Gardening 101

Classes to Hone Your Planting Skills

By Virginia Hayes

Summer hasn’t quite given its last hurrah, but life is returning to a more regular schedule with the kids back in school and a tad fewer tourists to navigate around in town. Is it time to do something for yourself? Most assuredly. One of the things to consider would be honing your gardening skills and knowledge. There’s a slate of classes and courses starting up that can teach you more about our natural world and just how to make our gardens the best they can be.

One such class has just started this week at the Wake Center (300 N. Turnpike, room 15) where landscape architect Billy Goodnick will guide you through the process of creating your own “beautiful, functional, low-maintenance, sustainable landscape.” Goodnick is one of the Garden Wise Guys of local television fame and an accomplished designer. His humorous presentation style will make the learning process painless and you will come away with new skills of perception and planning that will help you realize the best garden your site can become. The class runs for five weeks on Monday evenings, 6-9 p.m., and began September 11 with a half-day field trip to view public and private gardens in the area as a finale. For more information, call Billy at 687-1690.

For a truly in-depth look at horticulture from a scientific basis, you may want to consider the Master Gardener Training Program. This rigorous training includes 80 hours of instruction and another 80 hours of volunteer service to the community to hone the skills you have learned throughout the course. Topics range from soil biology and structure, fertilizers, irrigation, native plants, growing fruits and vegetables, plant pests and diseases, and garden design. Most importantly you will learn principles of sustainable garden practice and design. Classes are held at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden on Thursday afternoons, 12:30-4:30 p.m., beginning on October 26 and concluding March 22.

An orientation session will be held September 28. In return for this in-depth training, master gardeners are expected to log at least 40 hours of volunteer help for an additional two years in service to local botanic gardens or other nonprofit ventures. Even if you don’t join the ranks of master gardeners, you can profit from their expertise through the Master Gardener Helpline. Call 682-4726 x117, Monday or Wednesday, 1-4 p.m., for a live chat with a volunteer master gardener; or leave a voice message at any other time with your gardening dilemma and a master gardener will research your problem and return your call. To receive more information and an application packet, call the Helpline and leave your name and mailing address.

One of the S.B. organizations that values volunteer participation and is approved for master gardener volunteer hours is UCSB’s Sedgwick Reserve. This “crown jewel of the University of California Natural Reserve System” preserves more than 2,000 acres of the Santa Ynez Valley, and is noted for both its large size and environmental heterogeneity. On Friday, October 6, a course of training for volunteers at the reserve begins. The course runs 10 weeks, ending February 9. UCSB faculty and area experts will instruct participants in the natural history of the preserve and train them to lead educational hikes for adult and kids. Other volunteer activities at the preserve include collecting seeds for the native plant nursery, restoring degraded habitat, cataloging the photo archive, mapping and maintaining trails, fundraising, and providing office help, to name a few.

To find out more or sign up for this class, call or email Lucy Thomas (687-3507 or or Kate McGuinness (693-1356; If you don’t have the time to commit to such long-term endeavors, there are other one-day classes to help you get more from your garden. The Santa Barbara Organic Garden Club regularly hosts one- or half-day classes of interest. On Saturday, September 16, 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Larry Saltzman and Linda Buzzell offer a class on Using Permaculture Design Principles in Organic Gardens. These design principles foster ecologically sound gardens that use mulch, composting, successional planting, water capture and conservation, and much more. The class will be held at 26 El Prado Place. Call 451-4168 for more information.

Oscar Carmona, owner of Healing Grounds, a wholesale organic nursery, will teach a class on Saturday, October 28, 10 a.m.-noon on Secrets of Successful Seed Planting. For more information, call 689-3044 or email

Whatever your interest, there is probably a class or two to help you achieve healthier and more beautiful gardens. You may even help out a local nonprofit along the way. A win/win situation for sure.

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