Organic Plant Culture

Course CodeBHT302
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Organic Plant Growing - Learn from our Experts:

  • New! Revised and updated course.
  • Learn to grow plants organically: food crops garden plants, trees, or anything else.
  • Study how to grow plants naturally.
  • Develop a solid understanding of the principles and procedures underlying the cultivation of plants by natural methods, working with the environment and without the use of artificial fertilisers or sprays.
  • Our organic growing tutors have years of experience in this field both commercially and in using organic and sustainable growing methods in general.

This course will lead you through the organic growing practices and guide you to develop and maintain your plot, large or small.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Scope and Nature of Organic Growing
    • Definitions
    • Influential People in the Organic movement: Lady Balfour, Sir Albert Howard, Jerome Irving Rodale
    • Different Ways to Garden Organically. Biodynamics, Permaculture
    • Resources
  2. Plant Culture
    • Different Cultivation Methods
    • Crop Rotation
    • Green Manure
    • No Dig Culture
    • Not TillPlanting into Grass
  3. Understanding Soils
    • Physical and Chemical Soil Properties
    • Soil Profiles
    • Identifying Soil Type
    • Soil Structure
    • pH
    • Cation Exchange Capacity
    • Buffering Capacity
    • Soil water and air, temperature, humus, etc
    • Organic Matter
  4. Fertilizers and Plant Nutrition
    • Organic Fertilisers; scope, nature, comparing different types of fertilizer and manure
    • Animal Manures
    • Seaweed and seaweed extracts
    • Liquid Feeds in Organics
    • Rock Dusts
  5. Soil Management
    • Importance of Soil
    • Cultivation Techniques and their affects on soil
    • Cover Crops
    • Using Cover Crops
    • Green Manures as Cover Crops
    • Nitrogen Fixation
    • The Rhizobium Bacteria
    • Mycorrhyzae
    • Composting
    • Compost Bins
    • What can be Composted
    • Carbon Nitrogen Ratio
    • Compost heap conditions; cold and hot heaps
    • How to build a compost heap
    • Using Compost
    • Water in the Soil; infiltration, retention, when to water, period of watering
  6. Pests and Diseases
    • Pest and Diserase Prevention
    • Management Techniques; early intervention, using predators
    • Allowable inputs
    • Understanding Plant Problems
    • Disease Lifecycles
    • Review of Disease Types and their management
    • Viruses
    • Review of Pests and their management
    • Review of Environmental Problems and their Management
    • Companion Planting
    • Nutrient Accumalating Plants
  7. Mulching
    • Scope and Nature
    • Mulching Materials
    • Living Mulch
    • Weed Management, preventative measures, other weed control methods
  8. Seeds
    • Organic Seeds
    • Reproduction
    • Pollination and preventing cross pollination
    • Choosing Seed Plants for Vegetable Crops
    • Collection, cleaning, storing seeds
    • Sowing
  9. Vegetable Growing in your locality
    • Site Selection
    • Planning the Crop
    • Getting the most from a Vegetable Plot
    • Sowing Vegetable Seeds; outdoors, indoors
    • Transplanting Seedlings
    • Crowns, Offsts, Tubers
    • Selected Vegetables, their culture, production, harvest, etc
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Beetroot
    • Silverbeet
    • Cabbage
    • Capsicum
    • Carrots
    • Cauliflowers
    • Celery
    • Chicory
    • Cucumbers
    • Egg plants
    • Kohl rabi
    • Leek
    • Lettuce
    • Onions
    • Parsnips
    • Potatoes
    • Pumpkins
    • Radish
    • Spinach
    • Turnip
    • Tomatoes
  10. Fruit Growing in your locality.
    • Establishing an Orchard; site, climate, water
    • Designing an Orchard
    • Soil Management for Organic Orchards
    • Winter Chilling, Pollination and other fruit set factors
    • Choosing Fruit Varieties
    • Temperate and Cool Climate Fruits Review
    • Review of Tropical and Sub Tropical Fruits
    • Vine Fruits
    • Berry Fruits
    • Nuts


  • Explain the concepts and principles of organic growing, including the common techniques used in organic growing systems
  • Determine soil management procedures, which are consistent with organic growing principles.
  • Explain how pests and diseases are controlled using organic growing principles
  • Determine appropriate mulches for use in different organic growing situations.
  • Determine the appropriate use of seed propagation, in organic plant culture.
  • Plan the production of an organically grown vegetable food crop
  • Plan the production of an organically grown fruit crop

The Scope of Organics

Organic plant growing is the production of plants without the addition of artificial inputs such as chemicals that have been artificially manufactured or processed. This includes herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers.

Organic growing has increased in popularity over the past ten years due to the increasing awareness of safety in the garden and on the farm and the desire to produce food that is free from chemical inputs. For decades, farmers and growers have relied upon chemicals to control pests and diseases in order to produce crops for sale. Unfortunately it is only recently that we have become aware that many of those chemicals can sometimes cause health problems to humans, as well as long-term damage to the environment such as soil degradation, imbalances in pest-predator populations can also sometimes occur. As public concern grows, these issues are becoming increasingly important. However the organic grower or gardener should understand that not all organic practices always guarantee a healthy environment, over-cultivation for example can also lead to soil damage. Organic growing practices should aim to ensure quality of both the environment in which we live and of the produce we grow in our gardens and on our farms.

Organic growing of plants works with nature, rather than against it. It recognises the fact that nature is complex and accordingly endeavours to understand interactions between plants, animals and insects. It therefore encourages the gardener for example to learn about the life-cycle of pests and to use this knowledge to control them. It also recognises that the use of chemicals has to be replaced with labour and management. Organic gardeners/growers have to manage pests rather then eliminate them. They need to be vigilant and have the ability to recognise problems and act quickly to minimise the spread of both pests and disease. They may also need to accept some insect damage to the plants they grow as inevitable. How to manage pest and disease problems in an organic system is covered in detail later in the course.

Definitions of Organic Growing

Organic gardening and farming has been given a variety of names over the years - biological farming, sustainable agriculture, alternative agriculture, to name a few. Definitions of what is and isn't 'organic' are also extremely varied. Some of the most important features of organic production, as recognised by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), include:

  • Promoting existing biological cycles, from micro-organisms in the soil, to the plants and animals living on the soil.
  • Maintaining the environmental resources locally, using them carefully and efficiently and re-using materials as much as possible.
  • Not relying heavily on external resources on a continuous basis.
  • Minimising any pollution both on-site and leaving the site.
  • Maintaining the genetic diversity of the area.

Practices which are typical for organic systems are composting, intercropping, crop rotation, fallowing, mechanical, hand weeding or heat-based weed control, green manure crops and the use of legumes to increase soil fertility. Pests and diseases are tackled with environmentally acceptable, sprays that have little environmental impact and biological controls (e.g. predatory mites). Organic gardeners should avoid the use of inorganic (soluble) fertilisers, super-phosphate for example should not be used because it contains sulphuric acid, rock phosphate however is the acceptable alternative. Synthetic chemical herbicides, growth hormones and pesticides should also be avoided.

One of the foundations of organic gardening and farming, linking many other principles together, is composting. By combining different materials, balancing carbon and nitrogen levels, coarse and fine ingredients, bacteria and worms act to break down the waste products. Composting produces a valuable fertiliser that can be returned to improve the soil. Natural biological cycles are promoted, 'wastes' are re-used and the need for external supplies of fertiliser are reduced or cut altogether.


  • Work with the environment sympathetically
  • Extend your personal knowledge for your home garden
  • Use this unit as part of a broader qualification to work as a consultant in this field or with the environmental sector
  • Add on to a Permaculture Design Certificate to broaden your knowledge as a home gardener, grower or consultant.

Organic Plant Culture is available for you to start at any time. You study by distance learning, with the support and guidance of our expert tutors. If you have any questions or want to know more - get in touch with us today for free course advice.

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