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Service Learning in Organic Gardening


Service-learning is the process through which people and mostly students engage themselves in the practice of what has been tackled in their classrooms. This particular practice takes place in the community where students engage themselves in community-based activities, which correspond with what has been learned in class. Organic gardening is one area in which service-learning is carried out and which help students get connected with the earth. It involves the planting of organic plants which are dressed with organic nutrients resulting in the conservation of nature and its processes. The main objective of service learning about organic gardening is to get connected with the earth although other additional benefits are realized in the course of service learning.

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According to Cathryn (2003 pp 67-68), “Service learning can be defined as a strategy applied in learning, where the classroom curriculum is integrated with community service which is accompanied by instructions”. The main objective of service learning programs is to enable students to reflect on what has been learned in class, so as to reinforce their understanding of what has been taught. An example of service learning is where students engage themselves in organic gardening which involves the planting of organic plants, to exercise farming methods and techniques taught in class. It also cultivates connectivity with the earth which helps students to recognize underlying processes that take place on the earth. This connectivity also allows students to identify with the natural processes as they get directly involved in service learning, where they plant organic vegetables.

Service Learning About Organic Gardening

This particular service learning took place in the morning hours of every Saturday, which ran from nine o’clock to eleven. The practice involved other group members who engaged themselves in the planting of various organic vegetables among them being garlic, carrots, cucumber, and tomatoes. The first step was to prepare the garden by tilling it so as to have it ready for planting. The garden was then partitioned into several sections on which organic vegetables were to be planted. Separate sections were prepared to accommodate seedbeds since some organic vegetables like tomatoes had to be put on seedbeds and then transplanted to their sections in the garden. However, the exercise did not run without some problems which occurred from the first instance that we engaged ourselves in organic gardening. (Cathryn, 2003)

Problems Encountered During Service Learning About Organic Gardening

Several problems were encountered; some of them regarding the organization of the group, while others were on diseases and pests that attacked the organic vegetables. There was also a problem with the size of land that was provided for the practice of service learning since it was too small and organic vegetables had to be squeezed in the small space. Therefore, some organic vegetables lacked enough space to spread and flourish well, especially tomatoes which needed more spacing between tomato trees. Those problems that had to do with the manner in which the group members organized themselves was not much of a problem as group members adjusted themselves in the course of service learning, where a timetable was prepared to allocate each member with roles and time when he/she was supposed to attend the garden. However, diseases and pests were the main problems since snails found their way into some vegetables, eating away their leaves which reduced their productivity since it is in the leaves that food for plants is synthesized. So by eating up the leaves, snails made those vegetables become weak which resulted in weathering of some and those that survived were of very low quality.

Another problem was ant piles that formed all over the garden which tampered with the growth of organic vegetables, as water that was meant to be taken up by the plants was drained into holes beneath those ant piles. Other insects were the parasitic wasps and aphids which attacked the organic vegetables. Moths laid eggs on the leaves of organic vegetables, which blocked pores on the vegetables’ leaves; tampering with their respiration system. Worms and borers were also a great problem with the most dangerous of all being cutworms that literally cut some vegetables like kales right at their bases, making them weather and then die. Borers and worms made holes inside some vegetables like the cucumbers and tomatoes and then ate them up. Weeds was also another problem as it kept coming back just a few days after weeding and they took a share of nutrients that were supposed to be taken up by organic vegetables. Some weeds coiled themselves around tomato trees which affected their production. The tomatoes were also infected by a virus known as curly top, which resulted in the loss of several tomato plants. It was possible to reduce the effects of some problems, which was achieved by curbing them before they could attack the whole garden but for this particular virus that attacked the tomatoes, it was hard to control it since there is no organic method for its control. “When a plant is attacked by curly virus, it should be removed so as to prevent transmission of the virus to other tomato plants and that is exactly what we did” Shelley”. (2002 p. 17)

Solutions to Problems Encountered During Service Learning

The group made use of learning materials that had been provided in class, which helped in tackling some problems that affected the organic vegetables. Some solutions were short-term while others were long-term. Among the long-term solutions was mulching, which was primarily directed to reducing and suppressing weeds that competed with organic vegetables, in taking up nutrients that were available in the soil. Mulching helped in the conservation of water, which is one of the basic necessities of organic vegetables as well as other plants. Before the group mulched the garden, there was a problem with retention of water for longer periods but after the garden had been dressed with mulch, the soil could hold water for quite a long time saving group member’s time and energy that was used in watering the vegetables on daily basis. Mulching also moderated the temperature of the soil providing a cool environment for plants to grow, and it, therefore, helped organic vegetables to survive in times when temperatures were high.

Another way in which mulching helped solve problems that were encountered during organic gardening was by helping in the reduction and prevention of erosion. The Mulch covered the soil making it hard for agents of soil erosion to take over, and continue eroding the soil as was the case before mulching. Water that was used to irrigate had turned into an agent of soil erosion thereby carrying with it nutrients that were contained in the soil. Others were short-term solutions like putting up brightly colored traps at various areas of the organic garden so as to catch flying pests. Foil collars were also laid at the organic vegetables’ base so as to prevent borers and cutworms from attacking the vegetable plants. However, there were some insects that the group regarded as harmful while they were beneficial. This is because; some larger insects feed on the small ones thereby reducing the number of harmful insects in the garden. For example, parasitic wasps fed on aphids while birds fed on grubs. Above all, the group learned that it is important to know about organic vegetables so as to understand that, problems being encountered by the vegetables are a manifestation of the different ways in which nature operates. “Extensive knowledge about organic vegetables also helps students to learn more about seasonal changes organic vegetables might go through, which helps in anticipation of those problems so as to prevent them before they get to attack the plants” Shelley (2002 pp18-19).

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How Service Learning Organic Gardening Helped In Connection With the Earth

Organic gardening offered a great opportunity for service learning which also helped in connectivity with the earth. This was achieved through positive traits that were gained during explorations in the garden as manifestations of the earth came out so clearly. For example, there was a chance to notice the process in which nature adjusts itself through the various processes taking place, among them being how large insects feed on small insects, to reduce the number of harmful insects in the organic garden. Service learning about organic gardening also provided an opportunity to learn about organic vegetables and the various dangers that chemical products like pesticides cause to organic plants. This emphasized the importance of protecting the land as well as the resultant benefits of engaging in organic gardening; where nature is allowed to control and adjust itself.

These adjustments of nature brought out the ways in which human beings interact with the ecosystem, and how they are accommodated in the process where they make use of resources that are made available by nature. Organic gardening provided an opportunity to engage in tilling of land and planting some organic vegetables, which cultivated ownership of organic vegetables as well as respect for the earth on which they grew. Organic gardening has promoted recognition of environmental sustainability which has occurred through relationships that have been built in the course of service learning. It has also enhanced a deeper understanding of the responsibility human beings have as co-producers of earth’s resources, and not mere consumers. Connectivity with the earth has also been made possible by the tangible patience of the earth on which the organic garden lies, as it waits for plants to grow, providing them with necessary support until they are ready for harvesting.

During service learning about organic gardening, it was possible to notice how people have been taking their surrounding environment for granted, by not getting connected with it like it was the case with our ancestors back in ancient times. In addition to the experience that was gained from working in the organic garden, it helped us in the development of a more patient character; creating more opportunities for us to connect with the earth. It is therefore appropriate for other students to engage in service-learning about organic gardening, so as to develop a similar character that can only be cultivated through directly getting in touch with the earth. (Jerome, 2007)


It is therefore evident that service learning can result in multiple benefits for students getting directly in touch with the earth. This is because it provides one with experience and a better understanding of things taught in class as well as connectivity with the earth’s resources. “Service learning has emphasized the importance of actual interaction with nature as one gets in touch with systems as well as processes that take place. Organic gardening is, therefore, an area that is recommended to other students as it allows one to connect with the earth” Jerome (2007 p.37)


Cathryn B. (2003): Proven, practical ways to engage students in civic responsibility, academic curriculum and social action: Free Spirit publishing pp 65-69.

Jerome I. (2007): Organic Gardening and farming: University of Michigan pp36-40.

Shelley B. (2002): Service learning through a multidisciplinary lens: IAP pp16-19.

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StudyCorgi. "Service Learning in Organic Gardening." November 22, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Service Learning in Organic Gardening." November 22, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Service Learning in Organic Gardening'. 22 November.

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