Camden County Certified Gardeners
If you have an interest in gardening and volunteering to educate residents on environmentally safe and organic gardening practices, becoming a Camden County Certified Gardener is for you! Both beginner and experienced gardeners are welcome to enroll in the annual Horticultural Training Program which kicks off in January 2023.
Certified Gardener volunteers:
- Share their horticultural knowledge to help inform county residents.
- Interact with other volunteers who have a passionate interest in gardening.
- Support Certified Gardener projects, programs, and community events.
- Apply what they have learned in their own gardens.
Registration for the 2023 Certified Gardeners Horticultural Training Program is now open. The 2023 classes run from January 24 through April 13, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 9 am -12 pm at the county’s Sustainability campus, 508 Lakeland Rd., Blackwood.
Classes for the upcoming session is full. Please check back.
How do I become a Certified Gardener?
The Certified Gardeners training program is open to any resident over 18 with an interest in gardening. No previous education or training is required. The program offers residents over 60 hours of training on a variety of horticultural topics taught by leaders in the horticultural industry. At the completion of training, participants are asked to volunteer 60 hours back to the program through a variety of Certified Gardener sponsored events, activities, and educational sessions.
Requirements for certification and graduation as a Camden County Certified Gardener:
- Classes are in-person and virtual, but students are required to attend 75% of the sessions in person (18 out of 24). Students who miss class are responsible for all work. Applicants who may have already planned extended absences should consider taking the program at another time.
- Satisfactory completion of activities and assigned projects.
- Passing grade on the take-home open book final exam.
- Return a signed copy of the Certified Gardener Volunteer Agreement.
- Participating in one committee.
- Fulfillment of the 60-hour volunteer requirement (within the first year after completing the course)
- 60-hour requirement includes: Helpline- 40 hours; Community Service – 20 hours
- To maintain certification every year, volunteers are required to accumulate 35 additional hours:
- Education: 10 hours
- Helpline: 15 hours
- Community Service: 10 hours
Note: Certified Gardener interns, as well as our team of Certified Gardeners, are offered a wide variety of volunteer outreach and educational opportunities to fulfill the annual requirements. They do not need to seek out their own volunteer events. Some of the opportunities include working in greenhouses, staffing the Helpline office, participating in short and long-term committees and projects, working in the Education Garden, delivering presentations to local gardening/environmental groups, staffing tables at local community farm markets and in the county’s libraries (Haddon Township, Ferry Avenue, South County, Merchantville, Vogelson (Voorhees), Bellmawr and Gloucester Township).
The tuition for the course is $200 (non-refundable after the first class) and is due with the online application. The fee covers the cost of the training materials, class supplies and speaker fees.
Up to 25 people will be accepted into the program each year. County residents are given priority. Once the class fills, additional applicants will be placed on a waiting list.
- Basic Botany
- Plant Propagation
- Woody Plants and shrubs
- Tree and small fruit culture
- Integrated Pest Management
- Native Plants
- Plant Pathology
- Lawns and Turf Care
- Pruning techniques
- Houseplant care
- Rain Gardens/Watershed Management
- Conifers/Broadleaf evergreens
- Weed ID and Control
- Annual/Perennial/Vegetable/Herb Gardening
- General Household Pests
- Wildlife Management
- NJ Invasive Species
- Landscape design
- Helpline training
Camden County Certified Gardeners Programs
The Certified Gardeners Helpline office, located at the Lakeland Sustainability Campus (508 Lakeland Rd., Blackwood), is open every Tuesday and Thursday, 9 am to 3 pm. Residents are welcome to bring plant and/or insect samples to the office for diagnosis by a certified gardener. Residents may leave a detailed message (including phone number) on the Helpline at 856-216-7130. They may also email the Helpline at NJgarden@camdencounty.com.
Phone number needed:
For general questions, call 856-216-7130. For program specific questions, please contact Program Coordinator Judy Kelley, at Judy.Kelley@camdencounty.com or 856-374-6307.
Certified Gardeners get an early start on the growing season in our expansive greenhouse, allowing for plenty of hands on training and growing lifetime friendships with our peers. Our greenhouse at the Lakeland complex is a great place to be in the winter!
The greenhouse team starts planning in November, focusing on seed selection and task assignments. Volunteers work together to get ready for the annual Green Garden Fair plant sale by preparing the planting medium, sowing the seeds and fertilizing and watering the annual plants. Hands go into the potting soil in January and nearly all the plants start from seed. This is the ideal opportunity for volunteers to learn seed starting skills. In addition to seed starting, we propagate from other plants, and purchase some plant “plugs” from wholesale nurseries for testing purposes. Each growing season the volunteers can sign up to work in the greenhouse on weekday mornings.
Besides the plants that we grow for our Green Garden Fair sale planned for April 30, 2022, we supply plants for Make and Take classes, the Education Garden (flowers and vegetables), and the children’s program at the Garden Fair. In addition, we also grow annual plants for the County Parks Department. The County provides the “plugs,” and then we up-pot and grow them into the beautiful annuals you see in some of our parks. Greenhouse activity ends for the season by June, after the final plants are sold. Any remaining pots are cleaned and stored for the following winter.
Hydroponics means working water–“hydro” means water, and “ponos” means labor. Steadily growing in popularity throughout the world, hydro- and aeroponics are eco-friendly methods of cultivation. The quantity of nutrient-enriched water used is far less than the amount of water used in traditional cultivation.
Hydroponic gardening tends to produce larger plants and higher yields by delivering a nutrient-rich solution directly to the plant root system. This makes for easier access to nutrients, compared to traditional soil gardening in which the plants need to search for nutrients. Also, the reuse of the nutrient solution uses less water than conventional gardening.
Ultimately, the project’s mission is to create a place to produce fruits and vegetables in a system where food safety, nutrition, and water conservation are the key principles. Combating food deserts in low-income urban areas is a key goal. Sustainable Camden County and Certified Gardeners collaborate to improve our community’s well-being.
Since its first season in the winter of 2017, the team has installed several types of hydroponics systems, including NFT (nutrient film technique), Dutch bucket, and floating systems, and soon an aeroponics system will be added.
Current production consists of lettuces, microgreens, herbs, tomatoes, and cucumbers. On a biweekly basis about 25 pounds of leafy greens are donated to Cathedral Kitchen in Camden. In Approximately 500 pounds of produce are donated every year. We even have a new partnership with the Philadelphia Zoo to provide healthy, freshly picked produce for its wildlife!
At a nominal cost to all participants, the Make and Take classes include a hands-on experience and feature topics of general gardening interest.
Watch for the next Make and Take class, and reserve your place. In the past, we’ve featured succulent arrangements, herb gardens and pansy baskets, and classes on composting, bee-keeping, and a range of gardening topics.
We invite you to visit the Events page to learn what we’re making next!
The Certified Gardeners Speakers Bureau offers engaging, high quality horticultural information as a public service. All speakers are our skilled and experienced volunteers who offer informative presentations to schools, businesses, garden clubs, libraries, churches, neighborhood and community organizations.
These programs educate County residents about safe, effective and sustainable horticultural practices that build healthy gardens, landscapes and communities.
Due to COVID restrictions, public programs are not offered at this time.
Keys to Successful Composting
This presentation is a basic primer on home composting and is suitable for people of all skill levels. It explains the benefits of composting, for both the gardener and the environment, and the process by which nature turns organic materials such as garden and kitchen waste into a useful soil amenity. Learn how to site, start and maintain a compost pile, what items should and should not be put into one, the proper ratio of “greens” and “browns” to keep the pile cooking, how to diagnose problems, and how to use finished compost to improve your garden. A short video from Rutgers Cooperative Extension reviews the concepts in the presentation.
Right Plant Right Place
This program is a great general gardening primer. It answers all the basic questions one should address when selecting plants and shrubs for a garden. Learn about USDA plant hardiness zones, and the differing light, water, soil and pH needs that determine where (or whether) a plant can thrive. Learn how to amend your soil to improve drainage and fertility, or reduce compaction, and how to use mulch correctly to discourage weeds and retain moisture. The presentation introduces locally-appropriate plant species that are suited to different garden conditions, and which provide variety in the garden – different foliage colors, textures, seasonal interest, growth habit/shape, and bloom time.
Native Plant Gardening Part I: Native Plants, Ecological Impact
Increasingly, gardeners are transitioning their gardens to plants that are native to their geographic region. Native plants tend to be better suited to local conditions, and therefore need less resources and pampering than ‘exotics’ (plants native to other regions) to thrive. And they are not invasive. Native plants also provide habitat for local birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife, which evolved concurrently with regional trees and plants. Learn about the food web, the benefits of diversity in the garden, plant nomenclature, and some of the (NJ) native trees, shrubs and plants that can be an asset to the home garden while also providing habitat for wildlife.
Native Plant Gardening Part II: Going Native in Your Garden
This presentation reviews the concept and benefits of native plants, then goes further to examine the factors one should consider when developing a landscape plan – how to analyze the soil, sun and other conditions, to determine what native plants to include in a garden, and where. Learn about additional trees, shrubs and plants native to New Jersey that can be an asset to the home garden while also providing wildlife habitat.
Starting a Community Garden
A community garden offers a place for local residents to grow vegetables and flowers if they don’t have a yard or a suitable plot where they live. Community gardens can yield produce for personal use, or for donation to a local food bank. Gardening together offers an opportunity to learn from experienced local gardeners, and to meet and collaborate with one’s neighbors. But establishing a community garden is a big undertaking. This presentation identifies the many issues a town or organization will need to consider and plan for when establishing a community garden – types of gardens, fencing options, water and light conditions, soil testing, mulch, budgeting/estimating costs, maintenance and more and includes a comparison of two gardens.
Keeping Pests out of the Garden Part I: Integrated Pest Management for the Home and Community Garden
This presentation explains the practice of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to deal with insects and diseases in the vegetable garden. IPM uses an array of cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical methods to keep pests and diseases at an acceptable level. Learn how the selection of resistant plants, crop rotation, proper watering and fertilizing, frequent inspections for problems, and encouraging beneficial insects can minimize garden problems. The presentation identifies some of the most common garden insect pests, and offers specific techniques to deal with them.
Keeping Pests out of the Garden Part II: Key Plants, Key Pests
This presentation builds on Part 1, providing a more detailed discussion of common plant diseases and pests found in the vegetable garden, with a focus on the most likely host plants for specific problems, how to identify them, and what to do about them.
Harvesting and Food Safety in the Home and Community Garden
You may know how to plant, nurture and grow vegetables, but do you know the best practices for harvesting that bounty? This presentation gives advice on the best time to pick specific vegetables –tomatoes, beans, peppers, watermelons, kale and collard greens, cabbage, lettuce – and how to remove them correctly from the plant and store them for use. Vegetables are good for you, but vegetables can cause serious illness if they become contaminated with listeria, E-coli or salmonella, or chemicals from a prior land use, improper manure applications or water runoff from another site. Learn how to evaluate a garden’s risk potential, and how to create a plan to monitor risks and avoid problems. Although this presentation is oriented toward food safety in community farming, the principles apply to any food gardening.
Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants using nutrient-enriched water. This “soil-less” method of producing vegetables and herbs, although not at all new, is becoming increasingly popular on a commercial scale, particularly in urban areas where land is scarce or contaminated. There are many advantages, including the ability to grow produce year-round. Camden County Certified Gardeners work closely with staff at the County’s hydroponic demonstration greenhouse in Blackwood, NJ, producing tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce without soil. This presentation explains their experience, as well as the different types of hydroponic setups – ebb and flow, floating, drip/vertical, aeroponic towers, aquaponics, etc. Learn about the advantages and drawbacks of hydroponics, the learning curve for novices, and the costs and resources needed to be successful. Whether or not you plan to venture into the world of hydroponic gardening, this presentation is highly interesting.
Vegetable Gardening 101
Vegetable Gardening 101 provides beginning gardeners a simple step by step approach to a successful harvest. This lecture begins with planning the garden, explaining site selection, garden layout options, and soil preparation. The discussion moves to plant selection, so attendees can make informed choices on vegetables that will suit their site, garden size, and individual tastes. Cool weather and warm weather crops are covered, including recommended planting times for both. Planting techniques for direct seeding and transplants are described, and which plant varieties should be grown using which planting method. Care and maintenance throughout the growing season are included, such as watering, weeding, and pest control. Picking times and safe harvesting techniques complete the talk.
Our friendly volunteers are prepared to answer your questions and provide literature, or take your question for further study. This “mobile helpline” is, of course, free to the public. The classes are held weekly from January Certified Gardeners will not be attending public events. Please direct your questions to our Helpline phone number or email.