Courses Overview >> Short courses >> Cultivating Healthy Soils in Your Garden and on Your Farm

Cultivating Healthy Soils in Your Garden and on Your Farm

Laura Lengnick
Key Info: 
  • Learn about soil health and ecological soil management practices
  • Practice using some simple, effective, research-based tools to measure and monitor a set of physical, chemical and biological indicators of soil health
  • Engage with others interested in learning more about ecological soil management

With Laura Lengnick

£ 475.00
Course fees include all vegetarian meals, field trips, materials and all teaching sessions.
The programme will run from Monday of the first week to Friday afternoon the last week, and includes four nights private accommodation from the first lunchtime you arrive through until the lunchtime before your departure.

Soils inhabit the dynamic edges of our planet where rock, water, air, energy and life interact to make life on Earth possible. An emerging appreciation for the connection between soil health, human health, and the health of our planet has generated renewed interest in soil management practices that promote healthy soils. In this course, we will explore how you can sustain this vital resource in your garden and on your farm using simple, time-tested practices that:

1) regenerate and sustain the life in your soil
2) protect your soil from damages caused by extremes of temperature, rainfall and other disturbances
3) allow you to regularly evaluate the health of your soil

Proper feeding requires an understanding of how the quality and quantity of materials added to the soil – for example, plant residues, animal manures, compost and fertilizers – stimulate the soil decomposition processes responsible for enhancing soil health. A broad understanding of soil response to disturbance makes it easier to choose the best protection options for your soil. Regular observation and evaluation of soil health can dramatically improve your ability to cultivate a living soil regardless of the place-based challenges of your production system and location. Take this course if you want to gain a practical understanding of what you can do to cultivate healthy soils for healthy crops, livestock, and people, healthy community and a healthy planet.

This course is for:

• Gardeners who want to learn about soil management practices that they can use to improve soil health and produce healthy fruits, vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants.

• Smallholders who want to learn about the principles and practices of ecological soil management in order to improve soil health and promote the sustained production of healthy, high quality food and livestock on their land.

• Commercial farmers who want to consider using ecological soil management practices on their farm to reduce costs, increase productivity and enhance the resilience of their farm operation to more variable weather and extremes.

• Students of agriculture and food systems who want to understand how gardeners, small-holders and farmers can use the principles and practices of ecological soil management to promote soil health and sustainable food systems.

What will participants gain from taking part in this course?

• A better understanding of soil health and the principles and practices of ecological soil management, including the effects on soil life of different kinds of management practices such as the addition of compost and other organic materials, and the use of crop rotation, cover crops, and tillage.

• The ability to use some simple, easy to construct and effective tools designed to accurately measure and monitor soil health over time.

• A new appreciation for the crucial role that soils play in the health of the planet.

With Laura Lengnick
Laura Lengnick

Laura Lengnick

Laura Lengnick has explored agricultural and food system sustainability through more than 30 years of work as a federal researcher and policy-maker, college educator, community activist and farmer to understand what it takes to move sustainability values into action on the farm, in our communities and as a nation. Trained as a soil scientist, Laura’s research in soil quality and sustainable agriculture systems at the Beltsville Agriculture Research Center in Maryland was nationally recognized with a USDA Secretary’s Honor Award in 2000. She led the academic program in Sustainable Agriculture at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina for more than a decade, where she also served as the Director of Sustainability Education. She has a long history of collaboration in community-based research, education and advocacy for sustainable agriculture and food systems. Laura has grown organic vegetables and fruits for community supported agriculture projects and has developed her smallholding near Asheville, NC using biointensive and permaculture principles. Her award-winning 2015 book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food systems for a Changing Climate, explores climate change, resilience and the future of food through the adaptation stories of some of America’s best sustainable farmers and ranchers. You can learn more about Laura and her work at

If you would like to book onto one of our short courses, you will need to create an account. This is a simple process of choosing a username, email address and password. Once you have created an account you will receive a verification email. Please click on the verification link within to have full access to the site and to make your booking. (You may need to  check your spam folder if you do not see this email.)  We will email you confirmation of your payment and any further communication about your course application.

A place can not be guaranteed unless we receive your deposit or payment on your chosen course. If you would like to apply for a bursary, please do this before making your course application.

Short Course Bursaries create an opportunity for an individual to experience the powerful transformative learning by joining a course that assists the participant to inspire their wider community and benefits from the participant’s own unique contribution. It is our hope that our bursaries support a wide cross section of participation on our short course programme. The number of bursaries available is limited, competition is strong and funding is not always available for every short course. Please be aware that most bursaries are in the region of 10% – 20% of the course fee so please be prepared to raise funding from other sources.  A bursary award is not intended to cover travel or incidental expenses.

Applications are viewed on a case-by-case basis and we are unable to enter into discussions on any decisions. We generally have many more applications for bursaries than we have funding available. We can only offer one bursary per person per year and priority is given to those who have not attended the college or received a bursary before. To help us support as many people as possible, please only apply if you would be unable to attend the course without a bursary.

How to apply for a bursary

Six weeks before the course is due to start all bursary applications will be considered and responded to.  If successful you will be required to accept our Bursary Terms and Conditions.

Please answer the following:

  1. What does a bursary mean to you?
  2. How will your attendance on this course benefit the wider community?
  3. If your financial situation justifies you applying for a bursary, how much are you able to contribute towards attending this course?

Please be prepared to supply an appropriate reference in support of your application.