Landscape Construction

Learn basic landscape construction skills. Understand landscape tools and uses, how to measure sites, earthworks and construction of surfaces and enclosures. Train for a job, career or professional development in landscaping.

Course CodeBHT111
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Learn Methods Behind Basic Landscape Construction

Landscape construction is concerned with what it takes to build gardens and other landscapes. Since many types of construction in the landscape can be achieved in many different ways, this course serves as an introduction to some of the ways that different surfaces, enclosures and structures can be made.  

Take all the guesswork out of landscape work

This course covers things like what different tools and equipment are required and how they are used, how to measure up sites and develop landscape plans, methods for improving on-site drainage, levelling and earthworks, materials used and principles underlying the construction of garden surfaces, basic garden structures and setting out irrigation.

Apply what you learn

  • Work as a landscape gardener or contractor
  • Start your own landscape business
  • See how gardens are constructed; from forming the levels to planting the plants.
Creating a new garden can be an extremely rewarding experience. Imagine if you could spend every day doing just that; and get paid for it at the same time. Good gardens start with good plans; but it doesn't matter how good the plan might be; if the construction is not of a high standard too.  To become a good landscape builder requires a lot of different skills, and sound knowledge to underpin those skills. Top contractors are always in demand, and have been for hundreds of years. 
  • Start with this course to get your fundamental understanding of how to properly build the landscape
  • Expand your skills through experience, applying what you learn, in your own garden, volunteering or at work.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Tools and Machinery
    • Manual Handling
    • Materials used for Constructing Tools and Equipment; ferrous metals, non ferrous metals
    • Safety with Electricity
    • Engine Troubleshooting
    • Machine Maintenance
    • Types of Machines
    • Chainsaws: safety, buying, using
    • Brushcutters
    • Earthmoving and Cultivating Equipment; rotary hoes, ploughs, cultivators, etc
    • Workshop and Hand Tools; spanners, chisels, hacksaws etc
    • Hand saws, Rakes, Spades, Shovels, Rollers, Wheelbarrows, Sprayers, etc
  2. Landscape Plans and Setting out a Construction Site
    • Reading Landscape Plans, Scale, etc
    • Understanding and Using Triangulation
    • Slope, Contouring, Grid Systems
  3. Drainage in Landscape Construction
    • Introduction to Drainage
    • Testing Drainage
    • Improving Drainage
    • Improving Soil Water Infiltration
    • Improving Drainage after construction; sand slitting, aerating, sub soiling
    • Sub Surface Drains; types, layout, outlet, gradients, pipe spacing, etc
    • Surface Drainage
    • Soil Testing; testing nutrients, pH, toxins
  4. Earthworks
    • Levelling terminology
    • Levelling Procedure
    • Levelling a Sloping Site
    • Earthmoving
    • Earthmoving Machinery; Bobcat, Backhoe, Dozer
    • Use an Experienced Driver
    • Topsoil Considerations
    • Earth Forming: creating Mounds
    • Building Raised Garden Beds
    • Earth Quantity Calculation
    • Soil Degradation
    • Erosion; water erosion, wind erosion, controlling erosion
    • Soil Acidification Management
    • Managing Soil Compaction
    • Managing Chemical Residues
  5. Surfaces, Paths, Paving and Turf
    • Introduction
    • Surfaces for Play Areas
    • Concrete; concrete, cement, mortar, variations in treatment and use
    • Loose Surfacing Materials: advantages and disadvantages
    • Bark Surfaces, Crushed tiles, pebbles, etc
    • Paths; concrete, asphalt, etc
    • Paving; laying pavers, setting out circular paving, curved paving, edges to paving
    • Lawns and Turf; shape, design, establishment
    • Garden Edges
    • Playing Field Construction
    • Sand Based Technology
    • Constructing Steps
  6. Construction of Garden Structures I
    • Buildings in a Garden; gazebos, verandahs, storage buildings, cubbies, etc
    • Where to build a building
    • Floors and Foundations for Buildings
    • Walls; brick construction, coping, expansion joints, etc
    • Fencing
    • Retaining Walls
    • Wooden Walls
    • Construction with Rock or Masonry; dry walls, wet walls
    • Home Playgrounds
    • Using Timber in the Garden
    • Differences between Softwood and Hardwood
  7. Construction of Garden Structures II
    • Compost Bins
    • Traditional Features: gazebos, statues, gates, arches, sundials, bird baths, urns, tubs, pergolas, pleached alleys, etc
    • Wooden Decks
    • Constructing a Deck
    • Greenhouse and Shadehouse; types, construction, installation
    • Water Features; Waterproofing, keeping water clean
    • Landscaping a pond
    • Tennis Courts
    • Spas
    • Rockery Construction
    • Artificial Rock Formation
    • Mulching Rockeries
    • Garden Furniture
    • Lighting in the Garden
  8. Irrigation Systems
    • Planning an Irrigation System
    • Types of Systems: sprinkler, drip, automatic, etc
    • Using and Maintaining an Irrigation System
  9. Establishing Hedges and Other Plants
    • Factors affecting successful plant establishment
    • Physical Plant Protection Methods
    • Hedges; site preparation, plant selection, spacing, planting, pruning, hedge maintenance
  10. Workplace Safety and Management of Landscape Construction Work
    • Risk Management on a Landscape Construction Site
    • The Risks
    • Keeping a Work Site Safe
    • Duty of CareSignificance of Illness
    • Protective Clothing
    • Safety with Tools and Equipment
    • Safety with electricity and different types of equipment
    • Tool Maintenance

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Manage equipment for landscape construction projects, including tools and machinery.
  • Determine earthworks for a landscape development.
  • Plan the construction of different landscape structures including buildings, fences, and walls.
  • Manage the installation of a simple irrigation system in gardens.
  • Determine construction techniques for different building or installing different garden features; including paving, water gardens, rockeries and furnishings.
  • Determine techniques for creating soft landscaping.
  • Manage work being undertaken on a landscape construction site.

What You Will Do

  • Compare the quality and cost of a range of different tools and machinery used in landscape construction.
  • Identify tools and machinery used in everyday work by landscape constractors.
  • Explain appropriate uses for different tools and machinery on a landscape construction site.
  • Prepare landscape plans for a number of landscape sites
  • Research and report on marking out boundaries in construction sites
  • Describe how to locate contours
  • Determine the fall of existing drains, and identify appropriate falls, spacing and depths of drains
  • Observe and report on earth moving equipment in operation
  • Survey a site and recommend earthworks necessary
  • Examine surfacing materials for paths, gardens, etc and determine the appropriate landscaping function of each.
  • Assess the construction of a range of different existing landscape features
  • Describe preparation of foundations for a specified garden structure, on a specific site.
  • Design a rockery at least 30 square metres in area
  • Contact a range of suppliers of landscape materials and compare the products available in your locality.
  • Identify materials needed to install an irrigation system on a site selected by you.
  • Prepare plans of irrigation systems
  • Research which species of plants are suitable for hedging in your locality
  • Outline how to effectively transplant an existing tree
  • Prepare a detailed risk assessment for a landscape construction site
  • Identify safe working practices for a landscape construction site
  • Determine a list of work tasks to be undertaken on a landscape construction site. Give a time frame for completion of the entire project

Landscape Construction work requires many different skills.

This course helps you understand what needs to be done, and how to do many things; but sometimes even professionals might need to employ a concreter, tiler, plumber, electrician, gardener, stone mason, earth moving contractor, or other expert to assist with some aspect of a job.

They’re likely to charge higher rates, but some aspects of a project will be far better served by taking the plunge and spending that money.

Most landscape contractors will do a certain amount of concrete work themselves; but for larger or more complex jobs you need at least advice from an expert if:
  • heavy vehicles are going to drive over the concrete
  • it is being built on unstable ground (eg. A steep slope or land fill)
  • you want to include patterns or colour in the concrete
  • it is part of a more significant construction. eg. You are going to build walls on top of the concrete; it is a bridge over a stream or pond

Finding a reliable concreter is not always easy. Ask other people in industry (eg. a professional body) if they can recommend someone. When you find someone, ask if they can provide examples of their work.

You can never be too safe when it comes to electricity. You will need an electrician when:
  • you want to install garden lights. Even if you plan to use a low voltage transformer, you may need an electrician to install extra power outside or fit switches that can be operated from inside the house.
  • you want power for the garden shed or gazebo
  • power is required to operate a fountain or pump in a garden pond
  • underwater lighting for ponds, spas, pools, etc
  • spotlights, sensor lights, etc.
Earth Moving
If you have heavy or hard soil, then a rotary hoe is the quick and easy way to loosen it up. Bobcats and modified tractors are used for removing or relocating rocks and tree roots. They also make short work of moving large quantities of soil and will be able to reshape the ground into terraces etc. much faster than you.

If doing a small paving area, get all the materials delivered at once. Then hire a machine that can move in the sand and pavers, as well as levelling the soil. This will save you much of the hard preparation work. All you will be left with is to finish off the job.

If you are going to tap into the potable (drinkable) water supply, you will have to use a licensed plumber. This will be necessary when you are installing major irrigation works or wish to include an additional water tap in the garden.
Stone Mason or Brick Layer
Erecting a stone or brick wall is a skilled task. Any wall that is more than one metre in height (especially those used as retaining walls and those alongside footpaths) should be designed and built by a professional.

Plant Knowledge
Being able to construct the non living components of a landscape is essential; but this is only half of the job, when it comes to building a garden. The other half is what is called "soft landscaping". Soft landscaping is planting and establishing the plants.
To do this well, the soil must be appropriate, the plants need to be kept from getting too dry, or wet (in most cases). They may also need protection from extreme weather and pests, until they get established. 

Comment from a Tutor in this Course
“This extremely practical course works as the perfect guide to direct the student through tool selection and use, understanding plans, and preparing a site, to the actual construction of landscape features. It’s compelling study for those with a bent towards construction or those working as landscape gardeners.” - Gavin Cole B.Sc., Psych.Cert., Cert.Garden Design, former Operations Manager for "The Chelsea Gardener" , a highly regarded London Landscaping firm. 

There are many different pathways people follow to become a landscape contractor.

  • Some start out as a gardener or labourer, and working alongside someone else are given jobs in garden construction. They learn on the job; but often they come to the realisation that there are serious gaps in their knowledge. That is where this course can be valuable, to help fill those gaps.
  • Others may be trained or experienced working in an associated trade, such as carpentry or masonry. This may lead them to using their skills to help construct features in gardens. Some of the best landscapers have started out this way; and through study and experience, moved from building parts of a landscape to building entire landscapes.
  • Many people begin as a home gardener; developing a passion that grows into a desire to develop a career. Passion and experience are essential and will go a long way toward starting such a career; but without some study as well, the potential for success will never be as great.
  • Of course some will begin their career with a course; and for a career in landscape contracting, this is an excellent place to start.


Opportunities After Your Studies

This course is of great value to people wishing to work in landscaping. It will not lead to a construction license but should provide basic skills needed to undertake small scale landscaping projects which do not require council approval.  

It is likely to benefit people who wish to add basic construction to their landscaping and gardening skills. It could serve as a platform for further study or be taken in conjunction with other modules to enhance your learning experience.

People who should take this course are those working in, or wishing to work in:

Landscape construction
Landscape design
Garden maintenance
Garden restoration or conservation
Landscape materials supply

It could also add to the skillset of people wanting to start a landscape business, or be of value to people wishing to renovate a home garden.        


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Martin Powdrill

25 years working in Telecommunications, IT, Organisational Development, and Energy Conservation & Efficiency, prior to setting up his own Permaculture consulting business. Martin has a Bsc (Hons) Applied Science (Resources Option), MSc Computer Studies, P
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.
Jacinda Cole

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer. He was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up his own landscaping firm. He spent three year
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