Machinery and Equipment

Course CodeBSC105
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn about Machinery and Equipment used in Land Management, in farming and horticulture

  • Develop a foundation to manage the selection, operation and maintenance of tools and machinery
  • Learn how machines and equipment can be used to make work more efficient and effective
Start with the Basics of Machinery Used in Horticulture and Agriculture and be an asset to your employer or within your own business. Save time and money by identifying and recitfying problems before they become a major expense. Be more efficient in the workplace by choosing the right tool for the job - every time.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Engine Operation
  2. Hydraulics
  3. Machinery Components
  4. Hand Tools
  5. Power Tools
  6. Tractors
  7. Equipment Maintenance
  8. Specific Workplace Requirements

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 the operation of different types of motors, including petrol and electric engines.
  • Explain the principles of hydraulics in relation to agricultural and horticultural use.
  • Explain the operation of the main components of machinery commonly used in agriculture and horticulture including cooling, lubrication, fuel distribution, ignition and transmission systems.
  • Explain the safe and effective operation of different hand tools commonly used in agriculture or horticulture.
  • Determine the safe and appropriate operation of power tools in horticultural and agricultural situations.
  • Explain the safe and appropriate operation of a tractor in horticultural and agricultural situations.
  • Explain the maintenance procedures for different equipment commonly used in agriculture and horticulture, including hand tools, power tools and tractors.
  • Determine appropriate equipment for minimum work requirements in an agricultural or horticultural workplace.


Most machines used on a farm or in a horticultural enterprise will be driven by either a 2 stroke or 4 stroke engines. Both engines are different types of internal combustion engines. Each of these two types of engines has certain advantages and disadvantages.

They both run by a series of controlled explosions occurring in an “internal” (enclosed) chamber or cylinder. The size of the equipment to be powered will dictate whether you use a two stroke or four stoke engine. Equipment size will also dictate how many cylinders are required. Two stroke petrol engines are used to power smaller equipment like chain saws and small horticultural equipment. Four stoke engines are used for larger equipment and may have one or more cylinders depending the power required.

When an explosion occurs it causes movement in parts of the engine. That movement is translated to a shaft which is caused to turn. As the shaft turns (rotates) it is able to cause something else to turn that does certain work (e.g. turning the wheels of a tractor, the blades of a mower or the parts of a hydraulic pump).

The four stroke engine has one power stroke in every four stokes, and the two stroke has one power stroke in every two strokes. This is explained in more detail later in this lesson. A four stroke is obviously more powerful, but also more expensive and more complex. In a two stroke engine, the intake, exhaust, power and compression strokes of the engine occur in one rotation of the crankshaft.

With a four stroke engine there is more time between this series of events with the crankshaft making two complete rotations for the four stages of one stroke to happen. Two-stroke engines have the advantage over 4-stroke engines by being lighter. They can be used at angles and upside down as there is no oil in the crankcase. A two stroke is however less efficient than 4-stroke engines and requires lubricating oil to be mixed in with the fuel and tends to run less evenly. Two stroke engines usually run at higher speeds than four stroke engines. Four stroke engines have intake and exhaust valves, two stroke engines have intake and exhaust ports.

Tips for Hand Tools

  • Strong tools will take greater physical stress and handle heavier jobs without breaking (e.g: If you buy a cheap tool built with cheap materials it might not last till the end of the first day, particularly if you are doing heavy work)
  • Sharp tools put less stress on the tool and less strain on YOU the user.
  • Long handles give you greater leverage and increased reach, putting less strain on your back and other parts of your body.
  • When you pay more for a tool, you are usually paying for long hours of thought which have gone into its design. Tools which do the job better and more easily are generally the more expensive ones.
  • If your soil is heavy clay or rocky, your tools are likely to be strained more ‑you will need better quality tools.
  • If your soil is easy to dig (perhaps sandy), you may get away with using cheaper, poorer quality tools.
  • Metal tools made with stainless steel or aluminium do not corrode like those made with other metals.

How To Choose Your Gardening Tools

Before you choose a tool, consider what it is made from and how the materials are used in the construction.
Materials with good insulation don't get too hot or cold to handle.
Materials which are very hard will resist wear and tear, but they are more dangerous in an accident.
Heavier materials are more back breaking to use.
Some types of materials deteriorate quickly, others last a lifetime.

Tool Design
When buying tools and equipment, it's a good idea to consider the following:
Long handles give better leverage, are easier to use and less likely to cause back strain.
Avoid sharp (the exception being those tools such as secateurs & hoes where sharp cutting edges are important) or rough edges on new tools.
Many tools are made up of several parts, joined together (eg. spades have a wooden handle and a metal head). Wherever two parts of a tool join together, there is potential for breakage. If the parts are fastened strongly (eg. several bolts or welding along the full length of a join) the tool is strong; but if the parts are fastened by a single bolt or a small spot weld, it has a greater potential to break.

Deterioration  Often timber parts are treated with stains or preservatives and metal parts with protective coatings. If the treatment is imperfect (eg. if a galvanized coating bubbles or cracks), corrosion or rots can begin to affect the tool, even while still in the shop.

What to use for what job.

Spades are used for digging, trenching and removing soil. Do not use it as a leverage tool or on stony ground. Dig straight downward to improve penetration and ease effort. Make sure shaft length and spade weight is correct for your size. Ensure that your gloved hand fits the handle grip securely.

The hilt, or handle, comes in a range of designs: YD, D, Rounded and the less frequent T  shaped. The blade can be made of most metals (stainless steal will be about twice the price of other materials), and comes in different widths and lengths.

Shovels are used for moving (or shovelling) different materials rather than for digging ie. moving piles of gravel, stones, chipbark.
Like spades, they can be made of different materials. They generally have longer handles than spades.

Mattocks are used for digging into and breaking up heavy, compacted soils. They generally have curved or sculptured wooden handles with a rounded point. The metal base may have either: A/ two flattened blades on either side (one horizontal and one vertical); or B/ two pointed tips on either side to form a gentle curve of the metal.

Forks are used to dig up the soil, break soil clods, and to aerate soil, turf or compost. Like spades there are a range of hilts. Forks can also have different tine shapes and head sizes ( referred to as spading, digging and border) and be made of different steels.
Cutting down small weeds and breaking up the surface of the soil are the main uses of hoes. They can also earth up vegetables. Once again ensure length is right in that you need not bend over. Conversely, it should not be too long.
The shaft/handle can be made of wood, aluminium or plastic covered metal. The hilt may be exposed wood or a plastic grip. The blade, made of carbon steel or stainless steel, can come in four main types or shapes: dutch, scuffle, draw or onion.

Removal of leaves, levelling the soil surface or preparing the soil surface for seed or seedlings are the main uses of rakes. Length should not be too long nor too short. There are primarily two types: Spring tine rake and Soil rake.
Spring tine rakes' head are made of soft metal or plastic designed in a fan pattern. It is used primarily of leaf removal and preventing excessive thatch buildup on turf.
Soil rakes' head are usually metal having a tread with 10 or so short tines
running parallel. Primarily used for raking the soil surface.

Secateurs are hand held shears used for cutting stems and stalks.With sharp blades and a spring little energy is needed to perform the duty.Do not purchase a shoddy, cheap pair. It is far better to go to the expense and buy a better pair that will probably last as long as you. Check for handle comfort, safety catch within reach and weight.
Always purchase stainless steel secateurs and keep them well maintained.
There are different secateurs available on the market. The most common are: curved, anvil, parrot beak and flower gatherer.
There are commonly two types of shears:
  • Hand Shears   used for cutting grass and hedges. The blades are metal with the edge angle of 90 degrees. The handles are wood or plastic. It is important that the angle is maintained and that it is well cleaned.
  • Long Handled Shears -to reach higher or further into a plant.
  • Edging Shears   used for cutting lawns edges while standing erect. Due to the length of the handles, about 1 metre, back pain is reduced.
Wheelbarrows, Trailers and Trolleys
All too often gardening involves moving things from one place to another.
Moving rocks, bricks, pavers, soil, logs and sand is always heavy work, which can be made easier with the appropriate equipment.

Few gardeners can survive without a wheelbarrow. Wheelbarrows come in various shapes and sizes:
  • Small Plastic Wheelbarrows with a solid (non inflatable) tyre. These are suitable for a small garden, but
     will be damaged by too much heavy landscaping.
  • Small (shallow) galvanized iron barrows with a solid metal or rubber tyre. Not designed for heavy
     landscaping, but quite adequate for day to day work in an established garden.
  • Builders barrows  thicker metal or heavy duty plastic bowl, inflated rubber tyre. For the serious gardener,
     this will withstand heavy landscape work. Unless you have the muscle to match, you might not get the
     full benefit. A good builders barrow could cost more than $150, but if looked after will last for decades.
Caring for your barrow:
  • After use, wash out thoroughly.
  • If you have inflatable tyres, keep them pumped up.
  • Don't overload lightweight barrows.
  • Store out of the weather.

The Basic Gardeners Tool Kit

A small to medium sized established garden will usually need
  • A spade
  • A hoe
  • A trowel
  • A watering can (4 litre at least)
  • A fork
  • A rake (metal head)
  • Secateurs
  • A hose and sprinkler
  • Gardening gloves
  • A wheelbarrow
  • A hand sprayer (4 6 litre)
  • A mower (A hand push type is adequate for up to 60 sq.m. of grass. Over this, a motor mower is
     probably needed).
Other tools for the house plant grower

Watering Can: Made of either metal or plastic. The size should be no larger than that which you can comfortable carry full of water. A rose at the nossle provides a gentle stream of water. In the garden it can be used for fertilising and spot watering.
Handfork and Trowel: Usually aluminium but sometimes stainless steel. These are essential when doing repotting and transplanting.

Sprayers: Small plastic containers with natural insecticides are the most frequently used sprayers. Hand pump action is the safest for the environment and the cheapest as many are refillable.
Other tools for the lawn
Weeding Fork: A long handled tool with a metal base used for removal of weeds without the need for bending down.
Watering Can: For the spreading of liquid fertilisers if used, insecticides and fungicides. It is important that the container is thoroughly cleaned after use and safety precautions are taken.
Aerator: Either solid tine or hollow, these implements combat compaction of the soil beneath the turf. It rejuvenates the soil structure by allowing air to the roots.
Edger: Most commonly used is the hand edger that is run along borders to give a clean vertical cut.
Mechanical Trimmer (whippersnipper): Cuts grass and weeds horizontally. Useful around trees and edging. The nylon cord needs ocassional replacement. Many people use these trimmers instead of edgers and even mowers if they have very little grass.
Fertilizer spreader: essential if you have a large area under turf for the even distribution of granular or powder fertilizers. Some machines can also be adapted to spread lawn seed.

Roller: Only purchase this piece of equipment if you want an award winning lawn. Most lawns do not require this awkward large tool.

Sieve: Choose one with 1/4 inch mesh. Necessary for preparation of top dressing. This implement is also good for potting and propagation mixes to ensure that particle sizes are even and not too large.



  • Farmers and anyone in land management
  • Crop growers: vegetables, flowers any type of horticultural crop
  • Professional gardeners
  • Turf managers
  • Parks and gardens managers and maintenance crews
  • Those working in roadside management

This course will make you an asset to your profession!