As a new gardener, I frequently receive gardening advice from friends and family, landscaping contractors, the staff at the local nursery, and other gardeners on the internet. I’ve also taken a wide variety of in-person gardening courses, seminars, workshops, Q&A’s, and online classes. While I’m grateful for the support, it’s hard to know whether the advice given by self-proclaimed gardening experts has (any) sound reasoning behind it.
Enter Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott – The Internet’s Gardening Fairy Godmother.
Dr. Chalker-Scott is a straight-talking, highly-respected horticulturalist and author who specializes in bringing science-backed gardening advice to the general gardening community. Her gardening course, The Science Of Gardening, presented by The Great Courses (and also on Wondrium), is an absolute must for any gardener with even the slightest desire to separate fact from fiction. Dr. Linda does a fantastic job of explaining how plants work while calmly shredding much of the trendy gardening advice on the internet.
I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Chalker-Scott’s gardening lectures and the skills and confidence they’ve given me in my own garden. Read on to see why this course made such a difference for me.
The online course: The science of gardening
The Science Of Gardening is a foundational online gardening course focused on WHY some gardening tactics work (and others don’t), as well as HOW plants work and how to help them thrive. The course is grounded in established plant and soil science and focused on sustainable, effective gardening.
Here are some of the topics covered in the course:
- Choosing plants for your landscape and products for your garden wisely;
- Creating gardens that don’t require continuous inputs of fertilizers and pesticides;
- Learning from nature to support natural processes that keep our gardens thriving (AKA less work and money).
Here is a full list of all 24 lectures in The Science Of Gardening, including summaries of each specific topic covered.
Why do we all need to take “The Science Of Gardening”?
There are 6 reasons I unreservedly recommend the online course, The Science Of Gardening:
- Knowing the basics of how plants work is a fundamental life skill.
- Dr. Chalker-Scott is an award-winning horticulturist who relies not only on her own experience and knowledge but also takes the time to find and assess existing information and alternate viewpoints.
- The course gives memorable advice that is easy to follow and makes sense.
- The subscription to the learning platform (The Great Courses Plus) includes some other excellent gardening and botany courses, as well as numerous other hobby and 100-level topics.
- The subscription cost is on-par with Netflix (but with less coach-potato guilt);
- There is a 14-day free trial anyways.
There are a lot of online gardening courses out there, but Dr. Linda’s is most certainly the best I’ve taken.
Dr. Chalker-Scott covers all the foundational basics of gardening from an evidence-based perspective, including soil, common plant problems, and long-term land management. As an instructor, she’s quite direct, but also relatable and very engaging to watch. I left the course feeling not only more knowledgeable of gardening basics but also more empowered to apply what I’d learned in my own garden.
What would Dr. Linda do?
This is the question I ask myself whenever I come across conflicting gardening advice (which occurs…constantly). What Would Dr. Linda Do?
If there’s a gardening myth out there, chances are excellent she’s already thoroughly combed through the entire available body of knowledge to uncover the truth of the matter – or at least – uncover that the matter has not yet been thoroughly assessed.
And so, I’m constantly going back to her gardening course for trustworthy answers that I feel confident in following (even if the person at the garden center says otherwise). Now I just calmly think to myself “What Would Dr. Linda Do?” and then look it up in her course on my phone.
What do plants ACTUALLY crave? Hot tip – apparently not Epsom salts, molasses, or eggshells.
Are the great courses worth the money?
The Great Courses, and their new video-streaming service Wondrium, are certainly worth the cost of the subscription. This online learning platform has done a noteworthy job of choosing instructors who are not only masters of their craft but are also masters at teaching others in their subject.
You can order individual courses from the original The Great Courses website. In contrast, their “Wondrium” service is a Netflix-type monthly subscription service that includes most Great Courses offerings in their streaming catalog.
This is a crucial difference that separates The Great Courses/Wondrium from other online learning platforms, which tend to be more infotainment than true education. Their courses are in-depth, well-organized, and well worth the price of the monthly/annual subscription.
How much is a subscription to Wondrium?
After the 14-day free trial, you’ll need a paid subscription to access courses. Here is the approximate cost of a monthly subscription to Wondrium, as well as the discounted quarterly and annual membership rates:
- Monthly Subscription = $20 USD
- 3-Month Subscription = $45 USD
- 12-Month Subscription = $150 USD
You can also give a subscription as a gift. There are 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month gift subscriptions available.
Wondrium (By The Great Courses) versus other online course learning subscriptions
There are numerous online course learning platforms with gardening courses that work on a monthly or annual subscription basis. Here are some of the most popular:
These streaming video-on-demand paid subscription memberships work like a Netflix of online courses. The courses are curated, there are no advertisement interruptions, and viewers can watch lessons as many times as they like.
Table 1: Approximate Subscription Costs & Estimated Content Volume Overview By Online Course Learning Platform
|Learning Platform||Annual Subscription Cost||Number Of Gardening Courses||Instruction Time Per Course||Total Number Of Platform Courses|
|Wondrium (The Great Courses Plus)||$150||7||12-14 hours||1,000+|
|Craftsy||$80||24||1.5 – 2 hours||1,500+|
|Skillshare||$100||100||0.5 – 2 hours||25,000+|
As noted earlier, the difference between Wondrium/The Great Courses Plus and the main competitors lies mainly in the instructors. While MasterClass and Craftsy courses tend to be taught by celebrities in a given field, courses on The Great Courses Plus are taught by university professors. While the professors are rarely as flashy as the celebrities, they are not just experts in their subject but are also experienced experts in teaching their subject to others.
Courses on Wondrium tend to have lower levels of video production and artistic cinematography. They focus on the content more than competing course platforms which are more visually captivating. The Great Courses Plus is certainly more focused on efficient and effective education than on entertainment value.
Gardening courses available on Wondrium
Here are some additional gardening courses available from The Great Courses:
How to Grow Anything: Your Best Garden and Landscape in 6 Lessons
How to Grow Anything: Your Best Garden and Landscape in 6 Lessons is a foundational gardening course taught by Melinda Myers. This course is more practical and how-to than The Science Of Gardening and makes a nice complement once you’ve taken Dr. Chalker-Scott’s course.
How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening for Everyone
How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening for Everyone, by Melinda Myers, is a follow-up course to the course above that focuses solely on how to grow fresh food at home.
How to Grow Anything: Container Gardening Tips & Techniques
How to Grow Anything: Container Gardening, is an introductory course to growing in planter pots taught by horticulturalist Melinda Myers. Learn the essential rules of gardening in small spaces with this concise course about container gardening.
How to Grow Anything: Make Your Trees and Shrubs Thrive
How to Grow Anything: Make Your Trees and Shrubs Thrive by Melinda Myers is a gardening course focused on woody plants that helps make trees and shrubs a manageable investment for homeowners. Melinda provides actionable strategies for shopping, planting, and caring for trees and shrubs in the home landscape.
Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany
Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany, by Dr. Catherine Kleier, is a foundational course about plant science from a biology perspective.
The Botanist’s Eye: Identifying the Plants Around You
The Botanist’s Eye: Identifying the Plants Around You, by Dr. Catherine Kleier, is a practical biology course that teaches students how to identify (and appreciate) a diverse selection of plant species.