Certificate

Created for backyard gardeners, landscape professionals, and those interested in native plants and their wildlife interactions, Mt. Cuba Center’s Ecological Gardening Certificate offers a comprehensive approach to gardening in harmony with nature using ecologically sound practices.

Students can choose to complete all classes to earn the Certificate, or take only the ones that interest them most. Certificate classes are open to everyone; however, students enrolled in the Certificate program have priority registration. Students seeking Certification must pass an evaluation (project, quiz, exam, etc.) for each course.

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Identify and use native plants in the landscape
  • Apply organic gardening practices to create resilient environments
  • Design and create ecologically sound gardens by imitating nature’s patterns and systems
  • Manage plant health issues using sustainable techniques
  • Become conservators of our natural habitats

Each class in the Certificate program includes assessments to evaluate students’ progress. Mt. Cuba staff will provide support and encouragement along the way to help students reach their goals and celebrate accomplishments of students who successfully complete our certificate program every spring.

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Botany for Gardeners (8 hours)
Gain a thorough understanding of how plants grow and develop, how water and nutrients are taken up and distributed, and how leaves, flowers, stems, and roots function. Discover intriguing relationships between plants and pollinators, how seeds and fruits form, and why plants grow toward the sun. Develop basic plant identification skills and learn the reasons for using scientific names.

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Ecological Landscape Design (18 hours)
Learn how to measure, inventory, and analyze a site; then make a conceptual design and planting plan using the “right plant, right place” approach. Broaden your design perspective, increase biodiversity in the landscape with native plants, decrease space dedicated to lawn, and create habitats that benefit insects, birds, and other fauna.

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Enhancing Life in the Soil (16 hours)
Never buy fertilizer again! Learn the basics of soil science, the value of organic matter, and its role in soil structure and nutrition, and the importance of soil organisms. Learn how to make and use compost and compost tea, and how sustainable gardening practices contribute to creating high quality garden soil.

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Native Plants of Spring (12 hours)
Experience the colors, fragrances, and rapid progression of spring-flowering native plants. Through lectures and outdoor labs, learn to identify 60 beautiful and ecologically valuable trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials. Examine the identifying characteristics of each plant and its preferred growing conditions, overall size, and environmental significance.

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Sustainable Landscape Techniques (8 hours)
Develop your garden to support a diverse population of beneficial wildlife and create healthy, natural habitats. Learn how to manage and conserve water using rain gardens, bio-swales, and rain barrels; reduce the demands of lawn care by adding meadow areas; and increase your energy savings with strategically placed layered plantings.

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Plant Propagation (8 hours)
Save money and increase your garden plants through simple propagation techniques using seeds and cuttings. Review the ethics of wild collected seed and learn the basics of seed biology, germination, and storage. Study the principles of asexual plant reproduction; learn when and how to take cuttings; and practice proper techniques for preparing and rooting them.

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Native Plants of Summer (12 hours)
Discover a wealth of plants that satisfy your gardening needs throughout the seasons. Using Mt. Cuba’s stunning gardens, learn to identify 60 trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials. Examine their key identifying characteristics, preferred growing conditions, overall size, and ecological significance.

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Integrated Pest Management (12 hours)
Learn how to manage insect pests in your garden using a sustainable “toolbox” approach. Focus on integrated pest management techniques as well as the identification of both harmful and beneficial organisms. Go home knowing how to control pests in your garden using safe, wildlife-friendly practices.

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Plant Disease Management (8 hours)
Become your own plant health detective and learn the signs and symptoms of the most common plant diseases in our landscapes. Study disease life cycles and discuss management strategies for prevention and control, then implement them in your garden.

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Ecosystems and Plant Communities (16 hours)
Explore the dynamic and diverse plant communities present in our area. Learn how ecology, geology, hydrology, plants, and animals, all interact to create healthy ecosystems through classroom study and field trips. Understand the complexities of these communities and how this information influences your home landscaping decisions.

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Native Plants of Fall (12 hours)
Discover a wealth of plants that satisfy your landscaping needs throughout the seasons. Using Mt. Cuba’s stunning gardens, learn to identify 60 trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials in each Native Plants course. Examine their key identifying characteristics, preferred growing conditions, overall size, and ecological significance.

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Inviting Wildlife into the Garden (12 hours)
Transform your landscape into a garden that attracts a wealth of beneficial wildlife, including birds, butterflies, a wide variety of insects, and amphibians. Unlock the important connections between the roles of pollinators and the plants and habitats they require.

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Ecological Arboriculture (8 hours)
Explore the ecological aspects of trees—the basics of tree structure; anatomy and care; their contributions (in both life and death) to forest ecology; why conservation of large, mature trees is important; and how climate change might affect forest composition in the future.

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Managing Invasive Plants (8 hours)
Examine the problems caused by non-native invasive plants and discover management strategies for controlling them. Learn how to identify common alien invaders and how to distinguish them from similar looking native species. Help stem the tide and give natives more room to grow.

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Total Hours for Certificate Completion: 158