Organic Plant Culture

Study organic plant growing for home or commercial horticulture Adopt sustainable practices. Save the environment and also grow healthy food and gardens. Study both practice and theory behind organic plant culture!

Course Code: BHT302
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Manage Organic gardens through this great course that inspires whilst developing your skills.

Learn the practice as well as the theory behind organic plant culture!

This course shows you how to grow plants naturally using organic methods. Develop a solid understanding of the principles and procedures underlying the cultivation of fruit and vegetables by natural methods. Work with the environment and without the use of artificial fertilizers or sprays. It is a similar course to commercial organic vegetable growing, but has more on fruit trees/crops and also ornamentals in the course content.

  • Learn to grow plants organically and naturally - both ornamentals and crops.

  • Start anytime, study anywhere, anytime

  • Improve your horticultural skills, explore new opportunities in your career, business, farm or garden.

Minimize pest problems, and creating productive farms and healthy gardens without relying upon artificial chemicals -but all that takes knowledge, and sometimes a little more hard work.

Through this course you can lay a foundation in the skills needed to be an effective organic gardener or farmer.

Become an Expert at Organic Growing

Learn to grow plants organically and naturally - both ornamentals and crops.

Minimize pest problems and create productive farms and healthy gardens without relying upon artificial chemicals - all that takes knowledge!

Through this course you can lay a foundation in the skills needed to be an effective organic gardener or farmer.

This courses has been developed by a team of organic experts including John Mason (author of Sustainable Agriculture) and Maggi Brown (former Education Officer with Garden Organic /HDRA). It is a very solid training ground for anyone who is serious about growing organic vegetables, herbs or other plants.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Scope and Nature of Organic Growing
    • Definitions
    • Influential People in the Organic movement: Lady Balfour, Sir Albert Howard, Jerome Irving Rodale
    • Different Ways to Garden Organically. Biodynamics, Permaculture
    • Resources
  2. Plant Culture
    • Different Cultivation Methods
    • Crop Rotation
    • Green Manure
    • No Dig Culture
    • Not Till
    • Planting into Grass
  3. Understanding Soils
    • Physical and Chemical Soil Properties
    • Soil Profiles
    • Identifying Soil Type
    • Soil Structure
    • pH
    • Cation Exchange Capacity
    • Buffering Capacity
    • Soil water and air, temperature, humus, etc
    • Organic Matter
  4. Fertilizers and Plant Nutrition
    • Organic Fertilisers; scope, nature, comparing different types of fertilizer and manure
    • Animal Manures
    • Seaweed and seaweed extracts
    • Liquid Feeds in Organics
    • Rock Dusts
  5. Management
    • Importance of Soil
    • Cultivation Techniques and their affects on soil
    • Cover Crops
    • Using Cover Crops
    • Green Manures as Cover Crops
    • Nitrogen Fixation
    • The Rhizobium Bacteria
    • Mycorrhizae
    • Composting
    • Compost Bins
    • What can be Composted
    • Carbon Nitrogen Ratio
    • Compost heap conditions; cold and hot heaps
    • How to build a compost heap
    • Using Compost
    • Water in the Soil; infiltration, retention, when to water, period of watering
  6. Pests and Diseases
    • Pest and Disease Prevention
    • Management Techniques; early intervention, using predators
    • Allowable inputs
    • Understanding Plant Problems
    • Disease Lifecycles
    • Review of Disease Types and their management
    • Viruses
    • Review of Pests and their management
    • Review of Environmental Problems and their Management
    • Companion Planting
    • Nutrient Accumulating Plants
  7. Mulching
    • Scope and Nature
    • Mulching Materials
    • Living Mulch
    • Weed Management, preventative measures, other weed control methods
  8. Seeds
    • Organic Seeds
    • Reproduction
    • Pollination and preventing cross pollination
    • Choosing Seed Plants for Vegetable Crops
    • Collection, cleaning, storing seeds
    • Sowing
  9. Vegetable Growing in your locality
    • Site Selection
    • Planning the Crop
    • Getting the most from a Vegetable Plot
    • Sowing Vegetable Seeds; outdoors, indoors
    • Transplanting Seedlings
    • Crowns, Offsts, Tubers
    • Selected Vegetables, their culture, production, harvest, etc
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Beetroot
    • Silverbeet
    • Cabbage
    • Capsicum
    • Carrots
    • Cauliflowers
    • Celery
    • Chicory
    • Cucumbers
    • Egg plants
    • Kohl rabi
    • Leek
    • Lettuce
    • Onions
    • Parsnips
    • Potatoes
    • Pumpkins
    • Radish
    • Spinach
    • Turnip
    • Tomatoes
  10. Fruit Growing in your locality.
    • Establishing an Orchard; site, climate, water
    • Designing an Orchard
    • Soil Management for Organic Orchards
    • Winter Chilling, Pollination and other fruit set factors
    • Choosing Fruit Varieties
    • Temperate and Cool Climate Fruits Review
    • Review of Tropical and Sub Tropical Fruits
    • Vine Fruits
    • Berry Fruits
    • Nuts

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.


  • Explain the concepts and principles of organic growing, including the common techniques used in organic growing systems.
  • Explain the concepts and principles of organic growing, including the common techniques used in organic growing systems.
  • Determine soil management procedures, which are consistent with organic growing principles.
  • Determine soil management procedures, which are consistent with organic growing principles.
  • Determine soil management procedures, which are consistent with organic growing principles.
  • Explain how pests and diseases are controlled using organic growing principles.
  • To determine appropriate mulches for use in different organic growing situations.
  • Determine the appropriate use of seed propagation, in organic plant culture.
  • Plan the production of an organically grown vegetable food crop
  • Plan the production of an organically grown fruit crop

Want to know more about this course?

We love discussing our students' educational needs with them before they enrol - that way they are more likely to enrol in a course that best suits them - now and into the future.  To make contact: click on the 'Talk With An Expert' box at the end of this page.

What is Organic Growing?

Organic plant growing is the production of plants without the addition of artificial inputs such as chemicals that have been artificially manufactured or processed. This includes herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers.

Organic growing has increased in popularity over the past ten years due to the increasing awareness of safety in the garden and on the farm and the desire to produce food that is free from chemical inputs. For decades, farmers and growers have relied upon chemicals to control pests and diseases in order to produce crops for sale. Unfortunately it is only recently that we have become aware that many of those chemicals can sometimes cause health problems to humans, as well as long-term damage to the environment such as soil degradation, imbalances in pest-predator populations can also sometimes occur. As public concern grows, these issues are becoming increasingly important. However the organic grower or gardener should understand that not all organic practices always guarantee a healthy environment, over-cultivation for example can also lead to soil damage. Organic growing practices should aim to ensure quality of both the environment in which we live and of the produce we grow in our gardens and on our farms.

A growing interest in more environmentally sustainable gardening methods offers the chance to provide the general public the quickest, safest and most enjoyable organic garden practices. This course will lead you through these practices and guide you to develop and maintain your plot, large or small.

Organic growing of plants works with nature, rather than against it. It recognises the fact that nature is complex and accordingly endeavours to understand interactions between plants, animals and insects. It therefore encourages the gardener for example to learn about the life-cycle of pests and to use this knowledge to control them. It also recognises that the use of chemicals has to be replaced with labour and management. Organic gardeners/growers have to manage pests rather then eliminate them. They need to be vigilant and have the ability to recognise problems and act quickly to minimise the spread of both pests and disease. They may also need to accept some insect damage to the plants they grow as inevitable. How to manage pest and disease problems in an organic system is covered in detail later in the course.



Chemicals kill pests and diseases effectively, but there can be problems if you don't use the right chemical or the right method. There are of course other ways to control pests and diseases; but other methods rarely give the complete control that chemicals do. Never the less, the preferred option these days is usually to use a combination of control techniques. The concept is that:

  • Nothing is over used to the detriment of the environment; or to the extent that pests "get used to the
     method", hence build resistance.

  • Each different technique weakens the pest or disease that little bit more. The overall affect is a better

  • Expensive controls (eg. some costly chemicals) are used in limited quantities, keeping costs lower.

This idea of using a combination of different control techniques which each contribute to the overall control is sometimes called "IPM" or "Integrated Pest Management".

The different methods of control can be divided into five broad categories listed below.

a/ Cultural - this involves growing practices that reduce problems, such as reducing humidity to
   reduce disease, keeping a plant healthy to enable it to problems, etc.

b/ Biological - this involves using natural mechanisms to control problems, such as pests eating other
   pests, or plants repelling or deterring development of pests and diseases.

c/ Physical - this method involves physically interfering with the pest or disease, such as squashing
   an insect, cutting off diseased tissue, trapping insects, enclosing the plant in a protective cage
   or net.

d/ Chemical - using chemicals that kill or interfere with problems. In natural gardens, the use of
   chemicals is limited to those that are derived from 'natural' sources, such as plant extracts (e.g.
   pyrethrum, neem oil), or rock dusts (e.g. sulphur).

e/ Legal - this involves governments making and enforcing laws, such as quarantine, or even
   banning of specific plants known to increase the spread of harmful pests or diseases.


There are 3 main approaches to biocontrol. These are:

1.  The introduction of parasites and predators, where natural enemies are introduced to control exotic pests, as in the case of Cottony Cushion Scale, which was introduced to California, from overseas, without it's natural predators.

2.  Conservation of existing natural enemies by changing spraying programs (we can't always just stop spraying.  We need to build up the natural enemies to a useful level first) such as using selective chemicals or by changing when we spray, as some insects are active at different times of the day, and by reducing the rates of the chemicals that we use.  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 ground cover in orchards to promote parasite habitats.

3. New natural enemies can be developed by scientists growing larger numbers of predators or parasites, or by adding additional numbers of natural enemies collected or purchased from elsewhere.  Producing and marketing biological control agents has now become a major business in Europe and the USA, with small scale activity also in Australia, for example Biocontrol (Company name) in Warwick, Queensland, who produce predatory spider mites for control of red spider.

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 these types of problems; the use of sterile insects to upset reproductive cycles and the use of plant derivatives, such as pyrethrum, as pesticides.


This course explores all of the fundamental principles and concepts that underpin organic growing. As a  graduate, your ability to learn ad apply organics in different soils, climates, and with different types of plants  will be greatly enhanced. No course will ever teach you everything about organics - that takes a lifetime of learning, but with this course behind you that lifetime of learning will become possible.
  • Some graduates may work in horticulture, in nurseries, in gardens or elsewhere.
  • Some may start a business, others may use what they learn to grow healthier.
  • Others will find work in allied industries (e.g. supplying organic products and services, teaching, consultancy, marketing, etc)
  • Learning about organics does not stop when you finish this course either; some continue to learn through experience and reading, others through networking and perhaps ongoing studies. As your knowledge develops further, your opportunities will continue expanding. With the foundation you put in place here; that ongoing development should continue as long as your passion continues.

Through this course you can lay a foundation in the skills needed to be an effective organic gardener or farmer.

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.
ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).
ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's
Long-term member since 1986.
Long-term member since 1986.

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.

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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.

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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 has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

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.

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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 exam and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Statement of Attainment. 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.

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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

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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.

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) .

Diana Cole

B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C.
In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild construction qualifications and an NPTC pesticide spraying licence (PA1/PA6). Diana runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens). Active in many organisations including the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.

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