Studying plants from home

While gardening and growing is far from a new hobby or business, in recent years, there’s been an uptick in people interested in learning more about horticulture, from those looking to grow a home garden, install edible landscapes, plant pollinator gardens, cultivate a functional landscape with food or medicinal herbs, or add plants to help with a variety of problems, like water drainage.

According to the University of California, Davis, more people were gardening during the pandemic for several reasons, including to “relieve stress, connect with others and grow their own food in hopes of avoiding the virus.”

These changes in the public were also seen here in North Carolina State University’s Department of Horticultural Science as enrollment in the online undergraduate certificate grew. In fact, the number of students enrolled from Fall 2019 to Spring 2021, when the certificate program reached its highest enrollment during the pandemic, tripled.

The online Undergraduate Certificate in Horticultural Science is a 15-credit hour certificate that is geared towards non-traditional students who can apply to the non-degree studies program and take classes within the department as well as throughout the university.

The certificate, which is one of many at the university, can be taken online through distance education classes, which means people from across not only the state but the country can benefit from classes taught on campus. The courses are meant to give students a firm foundation in horticulture principles and practices so they can be better growers, be it at their job in a nursery or greenhouse or just improving their home garden or landscape.

Tim Smith, a recent recipient of the certificate, says: “I have learned so much, and much of what I have learned has been put into action. The list is long, but my trees are pruned and flourishing, my hedges are trimmed appropriately, the grass lawn is green, and my garden, both indoors and outdoors, has yielded multiple harvests, both vegetables, and herbs. I have a greenhouse full of vegetable plants that, although they are only beginning in the fruiting stage, are quite large. I believe the professors, the staff, and my co-students have equipped me well.”
While food and improving one’s home landscape are all fantastic benefits, others have used horticultural therapy as a way to not only better the world around them but also as a way to help themselves.

According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, “No longer limited to treating mental illness, horticultural therapy practice gained in credibility and was embraced for a much wider range of diagnoses and therapeutic options. Today, horticultural therapy is accepted as a beneficial and effective therapeutic modality. It is widely used within a broad range of rehabilitative, vocational, and community settings.”

The pandemic may have caused a spike in people seeking more horticultural knowledge, but the practice is as old as soil, and with a laundry list of benefits, it’s no surprise to see more people journeying down this road that not only provides food, beautiful plants in a landscape but also mental and physical health benefits.


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