Whether you are suddenly interested in gardening or thinking about starting an apartment homestead, or harboring some other pandemic-influenced self-sufficiency goal, knowledge is power. But how do you acquire that knowledge when everything is closed?
Sure, many of the usual hands-on venues for learning new skills are not currently available due to recommendations about social distancing, self-isolation and self-quarantine. But there are online courses — some of which have been specially released for those stuck at home during the pandemic — that can help you get started developing new skills while you have a little bit of extra time on your hands.
How to start your first garden
For beginners looking to create new gardens for the first time, check out Garden Tutor’s free online class to learn the basics, including how to choose a garden site, choosing plants, creating a garden plan and maintaining your garden. The entire class takes two to three hours to complete, and by the end, you’ll be ready to get started with your first garden.
Oregon State University is offering the vegetable gardening section of its Master Gardener series for free through the end of April (the class is usually $45). The self-paced online class, which takes between four and six hours, includes information on choosing a site for your vegetable garden, planting tips as well as how to identify and solve common disease and pest problems.
The plight of the pollinators has not disappeared during the pandemic. In this self-paced beekeeping 101 course from the Penn State Extension taught by extension educator Tom Butzler, participants learn about bee biology and behavior, year-round hive management, diseases and pests, swarming, beekeeping equipment and bee products like honey.
In fact, Penn State Extension is offering its library of online courses at no cost through the month April. You can also check out classes like Plant Health Diagnosis, Beef Production and Management, Best Milking Practices and Growing Raspberries and Blackberries.
Gardening for wildlife with Maine native plants
Have you been getting into backyard bird watching during self-isolation? Starting May 6, University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Audubon will offer a four-part series of online classes on using native plants to benefit birds and other wildlife. Classes meet weekly on Zoom through May 27 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Participants will learn about backyard ecology, the birds of Maine and selecting and growing native plants. Instructors include UMaine Extension horticulture professional Pamela Hargest and Maine Audubon director of education Eric Topper.
Introduction to backyard poultry
You may be one of the many people who have rushed out to buy chicks during the quarantine — even though you are not quite sure how to take care of them. The University of Arkansas Extension offers an online introduction to backyard poultry course that goes over various poultry breeds and their uses, explains the basics of poultry care and reviews issues of biosecurity in backyard flock management. The course also covers poultry reproduction; egg incubation and hatching; care of baby chicks; home poultry processing for consumption, and safe handling practices for eggs.