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Digging the Horticultural Practices Module

Horticulture with Plantsmanship student Anna Ciborowska shares her excitement at being able to take part in practical work as part of the Horticulture Practices module at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.

It has been a strange academic year, full of sitting in front of the computer and looking at plants on a screen. The situation with COVID was constantly changing, and it looked like we would not set foot on campus until after Easter. You can imagine our excitement when we suddenly got an email to tell us our first practical class was due to take place the following week!

The class was for the Horticultural Practices module, for which we have been allocated a plot of land at the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. We had already prepared by choosing the plants to grow and creating a growing calendar. We had also sourced our seeds, and we now needed to prepare the site for sowing them.

We had been split into small groups and assigned to separate days to reduce the number of people on site at any oneanna dig time. We’ve been sent a number of health and safety documents to read and sign, including one specifically on COVID precautions. We were also provided with hand sanitiser and masks, as well as purple vests with ‘STUDENT’ on the back, to ensure it was clear to visitors that we were permitted to gather in a group. 

It looked like we had all the bases covered when strong gusts of wind threatened to close the garden and cancel the classes. Luckily, the staff managed to find a workaround to ensure we all got a chance to get on site at some point that week. After all the preparations, a little wind would not stop us!

On the morning of my practical, I woke up more joyful and excited than I have felt in a long time. It was thrilling to have somewhere to be which was not my bedroom or the living room,  and the sun and smell of spring in the air added to the beauty of the day. The prospect was  a whole day outside, and our task was digging.

It may seem strange to be so excited by the prospect of digging, but I loved it all. Making sure to bend my knees and keep hydrated, I dug, forked and raked the soil, chatting with my classmates as we worked. It was great to see instant, tangible results of my work and I didn’t even mind the rain that suddenly appeared in line with Scottish spring weather. 

At the end of the day, I was tired but happy. It was fun to hear about everyone’s plans for their plots, and to see my classmates in person for the first time. I loved being outside in the fresh air, and kept imagining my plot as it will be when full of plants and in bloom. 

Most of all, the day gave me a much needed boost in motivation and inspiration. It is easy to underestimate just howplot dreary being at home all the time can be. If you’ve not had a chance to work away from the computer or your home lately, don’t be too hard on yourself. Take frequent breaks, make sure to get outside whenever you can, and remember to look towards the approaching days – they are getting lighter!


Find out more about studying Horticulture at Scotland’s Rural College, visit

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