Advanced Cert in Applied Management (Wholesale Nursery)

Learn how to manage a nursery by home study. Education Courses for plant propagation, garden centre management and plant nursery production.

Course Code: VBS001
Fee Code: AC
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 900 hours
Qualification Advanced Certificate
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Train to be a Manager, Owner or Supervisor in a Production Nursery.

This course is for anyone who works in the wholesale or production nursery industry. Production nurseries produce plants in bulk, for the trade (eg. retail garden centres, landscapers, large scale land managers or development projects).

  • Some propagate and grow on what they propagate.
  • Others specialize in only the propagation stage, or alternatively, the growing on.

This course develops an understanding of plant propagation (seed and cuttings), nursery hygiene, plant health, potting mixes and soils, production efficiencies, marketing, management, and more. This is a 900 hour covering both management and horticultural studies relating to running a wholesale nursery.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Advanced Cert in Applied Management (Wholesale Nursery).
 Business Operations VBS006
 Management VBS105
 Marketing Foundations VBS109
 Office Practices VBS102
Stream ModulesStudied after the core modules, stream modules cover more specific or niche subjects.
 Propagation I BHT108
 Cutting Propagation BHT211
 Wholesale Nursery Management BHT212
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 2 of the following 4 modules.
 Industry Project I BIP000
 Industry Project II BIP001
 Research Project I BGN102
 Workshop I BGN103

Note that each module in the Advanced Cert in Applied Management (Wholesale Nursery) is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

What is Covered by the Stream Modules?

The stream studies are as follows:

There are eight lessons as follows:

  1. Nursery Site Organisation: Buying an established nursery or establishing a new site, site planning, estimating space requirements.
  2. Management: Government and commercial nurseries, partnerships, companies, sole proprietorships, developing a management structure, labour relations and seasonal staff, work programs and production timing.
  3. Nutrition and Pest Management: Field crops, container plants, principles of fertiliser use and plant nutrition.
  4. Growing Media: Soils and soil-free mixes, rockwool, sterilisation, techniques.
  5. Irrigation: Methods and equipment, estimation of water requirements and use of liquid fertilisers through irrigation.
  6. Modifying Plant Growth: Modification techniques, flower forcing and quality control.
  7. Marketing Strategies: Exploiting existing markets, developing new markets, advertising, product presentation, pricing, plant recycling.
  8. Selection of Nursery Crops: Developing a stock list, operational flow charts, market surveys.

The modules aims are:

  • Explain the significance of property, marketing and contracts to site selection.
  • Estimate the cost of producing different plant varieties as specified marketable products.
  • Develop a nutritional program for plants in a wholesale nursery.
  • Explain the implementation of integrated pest management in a specified nursery situation.
  • Explain different chemical methods of controlling plant appearance. 

This module has ten lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction to Propagation – asexual and sexual propagation, plant life cycles, nursery production systems
  2. Seed Propagation
  3. Potting Media
  4. Vegetative Propagation I - cuttings
  5. Vegetative Propagation II – care of stock plants; layering, division and other techniques
  6. Vegetative Propagation III – budding and grafting, tissue culture
  7. Propagation Structures and Materials – greenhouses, propagating equipment
  8. Risk Management – nursery hygiene, risk assessment and management
  9. Nursery Management I – plant modification techniques, management policies
  10. Nursery Management II – nursery standards, cost efficiencies, site planning and development

The modules aims are:

  • Develop the ability to source information on plant propagation, through an awareness of industry terminology and information sources.
  • Plan the propagation of different plant species from seeds, using different seed propagation methods.
  • Plan the propagation of different types of plants from cuttings, using different cutting propagation methods.
  • Plan the propagation of various types of plants using a range of propagation techniques, excluding cuttings and seed.
  • Determine the necessary facilities, including materials and equipment, required for propagation of different types of plants.
  • Determine a procedure to minimise plant losses during propagation.
  • Determine the management practices of significance to the commercial viability of a propagation nursery.
  • Design a propagation plan for the production of a plant.

This module has eight lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction. The principles of propagating plants by cuttings.:Importance of cuttings, Phenotype vs genotype, why choose cutting propagation, where to get cuttings from, basic cutting technique.
  2. Stem Cuttings. Ease with which tissue forms roots, types of stem cuttings (softwood, hardwood, semi hardwood, herbaceous, tip, heel, nodal, cane etc), treatments (eg. basal heat, mist, tent, etc), testing rooting, etc.
  3. Non-stem cuttings. Leaf cuttings, root cuttings (natural suckering with or without division, Induced suckering, In situ whole root cuttings; ex situ detached root cuttings), bulb cuttings, scaling and twin scaling, sectioning, basal cuttage.
  4. Materials and Equipment. Selection and maintenance of stock plants; disinfecting cutting material; Growing media. Propagation media; biological, chemical and physical characteristics of propagation and potting media, Testing for toxins, air filled porosity, potting up cuttings, soil-less mixes, rockwool, etc.
  5. Factors affecting Rooting. Juvenility, Cutting Treatments (hormones & their application, anti transparents, acid/base treatments, disinfectants etc), Callusing, Mycorrhizae, Carbon Dioxide enrichment, etc.
  6. Setting up a Propagation Area. Creating and managing an appropriate cutting environment in terms of: Water; Disease;
  7. Temperature; Light and Air Quality. Greenhouses and other structures, watering methods (mist, fog, capillary etc), heating, etc.
  8. Management of Cutting Crops. Estimating cost of production; Keeping records, etc.

The modules aims are:

  • To become familiar with the principles of propagating plants by cuttings
  • To understand how to propagate plants from stem cuttings
  • To understand how to propagate plants from non-stem cuttings
  • To understand materials and equipment used for propagating plants from stems
  • To understand principles of growing media relative to cutting propagation
  • To understand how and why cuttings form roots. 
  • To explain manipulation of the formation of roots on cuttings
  • To understand  principles for establishing successful plant propagation areas
  • To understand the principles of nursery crop scheduling

What is Covered by the Core Modules?
These four modules are designed to teach you how to manage a business so that it operates more effectively, and is productive and sustainable.  Knowing how to grow plants is obviously very important for anyone managing a production nursery; but without an equal understanding of these management skills, it can be very easy to fail. Growing good plants is not the same as growing them for a planned cost, and selling them for a higher cost; hence making a healthy profit.

These four core modules are:

Office Practices develops basic office skills covering use of equipment, communication systems (telephone, fax, etc) and office procedures such as filing, security, workplace organisations, etc. 

Business Operations cultivates your understanding of basic business operations and procedures (eg. types of businesses, financial management, business analysis, staffing, productivity, etc) and the skills to develop a 12 month business plan.
Management develops knowledge of management structures, terminology, supervision, recruitment and workplace health and safety.
Marketing Foundations develops a broad understanding of marketing and specific skills in writing advertisements, undertaking market research, developing an appropriate marketing plan and selling. 

Do You Understand Terminology used by Nurserymen?

Like most industries, the production nursery industry has a language all of its own. Terminology can also vary from place to place; so with increasing business interaction between regions and countries; it becomes important to build an understanding of variations in terminology as well.

Bare Rooted  These are plants that have been 'lifted' from their growing area without the soil or growing media left around their roots. This is common for many deciduous ornamental trees (eg: elms, ashes, maples) and fruit trees (eg: apricot, apple, peach, pear), and shrubs such as roses. The plants should be planted as soon as possible to prevent the roots drying out. They can be temporarily stored if the roots are covered with a moist material such as peat moss, straw, or rotted  Sawdust.

Bedding Plants These are plants used for temporary displays, generally planted out in warmer seasons (eg: many annuals).

Bottom Heat  This is where heat is applied at, or near, the base of plants to stimulate growth.This can be done in a variety of ways, including under bench heating with heat cables or hot water pipes, heating of floors in greenhouses using heat cables, or composting materials such as sawdust or manures. (See also Hotbed).

Coldframe  This is in effect a mini-greenhouse. Generally unheated, they are commonly used to provide protection for plants being propagated, or for plants that may need a short period of protection against extremes of climate. They have the advantage of being readily movable, and easy to construct.   

Dibble Stick  This is a short pencil-like stick that is used to make holes in growing media for the potting-up ('pricking out') of seedlings, or for inserting or potting-up cuttings.

Flats   These are shallow trays with drainage holes in the bottom, which are commonly for germinating seeds, or rooting cuttings.

Forcing  The use of heat and altered light conditions to induce very early flowering, or very tall growth. Commonly used in cut flower production.

Growing Media Any material in which plants are being grown can be classified as a growing media. This includes soil, soilless potting mixes, rockwool, vermiculite, even water (ie: hydroponics).

Hotbed  This is a bed used for plant propagation that provides heat to the base of seed trays or to pots of cuttings to stimulate germination in seedlings and subsequent root growth, and root initiation and growth in cuttings. Heat is normally supplied From either hot water pipes, or from resistance cables which, when an electric current is passed through them, heats up. These heating elements generally have some material such as propagating sand, vermiculite, gravel or perlite placed around them to help spread (diffuse) the heat.

Juvenility  A stage of a plants life following the germination of a seed to produce a seedling. Vegetative growth dominates, and juvenile plants can't respond to flower-inducing stimuli. In some plants juvenile foliage differs markedly from adult foliage (eg: some Eucalypts). In difficult to root plants taking cutting material from stock plants in a juvenile phase will often give better results than using older (adult growth phase) material.

Living Colour  Plants cultivated to provide colourful displays (ie: foliage, flowers, fruit). These can be either in ground or in containers, and be grown for either short or long term display.

Micropropagation This is the production (propagation) of plants from very small plant parts, tissues or cells. They are grown under aseptic conditions in a highly controlled environment. The term tissue culture is a collective term used to describe a number of in-vitro procedures used in culturing plant tissue, including producing haploid plant cells and artificial hybridisation.

Plugs   These are individual plants, or small clumps of plants, that are grown in trays containing large numbers of individual cells. For example, the tray may have 18 cells across by 32 cells along, making a total 576 cells per tray, with each individual cell having measuring 20 x 20mm and with a depth of 30mm. Each cell having an individual drainage hole. The trays are filled with a growing media and seed planted into each cell, either by hand (very slow) or by machine.
There are machines that are capable of planting individual seeds into each cell, and very quickly. The trays are made of plastic, that has some degree of flexibility so that it can be bent a little to allow easy removal of individual plugs (root ball and growing media combined). This type of growing system, is ideal for flower and vegetable seedlings, and can be highly mechanised (eg: filling trays with soil, seeding, potting up individual plugs).

Potted Colour  Plants grown in containers to provide a colourful display. They are commonly used as an alternative to cut flowers (eg: Chyrsanthemums in 150mm pots), and are generally discarded once their peak display (eg: flowering) has finished.

Provenance  This is also known as 'seed origin' and refers to where the seed has been produced. This can give an indication of the particular genetic characteristics of the seed (eg: size, shape, flower colour, adaptation to climatic conditions, resistance to pest & diseases, tolerance to different soil conditions).

Scarification  This is any process that breaks, scratches, cuts, mechanically alters, or softens seed coats to make them more impermeable to water and gases. Techniques include dipping in hot water, dipping in concentrated sulphuric acid, removing hard seed coats with sand paper, and nicking seed coats with a sharp knife.

Standards  These are where plants are grown a single tall stem (eg: some fruit trees and roses). Some prostrate cultivars are also budded or grafted onto taller stemmed rootstocks to create pendulous forms (eg: weeping elm, Grevillea gaudi-chaudi & Royal Mantle).

Stock Plants  These are the parent plants from which cutting propagation material is obtained. There are three main scources of stock plant material. These are 
i) plants growing in parks, around houses, in the wild, etc.  
ii) prunings or trimmings from young nursery plants, and iii) plants grown specifically as a source of cutting material. Stock plants should be correctly identified (and true to type), and in a healthy condition.

Stratification  This is where dormant seeds, that have imbibed water, are subjected to a period of chilling to 'after-ripen' the embryo. This process is also known as moist-chilling. Dry seeds should be soaked in water prior to stratification.
Seeds are then usually mixed with some sort of moisture retaining material, such as coarse washed sand, or peat or sphagnum moss, or vermiculite. The material should be moistened prior to mixing. The mix is then stored at a temperature of 0 - 10 degrees C. The lower shelf of a domestic refrigerator is usually suitable. The time of stratification will depend on seed type, but usually 1 - 4 months. In areas with cool winters, stratification can be carried out in beds outdoors, but seeds should be protected from pests such as birds, or mice.    

Tissue Culture this is the same as micropropagation

Tubes   Small, narrow containers, commonly used for the first potting -up stage of newly propagated seed or cuttings. The tube-like nature encourages new roots to grow straight down, reducing the risk of roots coiling.  A common 'tube' used in 
Australia has an upper diameter of 50mm, a depth of around 70mm, tapering down to a lower diameter of about 40mm. This type is most widely used in producing stock for planting up into larger containers. Deeper tubes are also commonly used for tubing-up quick growing seedlings that are to be used in large scale plantings (eg: reafforestation, farms, trees). Some nurseries specialise in just tube stock production for sale to other nurseries, for growing on.

Tube stock  Plants grown in small tube-like containers (see Tubes above).

Wounding   Root production on cuttings can often be promoted by wounding the base of cuttings. A common method of wounding plants is to cut away a thin strip of bark, about 1.5 to 3cm long (this will depend on the size of the cutting) from each side of the cutting near the base. The strip should not be cut too deeply, just enough to expose the cambium layer (the soft layer of new growth between the wood and the bark), without cutting very deeply into the wood beneath.

After You Graduate

Throughout this course, you will have engaged and interacted  with people in the nursery industry, including tutors and others. 

You will have begun to build your networking within the industry; and often our students will already be working in the nursery industry before they complete their studies. For some, you may have already become involved with the industry before you started studying.

On graduating; you will have more knowledge, skills and contacts than ever before. You will have opportunities to move forward in many different ways.

  • You may seek start up your own wholesale nursery.
  • You may find employment working in a large established production nursery -in public or commercial
  • Some will advance their prospects where they already work; others will move to work somewhere new
  • Some will continue with studies to an even higher level; and others will build on their studies through experience. 
  • Some will use their added knowledge and experience in other ways, for example: working in consultancy, marketing, education or media - providing services or products in support of the nursery industry.

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's

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More information is here

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Marie Beermann

Marie has more than 10 years experience in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M. Sc. Hort., Dip. Bus., Cert. Ldscp.

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Over 30 years working in horticulture, as a gardener, propagator, landscape designer
, teacher and consultant. Adriana has spent much of her life living on large properties, developing and maintaining her own gardens, and living a semi self sufficient lifestyle. She has decades of practical experience growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs, and making her own preserves. She is well connected with horticulture professionals across Australia, and amongst other things, for a period, looked after Australia's national collection of Thymus. Advanced Diploma in Horticulture, Advanced Certificate in Horticulture.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.


Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Jacinda Cole

Jacinda has expertise in psychology and horticulture. She holds a BSc (hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psychology (Clinical) and also trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the London Centre for Psychotherapy. In horticulture she has a Certificate in Garden Design and ran her own landscaping and garden design business for a number of years. Jacinda also has many years experience in course development and educational writing.

Adriana Fraser


Megan Cox

Megan has completed a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Conservation) with Honours from Writtle University College, as well as a Master of Science Degree in Countryside Management from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Her experience includes working as a Botanist, Ecologist, Head Gardener, Market Gardener and a Farming and Conservation Officer.

She has worked in various roles in Horticulture, Agriculture and Ecology since 2005. Megan has worked for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Centre for Environment and Rural Affairs among other organisations in the UK, as well as in Australia and Cambodia.

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