Crops I (Outdoor Plant Production)

Course CodeBHT112
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Become an Expert Grower

This comprehensive introduction to crop growing 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. 

Grow better Vegetables, Herbs, Fruit or Cut Flowers Outdoors
Ten lessons in this course will cover: site, crop selection, soil management, cut flowers, vegetables, berries, nuts, herbs, tree fruits, other crops, managing a market garden and more.

Who Should Do this Course:

  • Farmers, Growers, Anyone starting or buying a small farm, or large
  • Anyone wanting to take a first step toward working in horticultural crop production
  • Gardeners, horticulturists, farmers seeking to broaden their skills and knowledge
  • Garden and Self Sufficiency Enthusiasts who want to grow more of their own home produce


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Crop Production Systems
    • Scope and nature of Crop Production
    • Purpose for Growing –Subsistence crops, Marketable Crops
    • Finding reliable resource information
    • Types of Cropping –row crops, broad acre, hydroponics, container crops, 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 Crop Production
    • What is organic growing
    • Organic certification
    • Organic Growing Techniques
    • Composting
    • Factors that affect Nitrogen release from organic sources
    • Mycorrhizae
    • Versicular – Arbuscular mycorrhizae
    • Non mycorrhizal plants
    • Crop rotation
    • Using Legumes for soil improvement –nitrogen fixation
    • Rhizobium bacteria
    • Soils and Nutrition
    • Review of six different crops
  3. Soil and Nutrition
    • Understanding what is in soil-solid particles, air, water
    • 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. Nursery Stock Production
    • 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 plants
    • Potting machines
    • Choosing what 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. Tree 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
    • Bramble berries
    • 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
    • Sowing seed under cover
    • Transplanting seedlings
    • Buying seedlings
    • Choosing what to grow
    • 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
    • Scope of cut flower production
    • Harvesting and Storage
    • Grading
    • Cut flower standards
    • Alstroemeria
    • Antirrhinum
    • Amaryllis
    • Anigozanthus
    • Aster
    • Carnation
    • Chrysanthemum
    • Dahlia
    • Freesia
    • Gerbera
    • Gladiolus
    • Iris
    • Narcissus
    • Orchids
    • Roses
    • Stocks
    • Review of six different crops
  9. Herbs, Nuts and Miscellaneous Crops
    • Growing Herbs
    • Propagating herbs
    • Review of 16 significant types of herbs
    • Harvesting herbs
    • Nut Production
    • Comparing eight significant nut crops
    • Walnut production
    • Chestnuts
    • Almonds
    • Peanuts
    • Macadamias
    • Pecan
    • Hazelnut
    • Filbert
    • Pistacio
    • Cashew
    • Review of six different crops
  10. Crop Production Risk Assessment
    • Assessing the workplace –factors to consider
    • Consequences of an undesirable event
    • Keeping a work site safe
    • Duty of care –employer duties and employee duties
    • Manufacturer and other person duty of care
    • Protective clothing
    • Safety with tools and equipment
    • Safety with electricity
    • Tool maintenance
    • 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.

Tips From Our Experts

How Can Crops be Grown Outdoors?

There are a broad range of different outdoor crop production systems. 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 and grain production. Also used for cut flowers, turf 
  • growing, and large-scale orchards (e.g. fruit grown for canning and juicing). 
  • 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 – used for growing nursery stock outdoors.
  • 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.
  • The farmer is 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.
Managing Water in the Soil
Water can be one of the most significant factors when growing any crop outdoors.
Every type of plant will have optimum preferences when it comes to water. Some need a constantly moist soil, while others will be perfectly adapted to moisture levels fluctuating. Some may tolerate saturated conditions at times, while the same conditions can cause others to rot. There are crops that will tolerate periods of drought and others that die under the same conditions. Even water content in the air can be liked or disliked by different plants.
  • You can manage water to some extent by irrigation, providing better drainage or improving the capacity to hold water in the soil. Mulching, mounding soil, mixing in sand or organic matter; all change the way a soil holds or disposes of water.
  • In an outside situation water levels are affected by rain and wind in ways that are not going to have the same impact inside a greenhouse.
  • For many vegetable crops, soil needs to remain moist in the top 30cm where the roots are growing; and to achieve this in warm conditions when many vegetables are growing best, will often require regular watering. For larger plants, like fruit trees, the roots will grow deeper; so the soil needs to remain moist deeper down rather than close to the surface
  • Watering may be best applied by trickle or flood; or for appropriate plants, in a hydroponic system; where wetting the foliage and fruits is minimized.
How Capsicums are Irrigated
Commercial capsicum crops that are grown in well drained soils may need water reserves of 2 megalitres per hectare or more over the summer. (NB: this figure might relate to a crop irrigated with trickle, in a warm temperate climate with some but minimal rain over summer).  
All types of irrigation are used on capsicums: 
  • Furrow irrigation is popular, but it requires a heavier soil with a shallow gradient in order to make optimum use of the water: allowing it to move slowly down the furrow and soak out under the plant roots to the side.
  • Sprinkler irrigation is more appropriate on sloping land; but can increase disease problems. Good quality (clean) water is less likely to create disease problems
  • Trickle irrigation can be extremely effective; but is more expensive to install and does require a higher level of technical expertise to manage well.
  • Plastic mulches are sometimes used with trickle. This can reduce the quantity of water needed, as well as controlling weeds.
Ideal humidity for bell capsicums is considered to be 60 to 65%

Who Should Do this Course:

  • Farmers, growers, anyone starting or buying a small farm, or large
  • Anyone wanting to take a first step toward working in horticultural crop production
  • Gardeners, horticulturists, farmers seeking to broaden their skills and knowledge
  • Garden and self sufficiency enthusiasts who want to grow more of their own home produce






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