Practical Horticulture 1

Study practical horticultural skills and techniques to learn better horticultural practices for garden maintenance, nursery work, landscaping, crop production or other areas of horticultural work.

Course CodeBHT238
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Some people learn best studying theory and other learn best when the focus is more on hand-on skills and less on theory.

This course skill covers theory but it  concentrates on practical learning
- in fact you learn the theory through doing lots of practical exercises.

How will this course help you?

If you are a practical person then you will learn the "practical tasks" that every horticulturist (or gardener) should know. For example:
  • Managing Soils
  • Propagating different types of plants with different techniques
  • Protecting plants from ill health
  • Controlling weeds
  • Lots more

What can you do after you have done this course?

  • Work in a nursery
  • Work as  gardener
  • Use it to complement further study

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Soil Analysis
  2. Seed Propagation (including seed identification)
  3. Vegetative Propagation
  4. Potting up and After Care of young plants
  5. Planting
  6. Maintenance of Established Plants
  7. Practical Plant Identification
  8. Pest and Disease Identification
  9. Weed Identification
  10. Risk Assessment

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 You Will Do

  • Test soils to determine characteristics which would be valuable to management of any given soil in a horticultural situation
  • Identify sandy loam, silty loam, and clay loam soils by feel; and pH testing by soil indicator; and relate to plant selection
  • Identify and sow a range of different types of seeds, in different situations, in a way that will optimise successful propagation.
  • Propagate a range of plants using different vegetative propagation techniques
  • Pot up and provide after care for a range of propagated seedlings and cuttings.
  • Plant a range of (different types) plant material.
  • Maintain the desired growth type and habit for a range of plants.
  • Identify significant woody plants including: Trees; Shrubs; Groundcover; & Conifers
  • Identify a range of significant plant problems including pests, diseases and others.
  • Identify a range of non woody and indoor plants of horticultural significance.
  • Conduct a risk assessment of a horticultural workplace to determine safe working practices and select appropriate personal safety clothing and equipment.


How Can You Learn Practical Tasks by Distance Learning?

It seems difficult, but it really works. Here is an example of the types of things you will learn in this course:


Propagating plants from seeds is called sexual propagation. Seeds can be variable, in other words they may not always be a replica of the parent plant – there could be variations, sometimes only slight. The growth habit and colour may vary between plants grown from the same batch of seeds. This is brought about by a random combination of genetic material from the parents. The genetic make-up of each seed is unique. Plant breeders deliberately cross-pollinate plants that are genetically different in order to find interesting features. This produces new varieties or cultivars.

In order for seeds to germinate they require

  • Water and oxygen

  • An appropriate temperature

  • Sometimes light (depending on the species)

  • Viable seed

  • Given the above, a seed will germinate readily and the plant will grow.

If a seed is not given these requirements or when one is lacking or insufficient the seed will not germinate.

Some seeds require special treatment such as a period of cold (stratification) before it is ready to germinate. Others may require soaking in hot water or abrasion (scarification) of the outer coating (testa) to assist germination.

The reasons some seeds do not germinate are:

The seed may not be viable; either through a lack of formation or through death after trying to germinate once before

The environmental conditions i.e. water, temperature and light are not right

The seed may be dormant (some seeds have chemical inhibitors that prevent germination during dry seasons or other climatic conditions)

The seed (depending on species) may need the hard outer coating (testa) to be breached i.e. by either soaking in hot water or by chilling (stratification) or have the outer coating broken through mechanical or chemical abrasion (scarification)

Measuring Organic Matter in Soil

The presence of organic matter in soils helps to hold soil moisture as well as improving soil texture and soil fertility.

The following experiment can be used to determine the amount of relatively fresh soil organic matter and is useful in comparing the organic matter content of various soils. Carry out several experiments on various soils to determine the difference.

  1. Weigh out a sample of soil in a glass container. The reading is represented as w1 (weight without container

  2. Mix 6% (30 volume) hydrogen peroxide at the rate of 9ml hydrogen peroxide to 1gram of soil

  3. Shake and then stand for 24 hours until the bubbling almost ceases

  4. Add water to stop the reaction. Evaporate to dryness either in an oven at 40 degrees Celsius or in the open air. Weigh. Continue to dray until the weight remains constant. The final weight reading is represented as w2.

  5. Calculate organic matter percent as (w1- w2/w1) x 100

Calculating Soil Quantities

Area (length by width) x Depth = Volume (cubic metres)   eg: You require soil for a back lawn 10metres long and 6metres wide at a depth of 75millimetres

10m x 6m x 0.075m = 4.5m3



Horticulture is very much a hands-on field. Whilst there is much to learn through reading and observing, becoming adept at the practical side of things is highly valuable in all areas of horticulture. This course directs students in sound practical methods for undertaking a variety of tasks from planting to weeding, and pruning to applying insecticides. Those who complete this course will have a range of skills which should set them up in many fields including:

  • General horticulture

  • Garden maintenance

  • Parks & gardens

  • Landscaping

  • Nursery & propagation    

Need assistance?

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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
Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has
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
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