Qualification - Certificate in Horticulture

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)700 hours

This is an exceptionally good place to start your
work in horticulture

  • Learn to grow plants like an expert
  • Lay the foundation for a life long career in gardening and horticulture
  • Get a job, start a business, improve opportunities to advance in this industry
A unique two stage course
Most horticulture certificates today are either specialised courses, or generalised courses; and often much shorter than this one.
This course is both!
It was developed in conjunction with a broad based team of  horticultural experts in the 1990's and has since then been revised, expanded and constantly updated - but always keeping to the original two pronged aim:
  • To give graduates a broad foundation so they can work in any sector of horticulture
  • To also provide a suite of specialised skills that set them up to become an 'expert' in one sector of the industry


Course Content 
There are two parts to the course:
  1. The first half (ie Core Units) involves studying broad based horticulture. You learn the fundamentals for working in any and all sectors of horticulture. This gives you a huge advantage over specialist courses, because you will have a strengthened capacity to move to where the work or business opportunities are, as the industry changes throughout your working life.
  2. With this broad based understanding of horticulture established you are now given the opportunity to 'specialize' (i.e. undertake Stream Studies). There are more than a dozen different industry sectors, ranging from crops and cut flowers to propagation, turf and landscaping. This half of the course allows you to focus your study on just one of these areas, giving you a level of specialist knowledge that is attractive to employers and an advantage over your competitors, should you be operating your own business. 
Students must complete and pass all of these core units. 
1. Introduction to Plants     Minimum 40 hours instruction 
The purpose of this study area is to explain the binomial system of plant classification and demonstrate identification of plant species through the ability of using botanical descriptions for leaf shapes and flowers. 
  • Describe the relevant identifying physical features of flowering ornamental plants. 
  • Demonstrate how to use prescribed reference books and other resources to gain relevant information. 
  • Dissect, draw and label two different flowers. 
  • Collect and identify the shapes of different leaves. 
  • Demonstrate how to identify between family, genus, species, variety and cultivar. 
2. Plant Culture     Minimum 60 hours instruction 
The purpose of this study area is to demonstrate the ability to care for plants so as to maintain optimum growth and health while considering pruning, planting, and irrigation. 
  • Describe how to prune different plants. 
  • Demonstrate how to cut wood correctly, on the correct angle and section of the stem. 
  • Describe how to plant a plant. 
  • Demonstrate an awareness of different irrigation equipment, sprinklers, pumps and turf systems available by listing their comparative advantages and disadvantages. 
  • Demonstrate competence in selecting an appropriate irrigation system for a garden, explaining why that system would be preferred. 
  • Define water pressure and flow rate and how to calculate each. 
  • Explain the need for regular maintenance of garden tools and equipment. 
  • List factors that should be considered when comparing types of machinery for use in garden maintenance. 
3. Soils and Plant Nutrition     Minimum 50 hours instruction 
The purpose of this study area is to provide students with the skills and knowledge to identify, work with, and improve the soil condition and potting mixes, and to evaluate fertilisers for use in landscape jobs to maximize plant growth. 
  • Describe the soil types commonly found in plant culture in terms of texture, structure and water-holding and nutrient holding capacity. 
  • Describe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and aeration. 
  • List the elements essential for plant growth. 
  • Diagnose the major nutrient deficiencies that occur in ornamental plants and prescribe treatment practices. 
  • Describe soil pH and its importance in plant nutrition. 
  • Describe the process by which salting occurs and how to minimise its effect. 
  • Conduct simple inexpensive tests on three different potting mixes and report accordingly. 
  • Describe suitable soil mixes for container growing of five different types of plants. 
  • List a range of both natural and artificial fertilizers. 
  • Describe fertilizer programs to be used in five different situations with ornamental plants. 
4. Introductory Propagation     Minimum 40 hours duration 
The purpose of this study area is to improve the student's understanding of propagation techniques with particular emphasis on cuttings and seeds. Other industry techniques such as grafting and budding are also explained. 
  • Demonstrate propagation of six (6) different plants by cuttings and three from seed. 
  • Construct a simple inexpensive cold frame. 
  • Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating both seed and cuttings. 
  • Describe the method and time of year used to propagate different plant varieties. 
  • Describe and demonstrate the steps in preparing and executing a variety of grafts and one budding technique. 
  • Explain the reasons why budding or grafting are sometimes preferred propagation methods. 
5. Identification and Use of Plants     Minimum 60 hours instruction 
The purpose of this study area is to improve the student's range of plant knowledge and the plant use in landscaping and the ornamental garden, and the appreciation of the different optimum and preferred growing conditions for different plants. 
  • Select plants appropriate for growing in different climates. 
  • Select plants appropriate to use for shade, windbreaks, as a feature, and for various aesthetic effects. 
  • Categorise priorities which effect selection of plants for an ornamental garden. 
  • Explain the differences in the way plants perform in different microclimates within the same area. 
  • List and analyze the situations where plants are used. 
6. Pests, diseases and weeds Minimum 50 hours instruction 
The purpose of this study area is develop the student’s ability to identify, describe and control a variety of pests, diseases and weeds in ornamental situation, and to describe safety procedures when using agricultural chemicals. 
  • Explain in general terms the principles of pest, disease and weed control and the ecological (biological) approach to such control. 
  • Explain the host‑pathogen‑environment concept. 
  • Describe a variety of pesticides for control of pests, diseases and weeds of ornamental plants in terms of their active constituents, application methods, timing and rates, and safety procedures. 
  • Photograph or prepare specimens, identify and recommend control practices for at least five insect pests of ornamental plants. 
  • Photograph, sketch or prepare samples, identify and recommend control practices for three non‑insect ornamental plant health problems (e.g. fungal, viral, bacterial). 
  • Describe the major ways in which diseases (fungal, viral, bacterial and nematode) affect turf, the life cycle features that cause them to become a serious problem to turf culture and the methods available for their control. 
  • Identify, describe and recommend treatment for three different weed problems. 
  • Collect, press, mount and identify a collection of ten different weeds, and recommend chemical and non-chemical treatments which may be used to control each. 
  • List and compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of different weed control methods. 
Students will choose one area of elective study. There are dozens of options, though the following are perhaps the more popular.
We would normally advise that it is better to complete the strwam studies before making a final decision about which stream to pursue.
If you particularly want to know the options contact the school for information. Remember though, that the options available may have increased or changed a little by the time you complete the first half.
Landscape & Garden Design Stream
The aim of the stream studies is to develop skills and knowledge in landscape design, construction, features and landscape business management. Through the stream studies, the student will attempt to achieve the following objectives: 
  • Review the historical evolution of gardens. 
  • Obtain pre-planning information and use of that information to draw plans. 
  • Identify different principles and styles of landscape designs. 
  • Analyze garden designs. 
  • Develop graphic skills, and a knowledge of drawing materials and techniques. 
  • Prepare cost estimates for a landscape job. 
  • Describe surfacing materials and their effects. 
  • Explain the quality and cost of different landscape materials. 
  • Develop a knowledge of plants, both native and exotic, suitable for local conditions. 
  • Select plants for difficult sites and conditions. 
  • Describe advantages and disadvantages of various pipes, sprinklers and pumping equipment. 
  • Recommend irrigation systems for different landscape situations. 
  • Design a simple irrigation system. 
  • Design a bush garden and the value and relevance of using native plants. 
  • Analyze and report on a cottage garden design. 
  • Analyze and report on a playground design. 
  • Prepare a playground design for a school or public park. 
  • Draw layout plans for a range of gardens. 
  • Conduct a detailed survey of a site, prepare a detailed plan based on that survey, estimate costs and develop contract documentation for that project. 
  • Explain earthworks and soil preparation techniques used in landscaping. 
  • Describe alternative techniques for establishing and growing plants. 
  • Explain a range of landscape construction techniques including building fences, walls, rockeries, paths, water gardens, paving and drainage. 
  • Compare different landscape materials with respect to their quality, cost, availability and application in garden construction. 
  • Describe the correct procedures for the proper and safe removal of a limb from a tree, and for the felling of trees. 
  • Develop a detailed maintenance program for a garden. 
  • Demonstrate the ability to prepare for, and plant a new lawn. 
  • Explain how to establish turf on a steep slope. 
  • Write and advertisement for a landscaping business. 
  • Explain basic management procedures. 
  • Show a reasonable level of communication skill. 
  • Explain health and safety requirements on a landscape site. 
Ornamental Horticulture Stream
This part of the course involves four main areas of study: 
  • Landscaping 
  • Plant knowledge 
  • Plant Care 
  • Nursery Practices 
  • Landscape design (including pre-planning and drawing plans). 
  • Principles and styles of landscape designs. 
  • Analysis of garden designs. 
  • Graphic skills, materials and techniques. 
  • Estimating costs for landscape jobs. 
  • Surfacing materials and their effects. 
  • Quality and cost of different landscape materials. 
  • Plant knowledge, both native and exotic, suitable for local conditions. 
  • Plant selection for difficult sites and conditions (including treating degraded sites and interior plantscaping). 
  • Tropical and indoor plants. 
  • Environmental factors important for indoor plant culture. 
  • Bulbs, perennials and annuals. 
  • Planting design for flower beds (annuals and bulbs) suitable for the locality of the student. 
  • Herb culture and garden design. 
  • Miscellaneous growing techniques including; bonsai, terrariums, pot culture, baskets and hydroponics. 
  • Describe the importance of trees to humans. 
  • Procedures for the proper and safe removal of a limb from a tree. 
  • Tree problems and their treatment. 
  • Compartmentalisation and its effect on the spread of disease in trees. 
  • Preparing a detailed maintenance program for a garden. 
  • Seed selection, storage, preparation and spreading (sowing). 
  • Preparation, planting and establishment of a lawn. 
  • Establishing turf on a steep slope. 
  • Turf maintenance techniques. 
  • Analysis of nursery production systems. 
  • Preparing a flow chart for the production of a particular plant, from propagation to marketing. 
  • Preparing a maintenance program for green life in a garden centre. 
  • Preparing guidelines for the disposal of surplus or below standard stock in a nursery. 
  • Write an advertisement for a nursery or garden maintenance business. 
  • Basic management procedures for a one man nursery or garden maintenance business. 
  • Basic communication skills. 
  • Health and safety requirements for a nursery or garden maintenance workplace.  
Turf Stream
This part of the course involves the following four areas of study 
  • Turf Culture 
  • Engineering and Irrigation 
  • Management 
  • Landscaping 
  • List and describe the situations where turf is used. 
  • Describe features of turf plants including roots, stems and leaves. 
  • Explain the function of roots, stems & leaves; and describe variations which can occur in these parts. 
  • Use knowledge of cutting effects and recuperative potential of various turf plants to choose varieties for different purposes. 
  • Identify and describe the difference between the turf varieties. 
  • Describe plant growth in both scientific and unscientific terms. 
  • Describe how day length, temperature, moisture and light affect turf plants. 
  • Explain how turf is affected by variations in watering and mowing techniques. 
  • Describe different methods of preparing an area for planting turf. 
  • Describe the methods (including timing) of establishing turf. 
  • Identify and describe tools and equipment used in turf establishment and maintenance. 
  • Explain how to determine if a turf area requires renovation and describe different renovation methods. 
  • Describe how weeds are spread and methods of controlling common weeds. 
  • Prepare, name and submit a collection of weeds of significance to turf culture. 
  • Describe how pests and diseases affect turf and the methods available for their control. 
  • Describe horticultural chemicals in terms of chemical group, application methods, rates and timing. 
  • Photograph or prepare pressed specimens, and identify a selection of turf varieties. 
  • Explain soil moisture, hydraulics and other aspects of water management 
  • Review the operation and programming of a multi‑stage irrigation system. 
  • Design and explain the operation of a simple irrigation system. 
  • Explain the operation and maintenance of different types of engines. 
  • Consider hiring vs. purchase of a range of different items of machinery 
  • Explain the uses of different tools and equipment available for turf culture. 
  • Select appropriate tools and equipment for a range of turf management tasks. 
  • Recommend techniques for storage and care of tools and equipment. 
  • Plan and write reports, articles and letters that clearly express what is intended. 
  • List the communication skills necessary for effective instruction of staff and scheduling of work. 
  • Develop an annual works program for at least two turf management situations. 
  • Draw layout plans for selected plants in a range of garden situations. 
  • Design a garden to achieve year round flowering by a selected range of plants. 
  • Prepare a bill of materials and costing for a landscape development. 
  • Describe to construct a variety of landscape features including paths and paved areas, water features, retaining walls, fences and pergolas. 
  • Describe how to excavate, shape and cultivate a landscape site. 
  • Describe the forces that act on water in the soil and their significance to drainage. 
  • Describe how to determine levels for, and how to install drainage systems. 
  • Review erosion control methods (eg. mulching, terracing, retaining walls). 
  • Describe the construction details of different sports grounds. 
  • Identify the steps necessary to minimise wear and tear on various sports grounds. 
  • Describe the construction details of different greens. 
  • Explain workplace health and safety practices in the turf industry. 
Plant Propagation Stream
The student will learn different methods of propagating plants for small scale or nursery operations. Here is some of what this is done in this stream: 
  • Collect seed from and propagate different varieties of plants with that seed. 
  • Describe the method and time of year used to propagate at least 200 different plant varieties. 
  • Draw and label the parts of a seed. 
  • Explain how a seed germinates, and grows in the early stages of its development. 
  • Explain a variety of different harvest and post harvest treatments for seed. 
  • Explain a variety of pre-germination treatments for seed. 
  • Collect, identify and prepare cuttings for at least 50 different varieties of plants. 
  • Propagate from cuttings and successfully grow on ten different plant varieties to the stage of a saleable tube. 
  • Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating cuttings and seed. 
  • Explain the reasons why particular propagation methods are preferred to other methods. 
  • Explain the propagation of at least 40 different varieties of plants by grafting or budding. 
  • Prepare examples of at least ten different types of grafts. 
  • Successfully execute at least ten grafts using at least ten different plant variety combinations. 
  • Propagate fifteen different plants by methods including separation, division and layering. 
  • Explain tissue culture techniques and their commercial relevance in plant production. 
  • Consider site features which are important to the operation of a nursery. 
  • Explain different nursery production systems. 
  • Construct a simple inexpensive cold frame. 
  • Prepare a routine maintenance program for plants in a production nursery. 
  • Analyse and report on the operation of two different production nurseries. 
  • Prepare a floor plan for the interior layout of a propagation/potting area. 
  • Describe how to pot up and plant out at least 20 different types of plants. 
  • Describe soils and potting media in terms of texture, structure and water holding and nutrient holding capacity. 
  • Prescribe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and aeration. 
  • Describe how to grow plants successfully in containers. 
  • Describe suitable potting mixes for container growing of five different types of plants. 
  • List safety procedures to be followed in a nursery. 
  • Show an awareness of irrigation equipment and its operation in a nursery. 
  • Explain growing structures and equipment used to enhance the propagation of plants including, hot beds, misting, fogging, cold frames and greenhouses. 
Other options include:
Organic Plant Culture
Cut Flower Production
Grounds Management
Horticultural Technology   and
Horticultural Science
....and more
How the payment Options Work
These can be paid in full, in 2 or in 4 parts. 
If you pay in full or in 2 parts, the fees are discounted. 
If you pay in 2 parts, the first half of the course is supplied initially; and the second part payment is not made until you have completed the first half (at which time the second half of the course is supplied). 
If you pay in 4 parts, the first half is still supplied; you are then billed a second payment (due 2 months later). The third payment becomes due when you commence the second half of the certificate.You can be either pay fees in one or two parts.
Exams: There are two exams for the core. There are a further 2, or 3 exams for the stream, depending upon which stream you choose to do.

Are you Properly equipped for the Job?

To be successful at any horticultural job, you need to have the right equipment and materials; and know how to use them in the right way.
Many horticultural tasks may require relatively inexpensive equipment (eg. pruning roses requires a pair of gloves and good secateurs); but other jobs may be verty difficult to do efficiently without the use of relatively expensive equipment (eg. earthmoving machinery for large scale landscaping jobs).
Consider what is needed to propagate plants:
You will always improve your success in cutting propagation, if you use the appropriate equipment and materials for the job.
The most critical decisions are:
  • What medium (eg. potting mix) do you plant the cuttings into?
  • What environment should be provided after you plant them?
  • How should the cutting be treated as it is forming roots?
There are many different alternatives to each of these three questions.
The propagating medium is most commonly a freely draining such as sand or perlite, in a plastic pot or tray. There are many other alternatives though, from blocks of foam like material or rock wool, to planting directly into beds of soil in the open.
For most pots of cuttings, the ideal environment is on a clean bench in a greenhouse, where temperature, humidity and hygiene is strictly controlled. For some plants though, cuttings can be struck just as easily in an unheated cold frame or in the open ground, with or without some protection (eg. a cloche, shade or windbreak).
Amateur gardeners often do well placing pots of cuttings on  a warm window ledge or an enclosed verandah in their home. The most important requirement is usually to protect the cuttings from excessive heat or cold.
Most cuttings need to be kept moist but not excessively wet. Softer tissue is more susceptible to drying out; so needs to be kept in a more humid environment (This can be done by either misting cuttings or putting a plastic or glass cover over them). Some cuttings may need to be shaded. Others may benefit from applications of fertiliser, after the roots have started to form (There is no benefit before the roots form); and others may need applications of fungicide or pesticide to control diseases or pests. 
For Propagating Plants 
It doesn’t matter whether you are an amateur or a professional propagator; either way, you will probably need four different areas.
1. Stock Plant Area(s)
Stock plants are those plants you take cuttings from. Ideally you need access to the healthiest plants you can find. If you don’t have access to good stock plants, you may need to develop garden beds or an area of container plants, which are grown (usually in ground) specifically for the purpose of providing a source of cuttings. This area should therefore be positioned so that plants will be of the highest quality to give vigorous, disease free cutting material (ie. well cultivated, fertile soils with provision of adequate watering, etc).
2. Propagation Area
A greenhouse, cold frame(s) or other protected areas (eg. hot bed, shade house etc), where the cuttings can be placed to grow after they are planted.
3. Propagating and Potting up Area
Somewhere you can prepare the cuttings, then pot up the plants after the roots grow.
This area needs to be under cover (out of the wind and sun) and clean. You wil need a comfortable and large bench to work at. It should also be conveniently located to storage areas to avoid having to shift soil, pots, etc. around.  Above all, this area must be kept clean and free of pests and diseases.
3. Growing on Area
Somewhere protected to place young plants, to grow them on to a larger size (eg. a shade house or unheated greenhouse).
Propagation Media
This is the material you plant the cuttings into; most commonly sand, perlite, peat moss, rockwool, or something else. There are a great variety of materials that can be used. The material or combination of materials that you use as a media should have certain properties. 
Physical Properties:
  • Media must provide good physical support (so plants do not fall over).
  • It should be reasonably light, easy to handle and easy to stick cuttings into, without damaging tissue to much. 
  • Materials used should not readily degrade or break down once in use (eg. pure vermiculite will “collapse” and loose volume, after a short time)
  • Media must have good aeration. This will aid water penetration and drainage, give adequate provision for the exchange of gases (ie: root absorption of oxygen and release of CO2), and provide space for roots to grow. 
Aeration of a soil will depend on the amount of pore space available in the growing media. The pore space can be defined as the percentage of the media volume that is not filled with solids. For example a total pore space of 50% means that in every litre of media there is 50% pore space and 50% solids. Total pore space can vary from as low as 30% in a heavily compacted soil up to 95% in some peat mosses. Good garden soils contain about 50% total pore space while good potting mixes and propagating media may have up 60 80% total pore space.
Pore shape and size are also important. Large round or irregularly shaped particles result in bigger air spaces than flat or small particles. Large pore spaces allow greater movement of air and water. If the media consists, however of just large pore spaces then the water holding capacity of the media will be poor. The ideal situation is where you have a combination of small and large pores spaces that provide good aeration and drainage but sufficient water holding capacity. A mixture of particles ranging in size from around 1mm to 5mm, with the addition of very fine particles from materials such as peat or pine bark provides a suitable mix.
Once a media is watered the volume of pore space containing air is reduced. The percentage of a medium filled with air when just drained is commonly called its air filled porosity or air space. A propagation media should have an air space of at least 27% evenly spread throughout its volume. The ideal available air space will vary according to the plant you are cultivating. For example cuttings of aerial rooting plants require a much higher available air space. The provision of misting will also generally require an increase in the air space of your media. The upper limit should be no more than about 35-40%.
Different Plant Species have Different Needs
Species from the families Epacridaceae and Proteaceae need a drier medium than many other groups. Don't vary the aeration in media too much though. Just water less.
Species from the family Myrtaceae generally need a more moist medium.

Who Will Benefit From This Course?

This certificate is the best foundation to start a career in horticulture - the core units are versatile enough to broaden general horticulture skills and knowledge and also broaden your opportunities in the industry. The stream units will concentrate your focus on a specific industry.


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