Certificate In Horticulture (Crops)

Learn crop production to start or develop a career or business. Learn to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs, manage a market garden or orchard. 600 hour course

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)600 hours

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What will the Certificate in Horticulture crops teach you?

Learn the fundamentals of horticulture first - this opens up all sorts of possibilities as far as future work in concerned - you can work across broad horticulture sectors with the core units - in fact almost any sector that a horticultural trades person would work in for example gardening and nursery work, and the stream units further extend your possibilities into crop growing for example:

  • Row Crops
  • Plantations and orchards
  • Broad acre crops

The stream units focuses you on learning how to grow a variety of crops:

  • Lots of different crops
  • With lots of different techniques
  • In lots of different places


  • In a production nursery
  • As a crop grower
  • On a farm
  • In an orchard
  • At a farm supplier
  • Crop processing
  • Marketing, education and media
  • Urban farming

Most graduates are likely to work in cropping, but for those who change their ambitions and direction over the duration of the course, your studies will be far from wasted as your core studies will allow you to move across industry sectors easily.

Some may use this course as a starting point to develop a career in something a little different such as urban farming, permaculture design or horticultural therapy.

For others, opportunities may arise throughout the course. Often we hear of students who have met people in the industry through their studies; and been offered jobs. Yet others may begin a small business in crop production while studying. By the time they graduate, they are already on a path to ever increasing success.



Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Certificate In Horticulture (Crops).
 Outdoor Plant Production (Crops I) BHT112
 Protected Plant Production BHT223
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 4 of the following 18 modules.
 Herb Culture BHT114
 Machinery and Equipment BSC105
 Soil Management (Crops) BHT103
 Commercial Organic Vegetable Growing VHT241
 Commercial Vegetable Production BHT222
 Cut Flower Production BHT221
 Fruit Production - Temperate Climate BHT218
 Fruit Production - Warm Climate BHT217
 Horticultural Resource Management BHT203
 Hydroponics I BHT224
 Irrigation - Crops BHT204
 Nut Production BHT219
 Permaculture Systems BHT201
 Viticulture BHT220
 Berry Production BHT309
 Mushroom Production BHT310
 Organic Plant Culture BHT302
 Warm Climate Nuts BHT308

Note that each module in the Certificate In Horticulture (Crops) is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.


  • Explain different cropping systems and their appropriate application for the production of different types of crops.
  • Evaluate and explain organic plant production, and the requirements in at least two different countries, to achieve organic certification.
  • Explain the function of soils and plant nutrition in outdoor cropping systems.
  • Describe the commercial production of a range of nursery stock.
  • Describe the commercial production of a range of tree fruit crops.
  • Explain techniques used to produce a range of soft fruits.
  • Explain techniques used to grow a range of vegetables.
  • Explain the commercial production of outdoor-grown cut flowers.
  • Describe the commercial production of herbs, nuts and other miscellaneous crops.
  • Identify the risks that may occur in outdoor crop production.
  • Describe and Evaluate the type and shape of modern growing structures.
  • Describe and evaluate environmental controls in protected cropping.
  • Explain the nature of solar radiation, transmission properties of glass and its substitutes.
  • Determine the water requirements of a crop; and methods of irrigation.
  • Relate horticultural principles to the production and harvesting of a range of crops.
  • Evaluate the factors involved in marketing protected crops.
  • Evaluate the factors involved in marketing protected crops.
  • Undertake risk assessment for a protected crop.
  • Describe the relevant identifying physical features of flowering ornamental plants.
  • Demonstrate how to use prescribed reference books and other resources to gain relevant information.
  • Dissect, draw and label two different flowers.
  • Collect and identify the shapes of different leaves.
  • Demonstrate how to identify between family, genus, species, variety and cultivar.
  • Describe how to prune different plants.
  • Demonstrate how to cut wood correctly, on the correct angle and section of the stem.
  • Describe how to plant a plant.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of different irrigation equipment, sprinklers, pumps and turf systems available by listing their comparative advantages and disadvantages.
  • Demonstrate competence in selecting an appropriate irrigation system for a garden, explaining the reasons why that system would be preferred.
  • Define water pressure and flow rate and how to calculate each.
  • Explain the need for regular maintenance of garden tools and equipment.
  • List factors that should be considered when comparing different types of machinery for use in garden maintenance.
  • Describe the soil types commonly found in plant culture in terms of texture, structure and water holding and nutrient holding capacity.
  • Describe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and aeration.
  • List the elements essential for plant growth.
  • Diagnose the major nutrient deficiencies that occur in ornamental plants and prescribe treatment practices.
  • Describe soil pH and its importance in plant nutrition.
  • Describe the process by which salting occurs and how to minimise its effect.
  • Conduct simple inexpensive tests on three different potting mixes and report accordingly.
  • Describe suitable soil mixes for container growing of five different types of plants.
  • List a range of both natural and artificial fertilizers.
  • Describe fertilizer programs to be used in five different situations with ornamental plants.
  • Demonstrate propagation of six (6) different plants by cuttings and three from seed.
  • Construct a simple inexpensive cold frame.
  • Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating both seed and cuttings.
  • Describe the method and time of year used to propagate different plant varieties.
  • Describe and demonstrate the steps in preparing and executing a variety of grafts and one budding technique.
  • Explain the reasons why budding or grafting are sometimes preferred propagation methods.
  • Explain in general terms the principles of pest, disease and weed control and the ecological (biological) approach to such control.
  • Explain the host-pathogen-environment concept.
  • Describe a variety of pesticides for control of pests, diseases and weeds of ornamental plants in terms of their active constituents, application methods, timing and rates, and safety procedures.
  • Photograph or prepare specimens, identify and recommend control practices for at least five insect pests of ornamental plants.
  • Photograph, sketch or prepare samples, identify and recommend control practices for three non-insect ornamental plant health problems (e.g. fungal, viral, bacterial).
  • Describe the major ways in which diseases (fungal, viral, bacterial and nematode) affect turf, the life cycle features that cause them to become a serious problem to turf culture and the methods available for their control.
  • Identify, describe and recommend treatment for three different weed problems.
  • Collect, press, mount and identify a collection of ten different weeds, and recommend chemical and non-chemical treatments which may be used to control each.
  • List and compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of different weed control methods.


Controlling Pests -with or without chemicals 

Chemicals are still widely used in horticultural crop production; but even those farms that do use chemicals; the use is less than in the past; and the extremely toxic chemicals are less widely used. Nevertheless, there is an increasing trend toward organic farming, with no use of dangerous chemicals at all.

There are ways to grow plants without using dangerous chemicals. The finished product might have a few chew marks, but it will also be a much safer plant for you and your family to be around or use.

Natural or biological control is when we use living things such as predators or parasites to attack, harm or deter pests, diseases or weed problems.  The concept of natural control is not new.  In the late 1800’s the California citrus industry was nearly wiped out by a parasite known as Cottony Cushion Scale (Icerya purchasi). This scale is apparently an Australian native transported to California on acacia plants: it took around ten years to become a serious pest of the citrus groves in southern California.

The importation of a small number of Vedalia (Rodolia cardinalis) beetles (related to ladybird beetles) from Australia virtually eradicated this pest very quickly, and now keeps it in check to this day.  A similar case occurred when a tiny moth known as Cactoblastis cactorum was introduced to Australia to control Prickly Pear cactus which at one stage, early in the 20th century, covered tens of millions of acres of pasture and semi arid land, particularly in Queensland and NSW.

Approaches to natural control might include:

  1. The introduction of parasites and predators, where natural enemies are introduced to control exotic pests or weeds, as in the case of Cottony Cushion Scale, which was introduced to California, from overseas, without its natural predators.
  2. Conservation of existing natural enemies by, for example, changing spraying programmes such as using selective chemicals, or by changing the time of day when spraying takes place, as some insects are active at different times of the day, and by reducing the rates of the chemicals that we use: Note: it is not always possible just to stop spraying – it is often necessary to build up the natural enemies to a useful level first.   Another method of conserving natural enemies is to change the way in which you crop your plants. This can be done by such methods as staggering planting times to reduce the impact of having a crop all at one stage when it may be more prone to attack or infestation; by the use of companion plants; by increasing crop diversity, by mixing crop species and by maintaining groundcover in orchards to promote parasite habitats.
  3. New natural enemies can be developed by scientists either growing larger numbers of predators or parasites or by adding additional numbers of natural enemies collected or purchased from elsewhere.  The production and marketing of biological control agents has now become a major business in Europe and the USA, with small scale activity also in Australia.
  4. Companion Planting: The concept of companion planting is sometimes controversial. Some growers swear by it, and others consider it pure fantasy. The truth may be somewhere in between. Companion planting involves growing plants together to provide a beneficial effect; where characteristics of one plant might help deter pests or diseases which normally attack its neighbour, or may act as host to organisms that are predators of particular pests and diseases: Note that different growing conditions and locations may affect the success or failure of companion planting.  Examples are:
  • Coriander, (Coriandrum sativum), repels aphids, spider mites and potato beetle:
  • The roots of French Marigold (Tagetes patula) exude a substance which spreads in their immediate vicinity killing nematodes:.
  • Planting carrots and leeks together may confuse insects by the blending of scents, and the leeks repel carrot fly and carrots repel onion fly and leek moth.

Other approaches to biocontrol that are being actively researched are the development of plants with increased resistance to pests and diseases; the use of natural chemicals such as hormones or sex scents to either attract (to a trap or away from plants), repel or kill the problem pest:  the use of sterile insects to upset reproductive cycles and the use of plant derivatives, such as pyrethrum, as pesticides.

Advantages of Biological Control

  • It does not damage crops, in contrast to some chemicals.
  • It does not leave a residue as is the case with many chemicals.
  • There are no crop-withholding periods, so you do not have to wait to harvest crops.
  • It is less costly than chemicals, and biocontrol may continue to be effective long after the   original application as predator or parasite breeding occurs, unlike chemicals, which are either rendered inert on contact with the ground or have short residual periods.
  • Biocontrol agents often spread outside their original application area controlling pests and diseases over large expanses of area.
  • Pests are unlikely to build up resistance to biocontrol.
  • Biocontrol is usually specific to the targeted pest or disease and generally doesn't affect other organisms.

Disadvantages of Biological Control

  • Often very slow acting in comparison to chemicals and an effective population of controlling agents may take years to build up.
  • The degree of control is often not as high as with chemical control.
  • It is often very hard finding predators or parasites of some pests, particularly ones that are specific to a particular pest or disease, rather than to a number of organisms.
  • The ability of many biocontrol agents to move from one location to another can sometimes be a disadvantage.  A pest or disease that may be a problem in one area may be desired in another.  This can be seen in the case of blackberries which are grown commercially for their berries, but are also a noxious weed in some places.  Blackberry rust, recently bought into Australia as a biocontrol agent for this plant, may affect the commercial crops.  Another example is the case of Pattersons curse, (Echium plantagineum), which is a noxious weed in some parts of Australia and a useful pasture species in other parts.  Attempts to release a biocontrol agent for this plant resulted in a Supreme Court case aimed at preventing its release.

The advantages of biological control often outweigh the disadvantages, certainly in the long term if not in the short term.  Biocontrol is, now more than ever before, being actively promoted by many governments, agricultural and forestry departments, etc worldwide.  Even as early as 1988 at least $165 million was saved on pesticide costs, by United States farmers alone, because of biological control.  The benefits to the environment are even greater. 



  • Know a great deal more about how to grow crops
  • Have such a solid and broad based understanding of horticulture, 
  • Ability to adapt to and work in any sector of the horticulture industry enhanced.

Crop production is an industry that is never going away. So long as people keep eating, there will always be a need for people with expertise in growing crops.. 

This course  is beyond what you would learn in a Trade Certificate in Horticultural Crop Production. It teaches you everything a tradesman would learn about plant culture - and more science, plus more plant identification than what an average trades person would know.

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Maggi Brown

Maggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture
Rosemary Davies

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 (c
Robert James

B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
Adriana Fraser

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 li
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