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 Code: BHT238
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement 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
    • Soil Analysis
    • Testing Your Soil
    • Good Soil Structure
    • Simple Soil Test
    • Naming The Soil
    • Percolation Rates
    • Drainage Problems
    • Soil Temperature
    • How to Improve Soils
    • Soil pH
    • Methods Of Measuring Ph
    • Probe Meters
    • Colorimetric Methods
    • pH meters
    • Another Way to Measure Organic Matter in Soil
    • Terminology
  2. Seed Propagation (including seed identification)
    • Growing Plants from Seed
    • Hygiene
    • How to Sow Seeds in Containers
    • Germination
    • Preparation of Seed Beds in the Field
    • Selected Plant Species
    • Seed Propagating Media
    • General Characteristics
    • Cation Exchange Capacity
    • Seed Compost
    • Commonly Used Mixes
    • Terminology
  3. Vegetative Propagation
    • The Techniques
    • Classification Of Cutting Types
    • Equipment
    • Procedures For Taking Cuttings
    • Types Of Cuttings
    • Stem Cuttings
    • Herbaceous Cutting
    • Tip Cutting
    • Heel Cutting
    • Nodal Cutting
    • Basal Cutting
    • Cane Cutting
    • Leaf Cutting Techniques
    • Root Cutting
    • Bulb Cuttings
    • Improving Strike Rate
    • Terminology
  4. Potting up and After Care of young plants
    • Transplanting Between Pots
    • Stop Roots Growing into The Soil
    • What is a Perched Water Table?
    • Drainage Holes
    • Potting Up a Plant
    • Potting Up Cuttings
    • Pricking Out or Tubing Seedlings
    • Setting out Cuttings
    • Potting up a hanging basket
    • Porous pots need different treatment
    • Plant Modification to Achieve Uniformity
    • Modification Techniques
    • Spacing
    • Staking
    • Growing-On Areas for Container Plants
    • Chemical Growth Modification
  5. Planting
    • General Planting Considerations
    • Problems With Containers
    • How To Maintain Plants in Pots
    • Types Of Pots
    • Bare Rooted Plants
    • Planting
    • Hints For Planting
    • Drainage
    • Improving Infiltration of Water into The Soil
    • Improving Surface Drainage After Construction
    • Provision Of Sub Surface Drains
    • Layout Of Drains
    • Outlet
    • Gradients
    • Distance Between Drainage Pipes
    • Depth Of Drains
    • Types Of Drains
    • Laying The Drain
    • Surface Drainage
    • Some Points to Remember When Designing a Drainage System
    • Terminology
  6. Maintenance of Established Plants
    • Pruning In the Home Garden
    • The Basic Rules of Pruning
    • Getting Pruned
    • Selecting Your Secateurs
    • Winter Pruning
    • General Principles
    • How To Do It
    • Pruning Tools
    • Some Examples of Winter Pruning
    • Pollarding
    • Plants That Respond Well to Pruning Include:
    • How To Prune a Rose
    • Clean Out Your Dead Wood
    • Wood Rots
    • Dead Heading
    • Is Annual Pruning Enough?
    • What Is Compartmentalisation?
    • What About Wound Treatments?
    • What About Compost – Doesn’t It Spread Disease?
    • Pruning In the Home Orchard
    • Terminology
    • How To Use Trimmers
    • Pruning Tomatoes
    • Root Pruning
    • How To Trim a Hedge
    • Training
    • Terminology
  7. Practical Plant Identification – Woody Plants
    • Plant Names
    • Common Names
    • Scientific Names
    • What Is the Difference Between Families
    • Common Names
    • Scientific Names
    • What Is the Difference Between Families
  8. Pest, Disease and Weed Identification
    • Pests
    • Diseases
    • Diagnosis of Problems
    • Finding Out What the Problem Is
    • Conducting An Inspection
    • Tell Tale Symptoms
    • Is There More Than One Problem?
    • Develop A Systematic and Logical Approach to Inspecting the Plant
    • Conducting An Inspection
    • Diagnosis Of Plant Disorders
    • Shortcuts To Problem Identification
    • Difficult To Diagnose Problems
    • Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
    • Weeds
    • Common Terms
  9. Practical Plant Identification – Non-Woody Plants Including Grasses and Indoor Plants
    • Choosing The Right Lawn
    • Turf Varieties
    • Lawn Mixes
    • What To Grow Where
    • Cool Winters/Dry Summers
    • Mild Summers/Cold Winters
    • Fescues, Kentucky Blue Grass, Rye Grass, Couch.
    • Tropical
    • Bulbs
    • What Spring Bulbs Need
    • How To Grow Bulbs
    • Bulbs In Subtropical and Tropical Areas
    • Indoor Plants
    • Potting
  10. Risk Assessment
    • Identifying Risk in The Workplace
    • Chainsaw Use & Safety
    • Save The Back, Use the Head! Hard Work Solutions
    • Cleaning & Sharpening Tools
    • Secateurs And Branch Pruning Tools
    • Shovels And Spades
    • Saws And Chainsaws
    • Protecting Tools from Rust
    • Maintaining Timber Handles
    • Maintaining Plastic Handles
    • Storage

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.


  • 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; Ground cover; and 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    

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 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

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
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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.

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More information is here

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Course Contributors

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

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.

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

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 lifestyle. She has decades of practical experience growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs, and making her own preserves. She is well connected with horticulture professionals across Australia, and amongst other things, for a period, looked after Australia's national collection of Thymus. Advanced Diploma in Horticulture, Advanced Certificate in Horticulture.

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 worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

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