Horticulture Semester (Live)
About Our Program
Everything You Need to Know to Work in Cannabis Cultivation
Cannabis is America’s fastest-growing industry. Careers in cultivation range from trimmers and tissue culture technicians to plant breeders and integrated pest management experts. If you love working with plants and seek employment in a greenhouse, farm, or indoor cultivation space, Oaksterdam’s Horticulture Certification Program is for you.
We provide the most comprehensive cannabis cultivation education available in the industry. Whether you’re starting out or want to improve an existing grow, you’ll learn the latest techniques from clone to harvest and how to ward off pests and pathogens and increase your yields.
Oaksterdam University’s roots in cannabis cultivation grow 25 years deep. We’ve stayed on the cutting edge and we’re excited to share the new science emerging as cannabis-growing techniques come into the light.
This course explores strategies for launching and sustaining a commercial cannabis cultivation space. We provide an overview of cannabis plant science and agronomy, examine the pros and cons of current commercial cultivation methodologies, and demonstrate techniques for successful operation. We also highlight the impacts of stringent regulatory compliance requirements and discuss trends in the consumer market.
We begin with the foundations of cannabis, including the history of humans’ interaction with the plant and the policies which govern its production and use. We also review the efforts of advocacy pioneers who fought for the right to access medical cannabis and learn how we can continue that tradition in our personal and professional lives.
From there, we walk through the plant’s entire life cycle, from propagation to harvest, and present basic cultivation techniques for each growth stage. This introduction provides the basis for a deeper dive into the science of cultivation, where we explore the anatomy and physiology of the plant, plant nutrition, and factors that can limit photosynthesis. We present general strategies for optimizing conditions and increasing yield.
Then the course shifts to cannabis agronomy — the science of crop production. We introduce basic concepts of soil science and microbiology, and explore organic and sustainable growing techniques. We discuss strategies for managing plant pressures that present themselves in a controlled cultivation environment, including pests, pathogens, and nutrient deficiencies.
After that, we focus on two cultivation methodologies: sun-grown and indoor. First, we look at growing cannabis outdoors where conditions are driven by nature, covering large-scale cannabis farming practices, infrastructure, and equipment. From there, we look at how greenhouses are used to harness the benefits of full-sun cultivation while maintaining greater control over environmental conditions.
Finally, we discuss technologies needed for achieving optimal results in an indoor setting, including lighting science and controls, ventilation and CO2 supplementation, and electrical systems. We wrap up with a recap of some of the financial considerations of launching and managing a commercial cannabis cultivation operation.
Horticulture Course Curriculum
Week 1: Federal vs. State Law
This course is an overview of state and federal cannabis laws, public policies, rules, and regulations. The course covers federal laws prohibiting cannabis and the risks of breaking those laws, including mandatory minimum prison sentences, asset forfeiture, and collateral consequences. Students will gain an understanding of evolving federal enforcement priorities and tactics, federal laws and policies that affect cannabis banking and taxes, and federal hemp and CBD laws and oversight. Students also will understand how states prohibit or allow medical and adult-use cannabis and the basic components of state licensing of commercial cannabis, including license types, eligibility, application requirements, and operating regulations.
Week 2: Horticulture Project Introduction
The Oaksterdam Semester Program includes a capstone project that all students must complete to receive a certificate of completion. Students may participate in a group project or a solo project. The business project consists of a Business Plan “Lite” and a pitch deck presentation.
A Business Plan “Lite” encapsulates a business’s significant concepts in a few short pages that look at the services/goods, structure, competitive advantage, leadership team, and market forces that form a unique business.
A Pitch Deck is a presentation by a company to a potential investor. A pitch deck identifies a problem in the market and explains why a company’s particular service or good is the solution. A pitch should illustrate the significant concepts of your business in a concise, engaging narrative. The pitch presentation must be five minutes or less. Your presentation will be followed by 10 minutes of Q&A with the judges and your student peers.
Week 3: Cultivation Safety and Compliance
In this course, we discuss how you can grow cannabis safely and remain in compliance with state and local cultivation regulations. First, we identify the places where cannabis cultivation is permitted and take a brief look at the process of obtaining a license for commercial cultivation and the regulations you need to follow as a commercial grower. Then, we turn our attention to safety. We walk through the mandatory security measures for most cannabis businesses and emphasize the importance of being a good neighbor and running a discreet operation with odor and light control. Finally, we look at some potential hazards in a cannabis cultivation operation and how to address them.
Week 4: Seeds and Clones, and Vegetative Growth
Seeds and Clones
One of the first choices you must make when cultivating cannabis is whether you start your plant from a seed or a clone — a rooted cutting that is an exact genetic copy of the mother plant. In this course, we learn more about both approaches and explore the pros and cons of each. We demonstrate techniques for sprouting and sowing seeds and identify the optimal environmental conditions for germination and young seedlings. Then, we examine the practice of cloning and its application in cannabis cultivation. We learn how to assess the health of clones and highlight the importance of quarantining new clones and acclimating them to a new growing environment.
In this course, we explore how light and nutrients affect the growth and development of the cannabis plant during the vegetative growth stage. We also take a closer look at how various anatomical structures of the cannabis plant develop during this phase of the life cycle and the role of each part of the plant in promoting vegetative growth. The course concludes with some best practices for transplanting and techniques for influencing the growth pattern of your plants, such as pruning, training, and topping.
Week 5: Transition and Flowering, and Propagation Techniques
Transition and Flowering
Flowering is the life cycle stage most strongly associated with cannabis cultivation — the emergence of the sticky flowers, or “buds,” that the plant is so well known for. We explain how changes in the photoperiod prompt the start of the flowering stage. You will learn how to care for your plants during their transition from the vegetative phase. We also demonstrate how to sex cannabis plants grown from seed by examining the earliest signs of flower development. Then, we introduce cultivation techniques for the late flowering stage and recognize when flowers reach their optimal maturity. We conclude with a discussion of how to plan outcrop cycles in order to maximize the number of plantings.
In this course, we explore plant propagation, which is the act of intentionally creating new plants. We examine the difference between sexual and asexual reproduction and discuss the different propagation techniques that can be used to accomplish each. After a brief discussion of breeding plants to produce seeds, we demonstrate how to root clones and define the optimal conditions for rooting. The course concludes with an introduction to tissue culture, a propagation technique that is quickly gaining popularity in the commercial cannabis industry.
Week 6: Harvest and Processing
In this course, we walk through the entire process of harvesting and processing your crop. We demonstrate proper harvesting and manicuring techniques and explore equipment that can be used to automate some of those tasks. We discuss proper dry room conditions and the importance of curing and storing your crop properly to bring out the best qualities in the biomass and maximize its shelf life. Then, we learn about analytical lab testing requirements for harvested cannabis biomass and how to interpret the results of potency and quality analyses. Finally, we discuss the allocation and transport of your crop and outline how to do so in an efficient and compliant manner.
Week 7: Mediums, Nutrients, and Irrigation
This course looks at how we can create a root zone environment that allows your plants to thrive and provide the nutrients and water they need to optimize their growth. First, we discuss the various planting mediums used for cannabis cultivation and consider the factors when selecting one. Then, we examine the nutritional needs of the cannabis plant and the importance of having the ideal concentration and pH in a liquid nutrient solution. Finally, we explore the options available for irrigation and nutrient delivery and weigh the pros and cons of automation versus hand-watering.
Week 8: Optimal Conditions, and Nutrient Disorders
Cannabis can grow in less than ideal conditions but can only achieve its full genetic potential when optimal conditions are maintained. In this course, we outline the conditions for optimal growth that you as a cultivator can monitor and control — light, CO2, temperature, nutrients, water, and salinity — and examine the role of each in the development of the cannabis plant. We also explore the relationship between these optimal growth conditions to understand better how changes in one affect the other.
The delivery of essential nutrients through fertilization is an essential factor in successful cannabis production. Under-fertilization can cause nutrient deficiency, whereas over-fertilization can lead to salt accumulation in the root zone and cause “nutrient lockout.” Both can have a negative impact on yield. In this course, we learn more about how nutrients travel through the plant, which will help us better understand how nutrient disorders occur and how to identify them. We then introduce some of the most common cannabis nutrient disorders and all the complexities that go along with diagnosing, preventing, and responding to nutrient issues in your cannabis plants.
Week 9: Pests, Pathogens, Prevention, Treatment, and IPM
More than 300 pest species have been identified on cannabis plants; even those typically not considered “devastating” to a cannabis grow can still vector diseases such as pathogenic fungus, bacteria, and viruses. To prevent and treat pest problems, cannabis growers need to understand the life cycle of common pests and the environments in which they thrive. This course reviews the most common known pests that affect cannabis and discusses some general treatment options.
In this course, we explore how pathogens lead to disease in cannabis plants. We identify some common pathogens found in cannabis, along with the diseases they can cause and the symptoms of those diseases. Then, we explore the conditions which must be present for a disease to emerge and offer strategies for controlling pathogens and disease in a cannabis cultivation operation.
Prevention, Treatment, and IPM
In this course, we present strategies for preventing pest and pathogen infestation, such as sanitation, environmental controls, cultivating beneficial microorganisms, companion planting, and the introduction of beneficial predators. We then review some of the treatments available to control a pest or pathogen infestation and discuss how to do so safely and efficiently. We then introduce the concept of integrated pest management and provide resources for learning more about the practice.
Week 10: Outdoor Farming Infrastructure and Techniques
In this course, we are going to explore how this fact creates additional pressures for outdoor cannabis farmers, and how those pressures influence every decision a farmer must make when setting up a new outdoor cannabis farm. We will outline the key factors you should investigate when researching a potential site — questions about the climate, the soil, the water source, and the infrastructure in place. Then, we will discuss the ways in which your site influences almost every decision you make on your farm, from crop cycle timing to the field layout and day-to-day plant care practices. We will also review the ways in which farm equipment and advanced fertigation systems can improve the efficiency of your outdoor operation.
Week 11: Greenhouse Structures and Technologies
Greenhouse cultivation can be a very successful approach to growing high-quality cannabis, but this production methodology has some potential drawbacks. In this course, we’ll first explore some of the pros and cons of greenhouse growing and examine some of the most commonly used greenhouse structures and the different kinds of covering or glazing applied to the structure’s exterior. Then, we examine various strategies for maintaining optimal growing conditions in a greenhouse setting. Finally, we take a brief look at some cultivation techniques used in greenhouses and explore how they differ from the techniques of other methodologies.
Week 12: Lighting, and Electrical Systems
Light may be the most critical factor in cannabis cultivation. The quality of the light is paramount — it needs to be within a specific spectral range to be utilized by the plant, and it needs to be of sufficient intensity and duration to promote vigorous growth. This course explores the many aspects of optimizing light and reviews the types of lighting most commonly used by commercial and home growers alike. We also demonstrate how to measure the quality and quantity of the light reaching your plants and learn how to optimize the photosynthetic potential for various plant cultivars in your garden.
In this course, we introduce some basic electrical concepts, like amperage, voltage, wattage, and resistance, and learn how to calculate the safe load capacity of your electrical system. We also examine the equipment that delivers the electrical service to your site and the safety features of that system. We then identify some of the most prevalent electrical hazards in a cultivation operation and emphasize the importance of hiring a professional electrician to install new equipment. The course concludes with a brief discussion of on-site generation, which can help you offset your energy consumption.
Week 13: Ventilation and CO2
In this course, we examine some of the most common approaches to providing adequate ventilation and climate control at your cultivation site, which is essential to the success of your operation. First, we look at the importance of air circulation and identify the various equipment that can be used to move the air throughout your growing environment. Then, we discuss temperature and humidity control measures, including air-conditioning, evaporative cooling, humidification/dehumidification, and air exchange. Next, we examine some of the most common odor mitigation strategies, including filtration and neutralization, as well as the air filtration and sanitation systems used to prevent pest and pathogen infestation. We wrap up with an examination of CO2-replenishment and explore the differences between open-loop vs. closed-loop ventilation systems.
Week 14: Soil Science and Microbiology
Although cannabis production largely shifted toward indoor cultivation in soilless media during federal prohibition, there has been a long history of cannabis being grown in soil outdoors and greenhouse/mixed light operations. This course reviews the key components of soil, the key types of soil found on earth, soil microbiology, and the soil food web. Additionally, this course looks at how “living soils” benefit cannabis production and reduce excessive waste in cannabis cultivation.
Week 15: Sustainability and Organic Farming, and Sourcing Genetics
Sustainability and Organic Farming
This course examines the concepts of “organic” and “sustainable” related to cannabis cultivation. After a brief look into the history and science behind some common principles of organic and sustainable farming, we explore the cannabis industry’s historical reliance on synthetic nutrients and the harmful effects of chemical fertilization for all crops from a soil and ecosystem management perspective. Finally, we discuss the often unsustainable nature of many common inputs used in cannabis cultivation and learn why something organic may not always be sustainable.
In this course, we examine one of the most complex — and most contested — topics in cannabis today: the identification and classification of individual cannabis cultivars, which are commonly called “strains.” We explain why the term “cultivar” is more accurate than “strain” in the context of describing cannabis varieties and break down the myth of the dichotomy between “indica” and “sativa.” Then we learn more about what drives the differences in effects among cultivars and examine the lack of standardization in cannabis cultivar labeling. We wrap up the course with strategies for helping cultivators select cultivars that achieve their desired business goals.
Week 16: Anatomy and Physiology
Explore the anatomy of the major vegetative and reproductive organs of the cannabis plant, as well as some of the smaller structures found within those organs, like chloroplasts and stomata, vital to the processes that fuel growth. We also discuss the physiology of each part and the role they play in the plant’s life cycle. We dive deeper into the physiological role of water and carbon dioxide, emphasizing transpiration and photosynthesis. Finally, we take a brief look at how plants adjust their physiological processes in response to changes in their growing environment.
Week 17: Horticulture Project Presentations
Horticulture project presentation and final.
About Our Virtual Classroom
Oaksterdam University Live Programs are a synchronous classroom model featuring interactive workshops. The Live Semester Capstone experience offers students the chance to network and collaborate in real-time.
Your group will meet virtually for live lectures once a week for 17 weeks. You will also have the opportunity to attend extra-curricular virtual field trips, tours, and weekly grow labs, as well as join the Oaksterdam Alumni Network.
It culminates with a “capstone project” presentation. You will work in small teams to design a cannabis business or grow facility based on real-world parameters and feedback from industry experts.
This format is designed for entrepreneurs who wish to get started on an actionable plan to launch a cannabis business and have their questions about compliance, finances, equipment, branding, and marketing answered along the way.
Completion of all requirements grants an OU certification.
Follow along with instructor’s slide presentations and virtual whiteboard.
Live Video Lectures
Attend lectures from our world-renowned instructors in real-time.
Raise your hand to ask the instructor a question or join in on a class discussion.
Ask the instructor a question, chat with the class, or send private messages.
Horticulture Semester (Live)
This deluxe live classroom experience is the most thorough education available at Oaksterdam University. Classes are held once a week for 17 weeks in real-time, allowing you to network with students from around the world and interact with our expert faculty. You’ll also get the opportunity for virtual field trips, grow labs, and special events. As the highlight, you will work as a team on a Capstone Project based on real-world parameters and feedback from leaders in the field. You’ll finish with an OU certification and a custom grow facility design, ready to bring your ideas to life.
18 in stock
January 2024 Live Semester
TBD, 10:00 AM PT / 1:00 PM ET
Thursdays, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM PT / 1:00 PM – 3:30PM ET
A certificate of completion may be printed upon successfully passing the final exam.
Not Interested in the Full Course? Try Our À la Carte Classes!