Certificate In Horticulture (Horticultural Technology)

Study the application of modern technology to horticulture, particularly hydroponics. Half the course focused on general horticulture, half on technology for greater career sustainability.

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)600 hours

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 Learn to Apply Science and Technology to Horticulture
Hydroponic Growing Systems, Plant Breeding, Growing Plants and General Horticulture

....all wrapped up in the one course; providing a great foundation for starting a hydroponic or plant breeding business, or starting a career in modern horticulture.


“Want to work in hydroponics? You will need more than just knowledge of hydroponic growing systems. This excellent and comprehensive course covers the general horticultural knowledge required for successful plant growing (irrelevant of the method) in the first 15 lessons then focuses on hydroponics in the second half.” - Adriana Fraser Cert.Hort., Cert.Child Care, Adv.Cert.App.Mgt., Cert 1V Assessment and Training, Adv.Dip.Hort, ACS Tutor.


Students must complete and pass all of these core units.

1. Introduction to plants Minimum 40 hours instruction

The purpose of this study area is to explain the binomial system of plant classification and demonstrate identification of plant species through the ability of using botanical descriptions for leaf shapes and flowers.


  • 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.

2. Plant culture Minimum 60 hours instruction

The purpose of this study area is to demonstrate the ability to care for plants so as to maintain optimum growth and health while considering pruning, planting, and irrigation.


  • 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 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 types of machinery for use in garden maintenance.

3. Soils and plant nutrition Minimum 50 hours instruction

The purpose of this study area is to provide students with the skills and knowledge to identify, work with, and improve the soil condition and potting mixes, and to evaluate fertilisers for use in landscape jobs to maximize plant growth.


  • 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.

4. Introductory propagation Minimum 40 hours duration

The purpose of this study area is to improve the student's understanding of propagation techniques with particular emphasis on cuttings and seeds. Other industry techniques such as grafting and budding are also explained.


  • 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.

5. Identification and use of plants Minimum 60 hours instruction

The purpose of this study area is to improve the student's range of plant knowledge and the plant use in landscaping and the ornamental garden, and the appreciation of the different optimum and preferred growing conditions for different plants.


  • Select plants appropriate for growing in different climates.
  • Select plants appropriate to use for shade, windbreaks, as a feature, and for various aesthetic effects.
  • Organise priorities which effect selection of plants for an ornamental garden.
  • Explain the differences in the way plants perform in different micro climates within the same area.
  • List and analyze the situations where plants are used.

6. Pests, diseases and weeds Minimum 50 hours instruction

The purpose of this study area is develop the student’s ability to identify, describe and control a variety of pests, diseases and weeds in ornamental situation, and to describe safety procedures when using agricultural chemicals.


  • 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.




Hydroponics I

There are ten lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. How a Plant Grows
  3. Hydroponic Systems
  4. Nutrition & Nutrition management
  5. Plant Culture
  6. Hydroponic Vegetable Production
  7. Hydroponic Cut Flower Production
  8. Solid Media vs Nutrient Film
  9. Greenhouse Operation & Management
  10. Special Assignment

Hydroponic Management

There are eleven lessons as follows:

  1. How the Crop Plant Grows
  2. How to Run a Small Evaluation Trial
  3. Harvest and Post Harvest
  4. Tomatoes
  5. Capsicum
  6. Lettuce, Salad Greens and Foliage Herb Crops
  7. Cucurbits (Cucumber and Melons)
  8. Strawberries
  9. Roses
  10. Carnations
  11. Orchids

Plant Breeding

There are 7 lessons in this module as follows:

  1. The Scope and Nature of the Plant Breeding Industry
  2. Introduction to Genetics
  3. Gamete Production, Pollination and Fertilisation in Plants
  4. Mono Hybrid and Dihybrid Inheritance in Plants
  5. Systematic Botany and Floral Structures
  6. Practical Plant Breeding Techniques
  7. Current Developments in Plant Genetics



Hydroponics is an intensive form of plant culture. You often don't need as much space as you might growing in soil; but you do need to invest in equipment and technology
....what you save on the cost of land, may need to be spent on the cost of materials and equipment.

Most hydroponic systems will either grow plants in trays, beds or tubes (eg. gravel bed culture or nutrient film technique), but there are other options as well. Here are some of them:

Wick System

A wick system uses a cord or fibrous piece of material which has the ability to absorb nutrient solution and raise it upwards by capillary action. Capillary action is the force which makes liquid travel upwards against the force of gravity. This is the same force which causes liquid paraffin to soak up a wick in a paraffin lamp and supply fuel from the bottom to the fire burning at the top.

A typical wick system involves the supply of nutrient solution to an aggregate bed from a reservoir of nutrient solution below the bed. Another method uses pots standing in a tray of nutrient solution. Here a wick material such as rockwool can be pushed through the drainage holes in the base of the pot so that some goes into the pot and some hangs out of the bottom. The pots are filled with a medium such as sand, and then planted. The trough is supplied with nutrient solution which soaks up the wick to moisten the sand.

Bag Culture

Plastic bags with drainage holes are used to hold hydroponic media. Nutrients are supplied by a trickle or drip irrigation system outlet to the top of each bag. Drainage holes at the bottom of the bag allow any excess to drain away.

In the past, bag culture nutrient solution was run to waste. These days, however there are environmental issues with simply running the solution to waste. Thus many growers are forced to collect and reuse the waste. Such bag systems can be made to work well as a recirculating system provided the nutrient is managed and sterilised where necessary. Dutch growers are legally bound to using recirculating bag and media systems, as opposed to the drain-to-waste system. Normally only one plant is grown in each bag, and bags are spaced at intervals according to the requirements of the plant variety being grown.

In a well managed and monitored bag system, the nutrient strength and application is controlled to prevent and salt build-up on the surface of the media. Leaching or flushing with water is not advised as it can cause rapid changes in the electro conductivity (EC) around the root system (osmotic potential in the root zone) which can lead to the plant taking up large volumes of water which results in problems such as fruit splitting in crops such as tomatoes. (Osmotic potential is the potential for water to move from one area of low salt concentration to an area of high concentration. E.g. Water on the surface of fruit, which has low salt concentration, moves through the fruit skin to the inside where concentration is higher, resulting in swelling and maybe cracking of the fruit).

Bags must sit on top of a surface that drains freely and remains relatively dry so that roots do not grow out through the holes in the bottom of the bag. They should never sit on top of soil. In the US bags are often sat on plastic sheeting. They can also sit on coarse gravel, a sealed surface such as asphalt or concrete, or on a couple of bricks.

Bag culture is used commercially in many countries including parts of North America. The major advantage of this technique is its establishment cost. It is perhaps one of the least expensive methods to set up.

Dutch Bucket System

Also known as the Bato system, this system was developed in Holland, and is used to grow a range of plants including commercial tomato production in the US and other countries. The system is based on a series of media-filled planters (Dutch buckets), each fed by an emitter joined to a main supply line which is connected to a reservoir filled with nutrient solution.

The nutrient solution drains through the medium and any excess is drained from the buckets to the central PVC return pipe to be recirculated. Suitable media for this system include perlite, rockwool cubes, vermiculite and coir.

Column Culture

This involves growing plants in vertical tubes with slits or holes cut in the sides for plants to grow through. Nutrient solution is applied to the top and allowed to filter through the medium to the bottom from where it is either run to waste or collected and recirculated.

The principal advantage is more plants can be grown in a specified area. However, there are two disadvantages of growing plants in column culture. The first is that there is a lack of light reaching the lower layers of the system – this has been noted in many vertical strawberry systems. The second is the effect of gravity which can result in lower sections of the medium being wetter (due to the weight of water above). This system is generally not used for commercial growing. Where it is, drainage and ample light are key factors in the success of the system.

Other Systems exist too.

The type of system you use is really only limited by your imagination; but if you wish to be successful at hydroponics, it is best to understand all of the standard systems, and if you decide on a variation, test out what you plan before investing too much money or time in anything new or different.


You will understand how to grow plans in any context, in the ground, in pots, in hydroponics, outdoors or indoors.
You will also have a more specialised knowledge and understanding of hydroponics and horticultural technology

Graduates will have the foundation they need to begin (or expand) a career or business in horticultural technology (particularly hydroponics); but will also have a broad enough understanding of general horticulture, that they will be able to adapt to working in any other horticultural specialisation as well.

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Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.
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.
John Mason

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.
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
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