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.
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
Students can choose to complete all classes to earn the Certificate or take only the ones that interest them most. The program is flexible and can take as little as one year or up to several years to complete.Register Now
Students are welcome to start with any class in the program; however, there are several classes that are an ideal staring point such as the Native Plants of Spring, Summer, or Fall classes; Botany for Gardeners; and Enhancing Life in the Soil. It is best to take Ecological Landscape Design at the end of the program due to the complexity of the course, which references and applies concepts learned in other Certificate classes.
Botany for Gardeners (8 hours)
Gain a thorough understanding of how plants grow and develop, discover intriguing relationships between plants and pollinators, and develop basic plant identification skills.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Total Hours for Certificate Completion: 158
Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for professional development are typically available for each certificate class from the organizations listed below. If you are associated with one of the organizations and would like CEU credit, a sign-up sheet will be available for each class.
- Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD)
- Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LACES)
- Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)
- Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association (PLNA)
- Delaware Landscape and Nursery Association (DLNA)
- International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)
- Master Gardeners
Registration is a way for us to identify those students who intend to complete the program and earn the Certificate from those who are simply taking a few classes. Program registration will allow us to support students’ progress and timelines, and it will help us to better ensure the success of those who intend to earn the Ecological Gardening Certificate. Below is information about registering for the Ecological Gardening Certificate program:
- Certificate classes are open to everyone; however, students enrolled in the Certificate program have priority registration before the release of each new program guide.
- Students who enroll in the Ecological Gardening Certificate Program receive a Mt. Cuba nametag, custom binder and Tervis tumbler.
- There is a one-time fee of $40 to register for the program.
Students seeking Certification must register for the program and pass an evaluation (project, quiz, exam, etc.) for each course. 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.