STOCKSCH 100 – Botany for Gardeners Online

garden_banner_03Do you know the difference between a common, white (Irish) potato….. and a sweet potato?  You can either click here – or take the class and find out!

To earn your Biological Sciences (BS) GenEd at UMass – REGISTER HERE

This is a class on the science of plant growth, using world food production, our favorite foods and backyard gardening as the framework for study whenever possible.  We will look at what plants are made of (plant anatomy), how they interact with other plants and animals (ecology), how the environment affects plants (plant physiology), and where they came from over time (evolution).  Most important perhaps, we will think together about our relationship with plants in order to better understand our place in the world.

This class is offered in January and Summer terms through UMass Online in a 6 week format.  There are PowerPoint lessons and videos, open-book exams, quizzes covering the Botany of Desire text, a required journal post, as well as optional online discussions.  You are invited to do this class at your own pace any time of the day.

Satisfies the General Education – Biological Sciences (BS) Requirement at UMass

Instructor:  John M. Gerber, Professor, Stockbridge School of Agriculture
Office:        308 Bowditch Hall; Univ. of Massachusetts
Contact: or 413-545-5301
Web Page:
Facebook:  Just Food Now in Western Massachusetts
Blog:          Just Food Now – News and Views


Format:  This class is a lecture format supplemented with an optional textbook and delivered via PowerPoint and Video in an on-line environment (see Lesson Plan).  You will have access to the instructor via UMass Online, however I will not be available “24/7”.  I’ve posted the videos to You Tube or Vimeo to make them easy to access.  Each lesson includes a PowerPoint with notes and most include an optional additional reading in the textbook Botany for Gardeners.  You will also read Botany of Desire and take the quizzes on the reading of this engaging book.  Exams are all open-book but are limited in time.  You may take the Botany of Desire quizzes up to 3 times.  Please see the sample lesson for an example.

Technology: According to UMass Online, in order to take this course you must:

  • have access to a personal computer (Mac or Windows)
  • be familiar with basic computer skills
  • be connected to the internet
  • have an e-mail program and account
  • have at least a 56 kbps modem
  • have a Java capable browser (Netscape or Internet Explorer)

NOTE: If you have any problems with technology, please contact the UMass Online Tech Support office for help.

Required Textbook: Pollan, M. 2002. Botany of Desire: a Plant’s Eye View of the World.  This book is often available at the local library and may be purchased new or used from on-line booksellers.  The chapters will also be available free to download in pdf format on the class web page.

Suggested Textbook: Capon, Brian. 2005.  Botany for Gardeners. Timber Press, Portland, OR.  This book is available from online booksellers.  The older, 1990 edition is just fine and can be purchased on line very cheaply.

Exams and Grades:  There are four unit exams.  Exam questions will come from PowerPoints, videos, as well as the required text (Botany of Desire).  No test questions come from the suggested text, Botany for Gardeners, unless the material was also introduced in the PowerPoints or videos.  There are 4 quizzes covering the 4 main chapters of Botany of Desire.  There are four required journal posts covering anything from gardening to sustainable living.  Finally, up to 5 extra credit points may be earned by participating in the online discussions.  For a more complete explanation go here.

This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program.   To register for upcoming classes, see UMass Online.  Most classes cost $371/credit.  If you would like to register for the Certificate program, you may apply here.

For information, contact Dr. John M. Gerber at;