South West TAFE plans to start a new horticulture course at the Hamilton campus, following record demand for the Warrnambool program.
Teacher Nick Graesser, who taught the last course in Hamilton in 2021, said interest in horticulture had grown since the pandemic.
“Our numbers in Warrnambool are booming and we think there will be strong demand in Hamilton,” Mr Graesser said.
“It seems spending more time at home during the pandemic rekindled people’s love of gardening.”
South West TAFE has also reintroduced horticulture in Portland after a 15-year absence.
The Certificate II course runs over 12 months and students complete 15 subjects covering a basic introduction to horticulture. “It does the usual subjects around plant identification, propagation, pruning and gardening, and it also touches on small-scale irrigation, paving and landscape projects,” Mr Graesser said.
Mr Graesser said a large proportion of participants were mature-aged people who wanted to expand their knowledge for the home garden setting, but the course also attracted younger entrants using it as a stepping stone to a full qualification and a career.
“It is very hands-on and a great introduction to horticulture that is suitable for both the home gardener and someone looking to continue to a Certificate III and a career in the field,” he said.
The 2021 Hamilton horticulture class was the only one run in recent times and it gave student Trish Martin a fresh insight into her gardening hobby.
“It was great for me as a mature-aged student,” she said. “I was 45 when I did the course. My kids had just left home and I was looking for something to do. Someone asked me what I love and I said the garden and there had just been a story in the paper about the course.
“It was the worst year during COVID but we managed and I’d highly recommend it.”
While still continuing her musical career, Mrs Martin is happy to know she has a backup option if needed.
“I’m not working in the field because I’m a musician with DNT, but with this qualification I could pursue a career if I wanted. I know other students have taken it further and got jobs out of the course.”
Mrs Martin was just happy to broaden her knowledge.
“I know so much more than what I knew about before from being in my home garden. We learnt something about everything you need to do at home. We learnt a bit about paving, raised garden beds, propagation, hot houses, pruning, what’s in your potting mix, safe handling of chemicals.”
Mrs Martin has also learned about proper plant names and their families.
“If you walk out into the bandicoot enclosure after doing this course, you should be able to identify every tree that you see and know what family they are from,” she said.
“It is an interest and if I wasn’t doing music, it’s something I would pursue as a career.”