Review Of The “Garden Master Course” – Learn To Grow Beyond Organic

After completing the 17-Video, 35-hour Garden Master Course, and 232-page accompanying eBook from Permies, I have a few things to say about it. Here is a brief review of the course and ultimately my recommendation to anyone who wants to learn to grow beyond organic.

Garden Master Course 1
  • What Is The Garden Master Course?
  • About The Instructor
  • Pros and Cons of The Garden Master Course
  • Who Could Benefit From This Course?
  • What Kind of Results Could You Expect From Taking This Course
  • Final Thoughts About The Garden Master Course

Overview: What Is The Garden Master Course?

The Garden Master Course is a 35-hour video-based online course mostly taught by horticulture expert Helen Atthowe with a lesson taught by Alan Booker also and added insights throughout the course from Alan and Paul Wheaton. This unique program is aimed at anyone with an interest in sustainable, “beyond-organic” gardening.

The course provides comprehensive information on various aspects of gardening, with a focus on sustainable practices. It offers organic, veganic, and no-till permaculture gardening techniques, emphasizing soil and habitat building for beneficial organisms.

The course also aims to provide a more systems-thinking approach to gardening, focusing on managing relationships in the garden, rather than just growing crops. It’s regarded to offer insights that are considered to be better than in-person, university-funded master gardener programs​​.

In a nutshell, the Garden Master Course covers: How everything is connected; understanding soil structure and ecology; strengthening your garden by managing beneficial insects, pests, and disease; working with plant competition in the farm/garden system; and planting, pruning, and rotating for long-term success.

About the Instructor: Helen Atthowe

Helen Atthowe is a well-respected figure in the field of organic farming and conservation. With 35 years of experience connecting farming, food systems, land stewardship, and conservation, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the course. Helen has an M.S. in Horticulture from Rutgers University and has worked in education and research at Rutgers, the University of Arkansas, and Montana and Oregon State Universities. She is also the Author of “The Ecological Farm: A Minimalist No-Till, No-Spray, Selective-Weeding, Grow-Your-Own-Fertilizer System for Organic Agriculture”.

The Ecological Farm: A Minimalist No-Till, No-Spray, Selective-Weeding, Grow-Your-Own-Fertilizer System for Organic Agriculture
  • Atthowe, Helen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages – 06/22/2023 (Publication Date) – Chelsea Green Publishing (Publisher)

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Helen and her late husband farmed a 211-acre organic farm in Eastern Oregon doing mainly orchard and vegetable production, and created educational videos. Atthowe currently farms and conducts soil and natural enemies’ habitat-building research on a 5-acre organic farm in Western Montana.

In her career, she has designed, taught, and written the manual for an Organic Master Garden course during her 17 years as a Horticulture Extension Agent in Montana. She has also owned and operated a certified organic vegetable/fruit farm in Montana and an organic orchard in California. Atthowe has served as a board member for the Organic Farming Research Foundation and an advisor for the Wild Farm Alliance, further establishing her commitment to organic farming and conservation​​.

Pros and Cons of The Garden Master Course


Flexibility and Convenience

One of the key benefits of the Garden Master Course is its flexibility. As it’s an online program, you can access the course materials at any time, which makes it a suitable option for those who cannot commit to a full-time, in-person program. You can choose to watch only the lessons you’re interested in or rewatch each lesson until you fully understand the material.

Truly Better Than Organic

Something that sets this course apart and I believe above traditional master courses is the approach to natural method solutions in the areas of weeds, pests, disease, and production. Traditional courses may suggest methods that are less environmentally friendly.

Helen presents thorough research and documented results to show that a successful garden can be had without the use of harsh (or even milder, organic-approved) chemicals and products. She is also practical about it, meaning she is aware that most are limited in time and other resources available, so she shares her methods that minimize the workload and outside inputs to achieve results.

Excellent Presentation

Helen is a gifted communicator with an amazing amount of knowledge and experience. That being said she has a unique ability to say things simply and understandably and help you to see the practical application of what she is teaching.

There are also many slides to further demonstrate her teachings and display research and results. This goes a long way in helping the student see how this knowledge plays out in gardening maintenance and production.


A Large Focus On Commercial Farming Rather Than Backyard Gardening

The course is advertised as a gardening course but could have just as easily been marketed as a market gardening or farming course as most of the examples shown and taught are from that perspective. The teachings are still applicable to the small-scale backyard gardener, but you have to think a little differently about the application of some of the methods taught.

Paul Wheaton, the founder of Permies, points this out himself during a roundtable discussion within the course curriculum and adds a few insights about methods that could apply better for home gardeners.

Perhaps Not Entirely Family Friendly

I feel I should add a word of warning to those who may want to take this course and might have young children present or perhaps you yourself are sensitive to foul language. There are a couple of times within the course that Paul Wheaton chimes in with some input and uses some language that may be offensive to some. This wouldn’t be a problem for most, but I know for some it is so it’s worth mentioning.

Who Could Benefit From This Course?

Anyone interested in gardening or farming in a way that has a positive environmental impact and yet still produces an abundance of food could gain a worthy education from this course. The material in this course not only teaches you the science of why this works but also sets you on a path to apply it to your own garden or farm.

What Kind of Results Could You Expect From Taking This Course

Frankly, taking the course alone will have minimal results. The results come from taking action on what you learn, and that is a step beyond the course. You will complete this course and better understand soil health, natural pest control, simple and effective weed control methods, and more, but you have to put this knowledge into practice to make it worth it.

Like I was, You will likely be convinced of better ways to do things. Helen certainly changed my mind about things like balancing carbon and nitrogen ratios in order to achieve successful high-carbon farming for increased microbial activity and alternative approaches to natural habitat building for pest control. The knowledge I gained from this course will forever change the way I approach gardening in many ways.

My Final Thoughts

I would definitely recommend the Garden Master Course for any backyard gardener, market gardener, or farmer wanting to grow their food in the healthiest and most abundant way.

The course is very affordable and well worth the money! I don’t know how I could say it more bluntly. The material over-delivers in a big way and you get a huge bang for the buck.

Helen is a fantastic teacher, and after recording a podcast episode with her while I was working through the course, I found her passion for what she teaches to be exciting and contagious.


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    Author, blogger, podcaster, homesteading and permaculture enthusiast. I have a passion for sharing what I learn and helping others on their journey. If you're looking for me, you'll usually find me in the garden.

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