Landscape Construction

Learn landscape construction materials, methods and operations, drainage, earthworks, structures, equipment, irrigation, on site practices, etc. 100 hours.

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

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Learn Landscape Construction


 “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, MACA, ACS Tutor.

Course Summary

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

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Tools and Machinery
  2. Landscape Plans and Setting out a Construction Site
  3. Drainage and Landscape Costruction
  4. Earthworks
  5. Surfaces, Paths, Paving and Turf
  6. Construction of Garden Structures I
  7. Construction of Garden Structures II
  8. Irrigation Systems
  9. Establishing Hedges and other Plants
  10. Workplace Safety and Management of Landscape Construction Work

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.

What Does a Garden Cost?


Costs in a garden have a tendency to sneak up on us, but with a little forethought and the right choices, you can vastly increase the value for money you spend.

Gardens can be relatively cheap or very expensive. Unlike most other things we buy though, most of us tend not to think about the full cost of what we do in our garden.

  • Do you know what you spend on your garden every year? 
  • How much do you want to spend on your garden next year? 
  • Do you go to the local garden supplier just to see what you can find?
  • Do you have to go to the hardware store for a new tool every time you have a job to do? 

If you answered ‘yes’ or ‘don’t know’ to any of these questions, maybe it’s time to think about working out a garden budget.

The Budget

Gardening should be part of your household budgeting.  Like your household budget, it requires realistic estimates of how much you can afford to spend, what you would like to buy, and what you need to buy.  A garden budget will also help you to control those impulse purchases that you might later regret. 

Remember, an attractive garden can add to the value of your property. Money wisely spent on improving your garden adds to your quality of life and is also a sensible financial investment. 

Having a Plan

Many people simply let their gardens 'happen'.  If you have a garden plan, you can work out what tasks need to be done and in what order to do them. This can make budgeting much easier. 

Plans can be either a drawing of how you would like your garden to look, a list of priorities for the garden, or a combination of both. Once you have this, you can work out how much each item is going to cost and whether you can afford it.   

Set-Up Costs
Costs for establishing a new garden or rejuvenating parts of an old garden are much greater than ongoing maintenance expenses. Set-up costs include things like:

  • Paving 
  • Fences
  • Retaining walls
  • Furniture and garden ornaments
  • Drainage
  • Irrigation
  • Lighting
  • Water features
  • Plants
  • Turf
  • Soils, mulch and fertilisers

For each category, you will need to work out a realistic budget. If your budget is limited, you may need to choose between using cheaper materials (e.g. recycled, seconds, second-hand, home-made) or using better materials but less of them (e.g. having a smaller paved area, smaller pond, or fewer plants).

Maintenance Costs

All gardens require maintenance, but the cost of maintenance can be greatly reduced by making the right design choices. Some examples are as follows:

  • Gardens with less lawn will usually require less maintenance.
  • Certain varieties of lawn grass need mowing more often than others.
  • Gardens that are designed to have very sharp straight or smooth edges (e.g. between a garden and paving) require those edges to be trimmed regularly. If the design allows for uneven edges then the frequency of trimming is less.
  • When foliage textures and colours are mixed, weed growth tends to be less noticed - but when they are uniform, a weed will be far more obvious.
  • Some plants (e.g. conifers, leptospermum, or eucalyptus) will deter weed growth under their canopy.
  • Paths that are shaded, sloping and near to plants which drop leaves will require more frequent cleaning if they are not to become a safety hazard.
  • Plants that attract or harbour pests or diseases are going to cost more to maintain.
  • Plants that are shorter-lived (e.g. annuals and biennials) will need to be replaced more often.
  • Hedges can cost more to maintain if you use faster growing plants. Slower growing plants take time to establish, but require trimming less regularly.
  • Despite needing routine trimming, a hedge can be used neaten up a garden even when a garden bed behind it is poorly maintained (i.e. a trimmed hedge can take one’s attention away from weeds and shabby plants behind it).

Here are just some of the ongoing costs you may need to spend money on to keep a garden looking good:

  • Power tools
  • Replacement tools
  • Tool servicing
  • New plants
  • Annual plants
  • Mulches and fertilisers
  • Soil to top-dress the lawn
  • Water for irrigation
  • Ties and stakes
  • Pest control chemicals and equipment

Keep these costs in mind when you design the garden, and you will be able to minimize the long term cost of your garden maintenance.

The Plants

For a small garden, the cost of plants might not be a major issue but as people with larger gardens know, re-stocking plants for a large area can cost an awful lot of money.

One solution is to buy mostly smaller plants, and wait for them to grow. Another is to propagate them yourself. You might also try talking to your local nurseryman about discounts for bulk purchases. If you work out what you need and buy all of your plants at once, most nurserymen will offer some sort of discount.

Also, instead of buying vegetable and flower seedlings, buy seeds and grow your own. It may be more time-consuming and a slower process, but new trees and shrubs can be grown from seeds or cuttings if you know how to do it. Buy a book or do a plant propagation course. It doesn’t take too much to learn the basics.


  • Those who work or would like to work in the landscaping industry but do no have any formal training.
  • Landscape designers - you need to understand the fundamentals of landscape construction in order to produce effective designs.
  • The home landscaper that would like to tackle some smaller landcaping jobs
  • The professional gardener who would like to expand their business opportunities

Suggested Reading
Garden Design Part 1 by John Mason (our Principal)  click for details


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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
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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