 
  • A case study in soil: NOFA 
  • University Extension resources

Due: Quiz #1, Discussion #1

Week 3 Approaches and practices in organic gardening #1

  • Companion planting 
  • Mulching
  • No-till methods 
  • Biointensive planting
  • Biodynamic growing
  • Silvopasture and animals in the garden

Due: Paper #2: Case Study 

Week 4 Ecological approaches to weed, disease, & pest management 

  • Garden-scale integrated pest management
  • Pesticide use in organic gardening
  • Holistic pest management
  • Identifying and managing weeds

Due: Quiz #2, Discussion #2

Week 5 Vegetables, Small Fruit & Seed: choose a track

  • Vegetable Production
  • Small Fruit Production
  • Seed Production

Due: Paper #3: Case Study

Week 6: Planning your organic garden, organic gardening around the globe, & food systems overview

  • Choose an approach and using the templates provided, apply previous units to design an ecological organic garden 
  • Limitations and considerations in various climates
  • Overview of impact/role of gardening in food systems 

Due: Quiz #3, Discussion #3

Final Research Reflection due: 8/24

Textbook:  No textbook is required for this course. All readings and course media available on Blackboard/Canvas.

About the Instructor: 

I have been engaged in sustainable agriculture and food systems work for the last 15+ years. I currently teach and advise in the Sustainable Food & Farming campus program at UMass.  I love gardening in various forms, and have most experience with vegetables, flowers, and seeds.

My approach to teaching is student-centered, participatory, emergent, inclusive, and experiential.  I love to create and hold spaces, both on campus and online, where learning flows in all directions, and am truly grateful for all that I learn with and from my students. 

Beyond my work at UMass: I run a small floral production and design side hustle, and also love practicing dance and swimming. Excited to work with you this semester!

This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward the Associate of Science degree as well as the Online B.S. degree

To begin planning for the future, see….

Annual Class Schedule

%d bloggers like this: