Certificate in Horticulture (Plant Protection)

Study horticulture, plant health care and plant protection methods for a career, or business in plant care, garden maintenance or pest management.

Course Code: VHT002
Fee Code: CT
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 700 hours
Qualification Certificate
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Distance Learning Course for Horticultural Tradesmen

Learn Practical Skills and a Career in Professional Gardening

'“This is beyond what you would learn in a Trade Certificate in Horticulture. 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” - John Mason Dip.Hort.Sc., Cert.Supn, FIOH, FPLA, Professional Horticulturist for over 40 years, Garden Author and educator

“specialise in the treatment of pest and disease problems.- Tracey Morris Dip.Hort., Cert.Hort., Cert III Organic Farming, ACS Tutor.

The Certificate in Horticulture (plant protection) is a vocationally oriented course comprising both studies in both general horticulture and in plant protection.

Certificate in Horticulture involves the areas of work:

*CORE STUDIES - involves at least 350 hours, divided into 15 lessons, approx. half of the course.

*STREAM STUDIES - a further 350 hrs of study specifically relating to plant protection

Stream Plant protection consists of

  1. Diagnosing Problems
  2. Pest & Disease Problems
  3. Nutrient & Environmental Problems
  4. Pest Collection
  5. Natural vs Chemical Controls
  6. Integrated Pest Management
  7. Application Equipment
  8. Pesticide Grouping
  9. Chemical Terminology
  10. Pesticide Timing
  11. Pesticide Dynamics
  12. Controlling Pests
  13. Controlling Diseases
  14. Controlling Pests & Diseases In Nurseries
  15. Controlling Other Factors


NOTE: The Stream Studies for this course will undergo a major revision and restructuring in the near future. The new structure will cover the same content, but be upgraded to incorporate three standard ACS modules. In doing this; we will improve many aspects of this course; amont other things:  students will be able to better articulate into higher level courses.



If you’ve got a courtyard that never seems to look good, or is uncomfortable to be in, do something about it. Courtyards are great places to have in your garden, and it’s rare that problems cannot be overcome.

Problem: Heat

Many courtyards are heat traps. Small courtyards with solid brick walls and lots of paving are especially prone to overheating.


Create shade:

  • plant a small shade tree

  • install a shade wing
  • build a pergola and cover it with shade cloth or a climber

Let the wind through:

  • cut holes in the fence or wall

  • install a wrought iron, slatted timber or mesh gate

  • Add water: fountain, waterfall, misting irrigation system

  • Remove hot surfaces:

  • replace paving with cool grass

  • grow a plant over a brick wall

Problem: Access

Courtyards (particularly those in older homes and terrace houses) can be small and difficult to get to.


  • Widen pathways/gateways

  • Use archways to give the illusion of space if access is narrow

  • Replace steps with ramps or with a gentler gradient; if space is a problem, build a platform and corner in the staircase

  • Put a step from the house into the courtyard

  • Install a side gate

Problem: Dry soil

Buildings and trees can block rainfall, resulting in dry garden beds and lawns inside the courtyard. Dry soils may also be a result of soil compaction from construction work, pedestrians, etc.


  • Improve the soil, eg. add water crystals or soil wetters; use mulch and dig in organic matter; aerate the soil with a garden fork.

  • Install drip irrigation, and connect it to an automatic timer so that the lawns and beds are watered regularly.

  • In paved courtyards, plant small herbs between pavers to allow water through to the soil. 

  • Direct pedestrians and vehicles using paths and pavers.  This will limit soil compaction. 

  • Plant drought tolerant plants such as succulents.

Problem: Shade

Excessive shade from nearby buildings and trees can make the soil stay wet and paving may become slippery. 


  • Choose shade-loving plants, eg. Impatiens and ferns.

  • Avoid lawn or use shade-tolerant species, eg. Fescues or Dichondra.

  • Prune overhanging branches (but first get permission from neighbours or the council if the tree isn’t growing on your property).

  • Improve drainage.

  • Add a raised timber platform if the ground is waterlogged (treat the foundations to prevent rot).

Problem: Rubbish

Papers, leaves and other debris can get blow in from outside and trapped in the courtyard.


  • Place fine wire mesh or shade cloth over the top.

  • Keep the gate closed.

  • Build a fence or solid wall.

  • Talk to neighbours about where the rubbish is coming from.

Problem: Builder’s rubbish

Plaster, concrete, nails, old tins etc may be buried in the soil during the house construction. As well as being a physical obstruction to plant root growth, dumped rubbish can leach toxic chemicals into the soil.


  • Remove any visible builder’s rubbish.

  • Dig over garden beds and remove any waste.

  • Address the soil problems by adding fertiliser or organic matter.

  • Raise the garden beds.

  • Buy plants that are adapted to that kind of soil, eg.lavender prefers lime soil.

Problem: Intense Smells

Strong-smelling plants (eg. Jasmine, Gardenia) have a more intense fragrance in enclosed spaces.


  • Think before you plant; and plant fewer scented plants.

  • Ensure adequate ventilation.

  • Keep scented plants away from windows and doorways.

Problem: Glare

In sunny weather light inside the courtyard can be very bright. (Light colours and glass increase glare.)


  • Render walls a darker colour.

  • Avoid still water features (they reflect more light).

  • Plant around the perimeter of the garden.

  • Plant a small shade tree.

  • Plant a ground cover to absorb light.

  • Install blinds on windows overlooking the courtyard.

Problem:  Plants overgrow the courtyard.

Courtyards have limited space and many shrubs, climbers, and even trees can grow outwards, encroaching on that limited space, leaving you with less usable room or space to move about.


  • Use upright, non spreading plants (eg. pencil pines).

  • Use plants that have a well defined and predictable architectural shape (eg. Cordyline, Yucca, Agave).

  • Use smaller, less vigorous plants.

  • Prune frequently to stop spreading.

  • Train plants (eg. Topiary, espaliers).

  • Avoid plants that are more of a problem if brushed (eg. anything with thorns or that may cause an allergic reaction).


How Can This Course Help Me?

There are many positions where an understanding of plants and the stresses they face is of value. Like people, if plants are neglected, their health can quickly decline. Through completing this certificate course you will equip yourself with a solid foundation in recognising signs and symptoms of plant pest and disease problems, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental stressors, and be able to formulate appropriate interventions and treatment plans. It may also suit those in positions where they are called upon to advise others.

This course will be of particular value to people working in or wishing to work in:

  • Public parks
  • Public gardens
  • Botanic gardens
  • Garden maintenance
  • Nursery work
  • Retail nurseries
  • Garden centres

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.
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.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

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What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

You don’t need to purchase any additional resources to complete our courses.

We aim to teach you the essentials without you having to purchase any specific computer program.
We recommend that you have access to a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, so that you can easily complete and submit your assignments.

You sure can. We are here to help you learn whatever your abilities.

Yes, if you are enrolling in a Certificate or Advanced Certificate, you might be eligible for credits if you have evidence of your previous studies or relevant experience. More information is here.

We recommend that you are able to browse websites, send emails and conduct online research. You will need to be able to type and submit your assignments.
If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course is aimed at providing you with a solid understanding of the subject. It has been designed to take 600 hours, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and more. When you complete the course, will have a good understanding of the area/ industry you want to work in.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

Yes, your tutor is here to help you. Simply post any questions you have in your login.training portal or contact the office and we can pass on a message to your tutor.

We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exams (8-9 exams) and you will be able receive your course certificate- an Advanced Certificate. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

Yes, our courses are built to be applicable for people living anywhere in any situation. We provide the fundamentals, and each student can apply their own unique flair for their own interests, region and circumstances with the one-on-one guidance of a tutor. There is also a bit of student directed research involved.

Employers value candidates with industry skills, knowledge, practical skills and formal learning. Our courses arm you with all of these things to help prepare you for a job or start your own business. The longer you study the more you will learn.

ACS has an arrangement with OAMPS (formerly AMP) who can arrange Professional Indemnity from Australian and New Zealand graduates across all disciplines. Ph: 1800 222 012 or email acs@oamps.com.au.

Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
We are focused on developing innovative courses that are relevant to you now and what you will need to know in the future.
We are focused on helping you learn and make the most of your experience.
You can enrol at any time, you can work on your course when it suits you and at your own pace.
We are connected to many industry bodies and our staff participate in continuous improvement and learning activities to ensure that we are ahead of what learning is needed for the future.

Our courses are not accredited by the Australian Government. However many of our courses are recognised and held in high regard by many industry bodies.

Our courses are written by our staff, who all have many years experience and have qualifications in their speciality area. We have lots of academic staff who write and update our courses regularly.

How do I enrol my staff/ sponsored students?

Yes, you can do a request for a bulk enrolment and request an invoice on our Invoice Request Form

We can prepare an invoice, quote or proforma invoice. Simply complete your details on our Invoice Request form

We can arrange bulk discounts for your course enrolment, please get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

Yes, we have many students who are in locked facilities, such as prisons or hospitals. We can cater by also offering paper notes at an additional cost.

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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

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 across the UK for more than three decades.
Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .

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