Advanced Certificate in Parks & Gardens Management

Study parks management to work as a parks supervisor, sports ground curator, golf course superintendent or public open space administrator or manager.

Course Code: VHT080
Fee Code: AC
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 900 hours
Qualification Advanced Certificate
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Choose a Career Working With Outdoor Plants

Working with plants in the outdoors is very rewarding. Every town or city has gardens and parks which require attending to throughout the year. These include large public parks and gardens with a range of facilities to those which are private or occasionally open for public use, such as the grounds of wineries. Of course, larger cities also have botanic gardens.

All these venues provide opportunities for suitably skilled horticulturists. Learn about the key horticultural techniques needed to help open doors for you in this satisfying industry.

Study parks and gardens management

What do parks & gardens managers do?

Parks managers are responsible for maintaining the grounds of public gardens, parks, and grounds of public buildings. That means working out maintenance programs for watering, feeding, pruning and spraying plants to treat for pests and diseases. More than that, they may also be involved in designing parts of gardens or new planting themes. They need knowledge of turf, trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.

Parks & gardens managers may work in:

Government sector: 

  • National Parks

  • Municipal parks

  • Botanic gardens

  • Zoos

Private sector:

  • Resorts

  • Sporting  clubs

  • Schools, universities and colleges

  • Theme parks

  • Commercial facilities and estates

  • Residential estates

Learn the skills to work in parks management

Steadily improve your capacity to work as a parks manager, by knowledge and feedback from experienced amenity horticulturalists.

Grow your awareness of industry and opportunities; and develop your networking skills.

Success in parks management is not just a matter of being able to do the job. It is also very much dependent upon the attitude you have and the decisions you make.


Competent parks managers need to work across both horticulture and management and career opportunities can be significantly expanded by taking a course such as this.

Gives you broad skills in:

  • Horticulture and amenity horticulture.

  • Project management.

  • Operational business management.

  • Event management.

Plus the opportunity to choose from a broad range of elective units that you can choose to suit your area of interest.

STUDY AT YOUR OWN PACE - this is normally a 2 year full-time course but you can fast track or take your time whatever suits your work and life-style!



Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Advanced Certificate in Parks & Gardens Management.
 Industry Project I BIP000
 Engineering I - Machinery & Equipment BSC105
 Horticulture I BHT101
 Turf Care BHT104
 Planning Layout And Construction Of Ornamental Gardens BHT242
 Amenity Horticulture I BHT324
 Managing Notable Gardens BHT340
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 2 of the following 34 modules.
 Arboriculture I BHT106
 Australian Native Trees VHT115
 Australian Natives I BHT113
 Bookkeeping Foundations (Bookkeeping I) BBS103
 Ecotour Management BTR101
 Industrial Psychology BPS103
 Landscape Construction BHT111
 Leisure Management 1 - Marketing BRE103
 Nature Park Management I BEN120
 Personnel Management VBS107
 Plant Selection And Establishment BHT107
 Research Project I BGN102
 Supervision VBS104
 Arboriculture II BHT208
 Conflict Management BPS201
 Conservation and Environmental Management BEN201
 Deciduous Trees BHT244
 Engineering II - Engineering Applications BSC205
 Event Management BRE209
 Irrigation (Gardens) BHT210
 Leisure Facility Management I BRE205
 Nature Park Management II BEN207
 Playground Design BHT216
 Project Management BBS201
 Sports Turf Management BHT202
 Wildlife Management BEN205
 Zoo Keeping BEN208
 Amenity Horticulture II BHT325
 Business Planning BBS302
 Environmental Assessment BEN301
 Irrigation Management (Agricultural) BAG303
 Operational Business Management I (Horticulture) BHT326
 Operational Business Management II (Horticulture) BHT327
 Turf Repair And Renovation BHT303

Note that each module in the Advanced Certificate in Parks & Gardens Management is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

Scope of the Parks Industry

The parks and garden industry is involved with the maintenance and management of public and private parks, sports grounds, reserves and gardens.
Traditionally, the parks and gardens sector has been largely associated with public authorities and institutions responsible for maintaining large tracts of land; for example, council parks departments, regional botanic gardens, cemeteries, historic trusts, prisons and universities. However, the development of the tourism, leisure and recreation industries over the last couple of decades has provided many other diverse opportunities in the commercial and private sectors; for example, developing and maintaining theme parks, zoos, golf courses, industrial parks, private hospitals and holiday resorts.

Environmental concerns in recent years have lead to many new types of jobs in this sector. Increasingly, ‘environmental horticulturists’ are employed to rehabilitate degraded sites, and to create, preserve and manage ‘natural’ environments. Their work may be associated with mine sites, traffic corridors, national parks, farm and rural planning, urban and rural reserves, and urban forestry schemes.

Parks Managers Need to be Skilled in both Management and Horticulture 

Challenges can arise daily in both areas, and the more efficient manager will not only be able to find a solution; but will understand the options and in doing so, be able to manage the implementation of action.
A large part of the parks managers work may involve maintaining a turf surface on the ground. Turf grass can deteriorate for many reasons; not the least over use; but also through deterioration in soil, poor fertility, dryness or poor light.
The ground surface is frequently a problem in shaded areas; or even in open areas  (in some climates) over winter, when the amount of light is less.
It is normally hard to grow turf in shade. Shade can be a problem for other surfacing solutions too.
Paving becomes wet and slippery and bare earth often erodes where water drips from overhanging trees, eaves or other structures. In dry weather, overhanging structures or branches can have the reverse effect, stopping rain reaching the soil, and resulting in very dry spots.


Shaded areas can be subject to erosion, because plants often die due to excessive shade, leaving behind bare earth. The plant roots no longer bind the soil, so water running through the area can cause erosion. You may need to plant more shade tolerant plants in such places, or alternatively cover the area with mulch or paving to protect the soil. In addition, water drips from the things which cause the shade, such as roofs on pergolas, overhanging branches and so on. Constant dripping in the one spot will wash soil away, even from the roots of plants growing there. You need to identify such places before the problem becomes too serious. Place some hard paving under such spots – even a single stone placed under a drip to disperse the splashing water – or some resistant mulch material.

Turf and alternatives

Lawns are normally made up of a mixture of different types of grasses. Most grasses however, need at least medium light conditions to grow and be healthy. If an area is too dark, you may need to consider ways you can get more light into it, in order to grow lawn. Perhaps by removing lover branches on a tree, taking shade cloth off a pergola, or removing a fence, more light can be provided. Evergreen shrubs might be removed and replaced with deciduous plants to help improve light conditions during the winter months.

Don’t expect too much from grass grown in shade. It will never be as vigorous, healthy or strong as grass grown in bright light. The grass must also compete with any overhanging trees for water and nutrients; however, by doing the following you can improve its chances:

Where possible when planting trees and shrubs, choose species that will provide at least filtered light. Make sure you don’t over-plant.

Make sure drainage is good.

Make sure the soil is well aerated. If the soil is heavy clay, top-dress it frequently with sand, and use an aerator fork to punch holes in the surface to stop it becoming too compacted. Dig in plenty of well rotted organic matter and add gypsum or clay breaker.

Use lower rates of application of nitrogenous fertilisers than you would use for lawn species in full sunlight. High nitrogen application produces succulent tissues that are more prone to injury from wear or pest and disease attack.

Avoid walking over or sitting on heavily shaded areas of lawn, particularly if the grass cover is weak and thin.

Mow your lawn at a higher setting than you would for lawn in full sun. This is most important. The longer blade length of the grass means it has increased ability to trap and convert sunlight into plant food. It will also help give the lawn a fuller appearance.

Water deeply (but don’t over-water). This will help reduce the likelihood of surface rooting from trees, which causes greater competition for surface supplies of nutrients. Larger surface roots could also be a problem when mowing.

Remove any fallen leaves, or grass clippings as these can make it difficult for your lawn to grow by reducing the amount of light it receives. They also physically smother the growing grass and provide a habitat for pests and diseases.

Which Grass

Fescues are often considered the most shade tolerant of the common lawn grasses. They are excellent lawn grasses for temperate climates and come in two main types.

The upright clump forming type, called Tall Fescue, generally needs more light than the creeping types, but will certainly grow in the shade to a certain degree.

Creeping Fescues such as Creeping Red Fescue, tolerate shade better than most other grasses.

Some lawn seed companies package seed mixes especially designed for shade areas, and these are worth trying, but don’t expect too much. You should always remember that growing grass in the shade is not the way it should be done.

Zoysia grasses grow in warmer climates and have some shade tolerance. These are slower growing and less hardy than couches, but for a shaded area they are usually preferred. Manila grass is a type of Zoysia which has better shade tolerance than others.

The Australian native Microlaena stipoides (Weeping Grass) is a persistent adaptable species, suitable for damp shaded areas. Seed of this species is now becoming available from specialist growers.


Dichondra repens. A small Australian native plant. Seed can be purchased. It grows well in shade, but the ground must remain moist. Drying out will kill dichondra. Dichondra does not take much wear and tear – it’s a lawn to look at, not to use.

Helexine soleirolii (Angel’s Tears). Like dichondra, it must have moist soil and little wear and tear or it will quickly die.

Mentha pulegium (Pennyroyal). Suits semi to full shade, but can be invaded by weeds, particularly if the soil does not remain wet.

Prunella laciniata. Suits semi-shade.

Veronica prostrata (Speedwell). A dense matting plant with blue flowers, suited to semi-shade. It too is a lawn to look at rather than use.


Moss grows in lawns when they get too wet and that is most common in shaded areas. If the area can be dried out and the grass kept in the peak of health, the moss simply won’t develop.

The first step in controlling moss is to improve drainage and aeration to stop the area getting too wet. Treatment with a moss killer, usually a dilute solution of copper sulphate or iron sulphate, will kill existing moss, but if the moisture problem isn’t fixed, it will just reappear.


Paving is an obvious alternative to lawn in shaded areas. Consider whether the paving is going to be too slippery when wet. A surface with some texture in it, such as concrete pavers or asphalt is usually better than smooth surfaces such as glazed tiles or slate.


Mulching a shaded area is generally cheaper and easier than paving, and still looks attractive. Materials which become too wet are more likely to grow algae on the surface and lead to root rots with sensitive plants. If these things are a problem, you might choose mulches, such as pebbles or coarse sand. Pull mulch back, away from the stem or trunk of any plants which are susceptible to rots. Moist mulch touching the bark will only promote disease.

Never lay plastic sheeting under mulch. This can lead to serious soil problems.


Give you the skills and knowledge to work in the field of amenity horticulture as a Park Manager.

This course is different to many others, because it goes well beyond just teaching you how to manage parks. It is an "experiential based" learning program; designed to get you involved with horticulturalists, managers and the amenity horticulture industry as you study. The industry is changing faster than ever; and will continue to change; and for ongoing success you need to become "connected" and remain "connected", so that you see and adapt to recent changes, and ongoing changes as your career moves forward.

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
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.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
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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.

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.

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Leading horticultural expert in Australia.
Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer.
She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe.
In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has completed her 6th book this year and is working on concepts for several others.
Rosemary has a B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing

Jacinda Cole (Horticulturist)

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer.
She was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up her own landscaping firm. She spent three years working in our Gold Coast office, as a tutor and writer for Your Backyard (gardening magazine) which we produced monthly for a Sydney punlisher between 1999 and 2003. Since then, Jacinda has contributed regularly to many magazines, co authored several gardening books and is currently one of the "garden experts" writing regularly for the "green living" magazine "Home Grown".


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

Graham Anderson

Graham Anderson B. Mech Eng (hons) Dip. Health

Graham has spent his life in the farming and agriculture industry, particularly carving a niche in the avocado sector with experience ranging from tissue culture, to nursery management to fruit marketing. He has an engineering qualification and an extensive range of mechanical skills which are now diversifying to an understanding of our internal mechanics in health and psychology with qualifications underway.

Parita Shah

Parita has a Masters Degree in Horticulture specializing in Plantation, Spices, Medicinal and Aromatic crops and Organic farming. She has worked as a freelance consultant, and in an Avocado nursery in NSW as grafting and preparing avocado clones.

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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