Outdoor Plant Production (Crops I)

A comprehensive online study course. Learn all aspects of growing outdoor crops from nursery stock to vegetables, fruits and nuts. A solid foundation for market gardening, orchards, cut flower production or broad acre cropping.

Course Code: BHT112
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
Get started!

Learn to Grow a Broad Range of Crops

This course is a comprehensive introduction to crop growing which covers a huge amount of ground. Learn about different types of crop systems, how to establish and nurture crops, and techniques used in traditional and organic growing systems. 

Discover growing methods for a wide range of different types of crops from nursery plants and trees to nuts, vegetables, fruits and cut flowers.

See how soil is related to production yield and quality, how organic methods can be applied to any crop and which types of systems are better suited to particular crops.

It is a course of exceptional value to anyone interested in growing food plants.

Inside the course

  • Study Fruit, Vegetables, Berries, Nuts and other Horticultural Crops
  • Work on a fruit farm, start a business or develop your self sufficiency
  • Broaden your horticultural skills
  • Learn from highly qualified horticulture tutors who know the industry, plants and growing techniques well. Benefit from their decades of experience
  • Self paced, flexible, 100 hour course
This course started live as a Crops course developed by John Mason in 1980. Over the years it has been revised and upgraded many times with input from over 20 horticulturists in both the UK and Australia.

Today's course is very much up-to-date and an excellent foundation for any type of outdoor plant production.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Crop Production Systems
    • Scope and nature of horticultural crops
    • Reasons for growing; subsistence or for market
    • Developing reliable resource information
    • Types of Cropping –row cropping, broadacre, hydroponics, container growing, etc
    • Monoculture vs Polyculture
    • Citrus
    • Berry Fruits
    • Nuts
    • Vines
    • Pome Fruits
    • Stone Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Cut Flowers
    • Nursery Crops
    • Fibres
    • Oils Seeds
    • Other Crops
    • Review of six different crops
  2. Organic Production of Crops
    • Defining organics
    • Organic certification systems
    • Organic culture techniques
    • Composting
    • Factors that affect Nitrogen release from organic sources
    • Mycorrhizae affect on plants
    • Non mycorrhizal plants
    • Crop rotation
    • Using Legumes for soil improvement –nitrogen fixation
    • Rhizobium bacteria
    • Review of six different crops
  3. Soils and Nutrition
    • Understanding soil composition and structure
    • Soil structure –types of particles (gravel, sand, silt, colloids)
    • Peds
    • Water and Air
    • Soil Temperature
    • Soil Life –earthworms, bacteria, mycorrhizae
    • Improving soils
    • Sampling soils for testing
    • Naming a soil type
    • Soil problems
    • Loss of soil fertility –causes, implications, control
    • Erosion–causes, implications, control
    • Salinity –causes, implications, control
    • Soil compaction –causes, implications, control
    • Soil acidification –causes, implications, control
    • Build up of dangerous chemicals –causes, implications, control
    • Increasing organic matter
    • Phytotoxicity
    • Adding non organic materials to soil –lime, sulphur, gypsum, etc
    • Cation exchange capacity
    • Ph –acidity and alkalinity
    • Nutrient availability
    • Conductivity
    • Salinity
    • Plant Nutrition
    • Choosing a fertiliser
    • Total salts
    • Diagnosis of nutrient problems
    • Natural Fertilisers
    • Manures
    • Blood and bone
    • Rock dusts
    • Seaweed
    • Review of six different crops
  4. Producing Nursery Plants
    • Container or Field Growing
    • The Process -Propagation, Transplanting, Growing on, Marketing
    • Growing in containers
    • In ground nursery production
    • Propagation in the nursery –seed, cuttings
    • Potting up methods -manual and mechanical
    • Choosing cultivars to grow and how to grow.
    • Nursery Standards
    • Cost Efficiencies
    • Quality control
    • Starting a production nursery
    • Revamping an existing nursery
    • Scope and nature of different plant products
    • Review of six different crops
  5. Orchard Fruit Production
    • Scope of tree fruits –deciduous and evergreen
    • Site selection for an orchard or plantation
    • Rootstocks
    • Field preparation
    • Production and training systems
    • Understanding Pollination
    • Understanding chilling requirements
    • Grading the harvest
    • Mechanised grading
    • Grading in different countries
    • Post harvest handling equipment
    • Review of six different crops
  6. Soft Fruits Production
    • Scope –berries, bush and vines.
    • Growing grapes
    • Selecting a site for grapes
    • Climatic effects on grapes
    • Harvesting and marketing grape production
    • Strawberry Production
    • Where to plant strawberries
    • Grading soft fruits
    • Strawberry growing
    • Raspberries
    • Chinese Gooseberries (Kiwi Fruit)
    • Cape Gooseberry
    • Gooseberry
    • Mulberry
    • Blueberry
    • Elderberry
    • Currants
    • Cranberry
    • Brambleberries
    • Review of six different crops
  7. Vegetable Production
    • Groupings of vegetables –brassicas, root and bulb crops, leaf and stem crops, cucurbits, fruit crops, etc
    • Factors affecting production
    • Planting methods –direct seeding, seedlings, crowns, tubers, offsets, etc
    • Seed sources –hybrid seed, collecting seed, etc
    • Storing seed
    • Sowing seed outdoors and under cover
    • Transplanting seedlings
    • Choosing what to grow & buy
    • Review and comparison of around 40 different types of vegetables
    • Mushroom production
    • Harvesting and grading vegetables
    • Review of six different crops
  8. Cut Flower Production
    • Types of cut flower production
    • Flower harvest and Storage
    • Grading and flower standards
    • Alstroemeria
    • Antirrhinum
    • Amaryllis
    • Anigozanthos
    • Aster
    • Carnation
    • Chrysanthemum
    • Dahlia
    • Freesia
    • Gerbera
    • Gladiolus
    • Iris
    • Narcissus
    • Orchids
    • Roses
    • Stocks
    • Review of six different crops
  9. Herbs, Nut and Miscellaneous Crop Production
    • Herb culture
    • How herbs are propagated
    • Review of significant herb species
    • Harvesting herbs
    • Nut Growing
    • Significant nut crops
    • Walnut production
    • Chestnuts
    • Almonds
    • Peanuts
    • Macadamias
    • Pecan
    • Hazelnut
    • Filbert
    • Pistachio
    • Cashew
    • Review of six different crops
  10. Crop Production Risk Assessment
    • Assessing workplace safety factors
    • Duty of care
    • Employer duties
    • Employee duties
    • Manufacturer duties
    • Duties of visitors or anyone else
    • Protective clothing
    • Sunscreen
    • Tool and equipment safety
    • Safety using electricity
    • Maintenance of tools and equipment
    • Harvest and storage risk
    • Review of six different crops

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 different cropping systems and their appropriate application for the production of different types of crops.
  • Evaluate and explain organic plant production, and the requirements in at least two different countries, to achieve organic certification.
  • Explain the function of soils and plant nutrition in outdoor cropping systems.
  • Describe the commercial production of a range of nursery stock.
  • Describe the commercial production of a range of tree fruit crops.
  • Explain techniques used to produce a range of soft fruits.
  • Explain techniques used to grow a range of vegetables.
  • Explain the commercial production of outdoor-grown cut flowers.
  • Describe the commercial production of herbs, nuts and other miscellaneous crops.
  • Identify the risks that may occur in outdoor crop production.

How are Crop Plants Grown?

The main systems used for commercial cropping are:


Row cropping – the most commonly used production system; used to grow vegetables and herbs, cut flowers, fruit and nut trees, field-grown nursery stock. Advantages of row cropping include ease of access for machinery and people during planting, crop maintenance and harvesting. This system enables good water management (i.e. it is suitable for trickle irrigation systems) and weed control (using mulches between plants and mowing between rows).  

Broad acre – most commonly used for large scale vegetable, oil seed, fibre, herb and grain production. Also used for cut flowers, turf growing, and large-scale orchards (e.g. fruit grown for canning and juicing).  This is commonly known as Agronomy. If this is what interests you; we also offer an Agronomy course.

Hydroponics – a specialised and intensive system most commonly used to grow leafy vegetables, tomatoes and strawberries. Can be used to grow many other crops including cut flowers and root vegetables.

Containerised systems – This involves growing plants in pots or other containers (eg bags, baskets, veneer tubes), commonly used for growing nursery stock; both in the open, and under cover.

Trellising systems – used for supporting and training deciduous and vine fruits.

Hedging – used for tree and berry fruits, and nuts. Also used for growing nursery stock plants (to provide cutting propagation material).

Monoculture vs. Mixed Culture

Monoculture farming involves growing one type of crop or raising one type of animal. This system has been widely practised in recent years, and is favoured by many growers because it potentially gives good economic returns. By only growing one crop farmers are able to specialise and refine their growing techniques, and to concentrate their efforts in developing markets and investing in specialised equipment.
Mixed culture farming involves growing a variety of crops or animals. Until the Industrial Revolution and the advent of chemical fertilisers, all farmers made their living through mixed culture farming, and nowadays many growers are turning back to this system. This system has several important benefits:
  • In most cases it is more environmentally sustainable than monoculture farming. Growing a wide range of different plants for different purposes can significantly enhance the land’s productivity over a period of time. This means that as well as growing several different cash efficient crops at any given time, the farmer grows other plants such as windbreaks and companion plants to improve the farm’s sustainability.
  • Farmers are buffered against economic loss caused by market over/under supply or by the loss of one crop from pest/disease attack or unfavourable growing conditions
  • Crops can be spread over the whole year, allowing better use of resources (such as farm equipment) and better management of labour and finance.


  • Those who work on a crop growing farm, or would like to start a business or be more self-sufficient
  • Thow who would like to broaden their horticultural skills
  • Learn who would like to learn from highly qualified horticulture tutors who know the industry, plants and growing techniques well. Benefit from their decades of experience.

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.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
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.
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.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.

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.

Simply click on the ENROL OPTIONS button at the top of this screen and follow the prompts.

You can see the course price at the top of this page. Click 'enrolment options' to see any payment options available.

You can pay by Credit Card, PayPal, Afterpay or bank transfer.

Yes! We have payment plans for most courses. Click 'enrolment options' to see the available payment plans.
We also have Afterpay that will allow you to pay for your course or payment plans in four instalments (if you are in Australia).

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 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.

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 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.

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.

What if I have any more questions or need more information?

We can assist you to find the right course for your needs. Get in touch with us via email (admin@acs.edu.au) call on +61 7 5562 1088 or complete our course advice form.

What if I change my mind?

Please get in touch with studentservices@acs.edu.au if you would like to be removed from our mail list.

If you would like ACS Distance Education to delete your information at any time (whether you are a customer or a prospective customer), please contact our privacy officer and we will process this ( admin@acs.edu.au ).

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.

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

Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.

I agree for ACS Distance Education to contact me and store my information until I revoke my approval. For more info, view our privacy policy.