Ecological Gardener Training Program

Become an ecological gardener and discover how to transform human spaces into healthy, vibrant ecosystems.

The Ecological Gardener Training program is a new learning module that will be implemented for the first time in 2022. Taught by Elyse Jurgen of Waxwing EcoWorks, the Ecological Gardener Training program focuses on rebuilding biodiversity and other ecosystem services in human spaces. 

Program participants will explore native plants for designing wildlife habitat, lawn conversion methods, scaled designing, and seasonal management techniques that can be applied to commercial, schoolyard, and residential spaces. Whether you are exploring a career in ecological gardening, seeking to enhance pollination services in your community garden, or itching to rebuild biodiversity at your home habitat, ecological gardeners will gain valuable hands-on design, build, and stewardship skills to build confidence in taking action in this “buzzing” field.

The Ecological Gardener Training Program is underwritten by the Powder Mill Foundation.

This course is geared for the home gardener or landscape practitioner that is looking to expand their skills in designing, installing, and stewarding native habitat in the home/community landscape. 

Characteristics include:

  • Experience in nurturing a perennial garden at home or community garden
  • Enthusiasm for rebuilding biodiversity and ecosystem services in a wide range of planting conditions
  • Passion for wildlife and building and stewarding habitats
  • Willingness to think critically and engage in rigorous mental and physical work

Program Details:

Both built on a 4-day core curriculum of foundational ecological education, the Horn Farm Center’s Land Steward Training Program and the Ecological Gardener Training Program offer 16 weeks of intensive training focused on skill-building for practical application of regenerative practices and restorative earth work.

Core Classroom Curriculum – (4 weeks, 7 hours per week, Mondays 8am-4pm)

Our ‘Ecological Core’ classroom curriculum helps lay a foundation and are held on Mondays from February 28 – March 21, 2022. We will engage in a broad range of concepts and theories that will stimulate questions and conversations. Our goal is to provide students with a new lens to look through when interacting with the land.

This portion of the Ecological Gardener Training program is held in conjunction with the Land Steward Training Program at the Hellam Township Administrative Building. Students will learn:

  • Basic ecology including understanding natural cycles and ecological systems
  • Historical land uses and misuses
  • Land regeneration design and implementation
  • Disturbance-based land management
  • Mapping
  • Field and forest ergonomics for human movement

Hands On Training – (12 weeks, 4 hours per week, Tuesdays 8am-12pm, 1 week break for Memorial Day)

Following the first 4 weeks of classroom training, Ecological Gardener Training Program classes are held on Tuesdays: March 29 through June 21, 2022, excluding May 31st for the Memorial Day holiday, at the Horn Farm Center.

Participants will engage in 4 hours of ecological gardener training (and periodic classroom instruction) per week, for 12 weeks, from March 29 through June 21, 2022.

Student Toolkits

Students will each receive their own toolkit. The course is designed so that participants will gain comfort and proficiency with the use of these tools. Student toolkits includes a hori hori, plant ID magnifying lens and journal. Participants will be responsible for their own tools and will take their kit with them at the completion of the program

How to Enroll

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2022 Land Steward Training Program.

If you are interested in enrolling in the Land Steward Training Program or the Ecological Gardener Training Program for 2023, please REGISTER FOR THE WAITING LIST.

For questions, please email

Topics Covered


  • Design Tools and Processes 
  • Scaled Mapping
  • Project Budget Preparation 
  • Observing and Recording Site Conditions 
  • Landscape Archetypes 
  • Ecosystem Services 
  • Calculations for Capturing Stormwater (ie; rain gardens) 
  • Crafting a Full Property Master Plan 


  • Sourcing Native Plants
  • Ecoregions and Local Ecotypes
  • Species and Family Identification
  • Host Plants for Lepidoptera
  • Seed Collecting and Plant Propagation
  • Edible and Medicinal Native Plants
  • Native Plants for Winter Interest
  • Plant Communities and Plant Palettes 


  • Site Preparation Methods 
  • Installation Tools and Techniques 
  • Ethical considerations and systems thinking in gardening
  • Green Mulch vs Brown Mulch
  • Common Weed Identification 
  • Pruning, Trimming, Dividing, and Removal Techniques 
  • Seeding of Mini-Meadows 
  • Miyawaki Method Reforestation (deep soil prep) 
  • Seasonal Garden Management Practices 

About the Instructor

Elyse Jurgen, owner of Waxwing EcoWorks Co., is a community collaborator
working to rebuild ecological literacy and biodiversity through hands-on ecological gardening experiences in South Central PA.

She is certified as a Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional and Ecological/Permaculture Designer, along with earning an Ecological Gardening Certification from Mt. Cuba Center. She has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education, 7-12 Biology Teaching Certification, and participated in Cornell University’s Civic Ecology program. Elyse works alongside homeowners in a participatory approach to their gardening for wildlife needs, infusing educational opportunities during the design, installation, and management process. She invites homeowners to deeply engage with their land to maximize its potential in enhancing human well-being and supporting dwindling wildlife populations.