Practical Horticulture 1

Course CodeBHT238
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Practice Makes Perfect

There are lots of practical horticultural tasks to develop your skills and knowledge covered in this course. So if you are a student that prefers practical learning, then this course is the ANSWER, and it really does work! Best taken online, or on CD, where you can make full use of interactive learning tasks and coloured photography on the computer. This course has been written to satisfy curriculum developed by the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK (Advanced Certificate and Diploma level).

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Soil Analysis
  2. Seed Propagation (including seed identification)
  3. Vegetative Propagation
  4. Potting up and After Care of young plants
  5. Planting
  6. Maintenance of Established Plants
  7. Practical Plant Identification
  8. Pest and Disease Identification
  9. Weed Identification
  10. Risk Assessment

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.

What You Will Do

  • 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; Groundcover; & 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.

Keep Your Plants Fed and they will be Healthier

Plants need nutrition in order to grow and remain healthy. When plants lack nutrients they can become unhealthy; and that can make them more susceptible to lots of other problems.
Feeding plants is thus a very practical way of minimizing a lot of the other problems which can confront a gardener or horticulturist.
Some nutrients are used by plants in very large quantities, while others may only be needed in tiny amounts. Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (shown as NPK on most packaged or bagged fertiliser) are the most important ‘macronutrients’ needed for healthy plant growth. Bulky plant foods (e.g. manures, blood and bone), and also NPK (chemical) fertilisers you buy are mostly made up of these three nutrients. 
Also critical to plant health and growth and the success of your gardening pursuits, are a range of other nutrients i.e. secondary nutrients (these are needed in smaller quantities than NPK). The ‘secondary nutrients’ needed by your plants are Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg) and Sulphur (S), because these nutrients are usually not deficient in soils, you would not ordinarily apply them, unless you need to change the soil pH (calcium and magnesium sweeten the soil i.e. raise the pH; sulphur will lower the pH). 
Lastly your plants need a range of ‘micronutrients’ (also known as trace elements). They used by plants in tiny proportions –but are still essential for healthy growth. They include: boron (B), copper (Cu), Iron (Fe) chloride ( Cl) Manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo) and Zinc (Zn). When you buy some bulky fertilisers (mentioned before) read the label, you will find that they often have micronutrients added. So if you use these types of fertilisers in your garden regularly you may never need to add extra micronutrients as well. 
You will no doubt have heard the terms fast and slow release fertiliser and maybe wondered ‘what on earth does it mean and how does it affect my plants’? Organic fertilisers often contain more complex molecules hence break down gradually, releasing their nutrients slowly over a long period (from several weeks to many months). Soil rich in soil microorganisms are efficient at converting soil nutrients, so these nutrients can be accessed and used by plants. 
Water soluble fertilisers release nutrients much faster – these feed the plant not the soil and can be used as a tonic, but only after the soil has been enriched with other organic matter, otherwise you are just using the soil to hold the plant in place (like hydroponics).
Nutrients also tend to up taken faster by plants at higher temperatures (particularly over 20 to 25 degrees C) and a lot slower in cold conditions.  
How Do You Feed the Soil?
Try the following in your garden and see the great results!
  • Add animal manures (well decomposed to prevent root burn).
  • Add well-decomposed plant material in the form of compost; un-decomposed material needs nitrogen to decompose, if you apply it in a ‘raw’ state it will use the soil nitrogen to decompose. This robs the soil of plant available nitrogen. 
  • Don’t use mushroom compost too often (one initial application is fine) as it tends to be alkaline (same for chicken manure); this may radically change the soil pH especially if you add it on a regular basis.
  • Grow green manure crops such as legumes (members of the pea and bean family). Legumes can, with the help of soil microorganisms, convert unavailable nitrogen to available nitrogen and store it in root nodules attached to the legume’s root system (inhabited by the microorganisms). The nitrogen is released back into the soil when the tops are cut off, or it is dug into the soil. Green manure legumes can add enough nitrogen to your soil without needing the addition of topdressing with nitrogen fertilisers. Other green manure crops include oats and mustard and these don’t add nitrogen but do add organic matter. Planting a mix in fallow beds over winter is a great way to boost organic matter and soil fertility – try it in your garden and you will be amazed as to how little other fertiliser you will need for healthy plant growth. 
Other good organic fertilisers that are readily available and easy to use in your garden include blood and bone, bagged pelletised manure, organic mulch such as pea straw or lucerne hay (rich in nitrogen), or even a compost tea. 



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