I’ve always enjoyed learning, either from a workshop, online courses, books or chats with other gardeners and experts.  It would be impossible to know everything when it comes to soils, plant nutrition, pests, diseases or design.

There are a few skills I have always wanted to learn, that involve more “hands on” areas of gardening, in particular garden design using CAD software, planning and installing pressurised irrigation systems, and improving my ability to diagnose and manage plant pests.

After a lot of research into the various options, I’ve decided to go back to study this year at TAFE as the Cert III in Horticulture, and the following Diploma of Horticulture offer all of the subjects I’m interested in.

So a few weeks ago I packed my bag and lunchbox, and twenty years between classes, I became a student again.

What a mix of anticipation and nerves! Would all the students be school leavers? Leaving me as a noticably aged grey haired older person…..Would it be hard to manage the workload? It will take some getting used to, extra reading and writing assignments…..

Turns out the students are a great mix of school leavers, young people already working in landscaping and nurseries, and even a few oldies like me – who are either preparing for a career change, or studying just for personal interest.  Everyone is friendly and with so much of our learning taking place outside the classroom we are

The lecturers I’ve got for my subjects are wonderful, not only experts in their field, but truly generous with their time and very supportive of the students.  The campus itself is well resourced, with fantastic gardens that we use for our lessons.

Most enjoyable so far is the Plant Pests subject, taught by an entomologist and plant health expert in a lively and interactive style – she is quite Attenboroughesque.  This is a very hands-on class (so different to when I studied entomology at uni) where we rummage around in the gardens looking for insects  – which we can then view under the microscope to understand the damage they can do.  Learning from someone who has worked at large scale production nurseries and farming systems, and who is also a keen gardener is just THE BEST.

The lecturer is teaching organic gardening systems, and pest management through observation and balance – which makes this gardener very happy! I was worried that we would be covering sprays and chemicals, so it is great to see a focus on integrated pest management.

I’ve learnt a lot since starting and feel sure that I made the right call, studying is a great way to confirm what I already know by getting accredited, build a network amongst people with similar interests, and developing new skills that will improve my garden and business offering.

Have you gone back to “school” after a long break?  If you were to go back and study, would you choose a different field?


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