Organic Plant Culture

Study organic plant growing and learn how to grow a sustainable eco-garden. Organics is the way of the future - save the environment and also grow healthy food and gardens. Learn the practice as well as the theory behind organic plant culture!

Course CodeBHT302
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement 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 A look at the various organisations that are involved with the organic movement.
  2. Plant Culture- Learn about the basis of good plant and soil health with no dig principals and crop rotation.
  3. Understanding Soils- If your soil is not good, the plants will not perform. Understand soil profiles, identify soil types, and the requirements to keep plants healthy.
  4. Fertilizers and Plant Nutrition- Organic fetilisers such as manure based ones and how to use them.
  5. Soil Management- Green manure crops, cultivation techniques for minimising soil disturbance and composting techniques to enhance the soil.
  6. Pests & Diseases-Understanding pests and diseases and environmental problems with organic production.
  7. Mulching- This lesson looks at the importance of mulch and methods to useit when producing organic crops.
  8. Seeds - Collecting, storing & sowing your own seeds.
  9. Vegetable Growing in your locality- The importance of selecting a suitable site and planning your crop. The A-Z of various vegetables you could look at growing.
  10. Fruit Growing in your locality-Establishing an orchard and the production aspects to consider. A-Z of various fruit tree types you could look at growing.

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.

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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
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
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.
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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