Landscape Construction

Course CodeBHT111
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Understand What is Needed to Build the Hard Landscape

Landscape construction is something which all landscapers should be familiar with, even if they are more focussed on soft landscaping. Construction skills are not only necessary in building hard landscape features, but also in repairing and restoring existing features.

Find out how landscaping tasks are undertaken
This course covers things like what different tools and equipment are required and how they are used, how to measure up sites and develop landscape plans, methods for improving on-site drainage, levelling and earthworks, materials used and principles underlying the construction of garden surfaces, basic garden structures and setting out irrigation.

This course provides a good grounding in hard landscaping, for anyone working or wishing to work in the landscape industry.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Tools and Machinery
    • Manual Handling
    • Materials used for Constructing Tools and Equipment; ferrous metals, non ferrous metals
    • Safety with Electricity
    • Engine Troubleshooting
    • Machine Maintenance
    • Types of Machines
    • Chainsaws: safety, buying, using
    • Brushcutters
    • Earthmoving and Cultivating Equipment; rotary hoes, ploughs, cultivators, etc
    • Workshop and Hand Tools; spanners, chisels, hacksaws etc
    • Hand saws, Rakes, Spades, Shovels, Rollers, Wheelbarrows, Sprasyers, etc
  2. Landscape Plans and Setting out a Construction Site
    • Reading Landscape Plans, Scale, etc
    • Understanding and Using Triangulation
    • Slope, Contouring, Grid Systems
  3. Drainage in Landscape Construction
    • Introduction to Drainage
    • Testing Drainage
    • Improving Drainage
    • Improving Soil Water Infiltration
    • Improving Drainage after construction; sand slitting, aerating, sub soiling
    • Sub Surface Drains; types, layout, outlet, gradients, pipe spacing, etc
    • Surface Drainage
    • Soil Testing; testing nutrients, pH, toxins
  4. Earthworks
    • Levelling terminology
    • Levelling Procedure
    • Levelling a Sloping Site
    • Earthmoving
    • Earthmoving Machinery; Bobcat, Backhoe, Dozer
    • Use an Experienced Driver
    • Topsoil Considerations
    • Earth Forming: creating Mounds
    • Building Raised Garden Beds
    • Earth Quantity Calculation
    • Soil Degradation
    • Erosion; water erosion, wind erosion, controlling erosion
    • Soil Acidification Management
    • Managing Soil Compaction
    • Managing Chemical Residues
  5. Surfaces, Paths, Paving and Turf
    • Introduction
    • Surfaces for Play Areas
    • Concrete; concrete, cement, mortar, variations in treatment and use
    • Loose Surfacing Materials: advantages and disadvantages
    • Bark Surfaces, Crushed tiles, pebbles, etc
    • Paths; concrete, asphalt, etc
    • Paving; laing pavers, setting out circular paving, curved paving, edges to paving
    • Lawns and Turf; shape, design, establishment
    • Garden Edges
    • Playing Field Construction
    • Sand Based Technology
    • Constructing Steps
  6. Construction of Garden Structures I
    • Buildings in a Garden; gazebos, verandahs, storage buildings, cubbies, etc
    • Where to build a building
    • Floors and Foundations for Buildings
    • Walls; brick construction, coping, expansion joints, etc
    • Fencing
    • Retaining Walls
    • Wooden Walls
    • Construction with Rock or Masonry; dry walls, wet walls
    • Home Playgrounds
    • Using Timber in the Garden
    • Differences between Softwood and Hardwood
  7. Construction of Garden Structures II
    • Compost Bins
    • Traditional Features: gazebos, statues, gates, arches, sundials, bird baths, urns, tubs, pergolas, pleached alleys, etc
    • Wooden Decks
    • Constructing a Deck
    • Greenhouse and Shadehouse; types, construction, installation
    • Water Features; Waterproofing, keeping water clean
    • Landscaping a pond
    • Tennis Courts
    • Spas
    • Rockery Construction
    • Artificial Rock Formation
    • Mulching Rockeries
    • Garden Furniture
    • Lighting in the Garden
  8. Irrigation Systems
    • Planning an Irrigation System
    • Types of Systems: sprinkler, drip, automatic, etc
    • Using and Maintaining an Irrigation System
  9. Establishing Hedges and Other Plants
    • Factors affecting successful plant establishment
    • Physical Plant Protection Methods
    • Hedges; site preparation, plant selection, spacing, planting, pruning, hedge maintenance
  10. Workplace Safety and Management of Landscape Construction Work
    • Risk Management on a Landscape Construction Site
    • The Risks
    • Keeping a Work Site Safe
    • Duty of CareSignificance of Illness
    • Protective Clothing
    • Safety with Tools and Equipment
    • Safety with electricity and different types of equipment
    • Tool Maintenance

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.


  • Manage equipment for landscape construction projects, including tools and machinery.
  • Determine earthworks for a landscape development.
  • Plan the construction of different landscape structures including buildings, fences, and walls.
  • Manage the installation of a simple irrigation system in gardens.
  • Determine construction techniques for different building or installing different garden features; including paving, water gardens, rockeries and furnishings.
  • Determine techniques for creating soft landscaping.
  • Manage work being undertaken on a landscape construction site.

What You Will Do

  • Compare the quality and cost of a range of different tools and machinery used in landscape construction.
  • Identify tools and machinery used in everyday work by landscape constractors.
  • Explain appropriate uses for different tools and machinery on a landscape construction site.
  • Prepare landscape plans for a number of landscape sites
  • Research and report on marking out boundaries in construction sites
  • Describe how to locate contours
  • Determine the fall of existing drains, and identify appropriate falls, spacing and depths of drains
  • Observe and report on earth moving equipment in operation
  • Survey a site and recommend earthworks necessary
  • Examine surfacing materials for paths, gardens, etc and determine the appropriate landscaping function of each.
  • Assess the construction of a range of different existing landscape features
  • Describe preparation of foundations for a specified garden structure, on a specific site.
  • Design a rockery at least 30 square metres in area
  • Contact a range of suppliers of landscape materials and compare the products available in your locality.
  • Identify materials needed to install an irrigation system on a site selected by you.
  • Prepare plans of irrigation systems
  • Research which species of plants are suitable for hedging in your locality
  • Outline how to effectively transplant an existing tree
  • Prepare a detailed risk assessment for a landscape construction site
  • Identify safe working practices for a landscape construction site
  • Determine a list of work tasks to be undertaken on a landscape construction site. Give a time frame for completion of the entire project

Don't Make Mistakes

Every aspect of the hard landscape needs to be done properly if a garden is to last!

Unless you have a good understanding of what can go wrong and how to avoid it, you can very easily waste time and money, for example:

Paving is ideal for outdoor entertainment areas – in most cases, adjoining the living areas of the house. It’s also useful for areas that support heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic (eg. the route between the house and the shed, or the place where children ride their bikes).

However, too much paving can create problems – the trick is not to get too carried away!

Water from rain and irrigation does not soak into solid paving. It runs to the edges and that can result in the ground surrounding paving receiving many times more water than any other part of the garden.  If you pave 80% of your garden, you will still get the same amount of rain – but it will be soaking into only 20% of the area.  This means the unpaved area is going to be exposed to 5 times the rain that it otherwise would.  The soil is likely to become soggy and your plants waterlogged.  You will have to ensure that you include adequate drainage. 


Drainage is all about Slopes and Levels

Soil is the foundation of any garden; and the levels you retain or change, will have an enormous impact upon the success or failure of everything else that you do with your landscaping after that.

Starting with original levels and slopes that need to be worked with (eg. roads, entry points to the property, building doorways, paths that might be retained, water features/courses, existing trees, etc), you need to determine finished grades required across the landscaped area.


A preferred drainage plan will be one where no swales are required, particularly if swales are going to interfere with buildings or any other constructed landscape features.


Any storm-water should where possible be directed to appropriate drain inlets (storm-water), to natural water courses, or to the boundaries of the property

The overall grading plan should aim to balance cut and fill (so any earth removed from one part of a site is used on another part. Try to avoid any net removal of earth; and minimize importation of fill (as these things are costly).

Required Grading Drawings

These should present both the existing and proposed shape of the earth and surfaced areas, together with profiles of paved areas, paths and any road ways. The quantity of detail and information in these drawings will be relative to the size, complexity and significance of the design. Large public parks, which must handle a lot more traffic needs more stringent and detailed planning.

Grading Operations
These may include:

  • Soil Stripping
  • Soil Storage
  • Filling
  • Phasing Soil Replacements
  • Preparation before Soiling
  • Compaction

If stockpiled soil is left too long it can grow weeds and become contaminated by weed seeds.

When fill is added to a site, it must be done in a way to avoid creating problems.

  • Avoid creating slopes that are likely to erode
  • If an area behind new fill is not properly drained, this can lead to a slip (Filled area slides off original surface).
  • If a depression is filled with soil that drains faster than the earth below, this can create a pond or wet spot.
  • Risk of erosion can be reduced by:
    •  cutting back a slope (decreasing steepness)
    •  terracing a slope
    •  benching a slope (creating multiple small terraces)
      (Note: terracing or benching the original surface before covering with fill can decrease the likelihood of slips occurring in the filled slope)
This course will teach you about many different aspects of the hard landscape, how to make appropriate choices about the materials you use, the way you use them; and how to avoid the common mistakes that untrained landscapers often encounter.

Opportunities After Your Studies

This course is of great value to people wishing to work in landscaping. It will not lead to a construction license but should provide basic skills needed to undertake small scale landscaping projects which do not require council approval.  

It is likely to benefit people who wish to add basic construction to their landscaping and gardening skills. It could serve as a platform for further study or be taken in conjunction with other modules to enhance your learning experience.


Who Will Benefit From This Course?

People who should take this course are those working in, or wishing to work in:

  • Landscape construction
  • Landscape design
  • Garden maintenance
  • Garden restoration or conservation
  • Landscape materials supply

It could also add to the skillset of people wanting to start a landscape business, or be of value to people wishing to renovate a home garden.



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