Certificate In Horticulture (Organic Plant Growing)

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)700 hours
Learn to identify and grow plants on farms, in gardens, or in plant nurseries. 
  • Grow healthier produce
  • Create healthier environments
  • Discover how to grow organically
Course Structure
The Core Units comprise fifteen modules that are divided into the following sections:
  • Introduction to Plants
  • Plant Culture
  • Sols and Nutrition
  • Plant Identification and Use
  • Pests, Diseases and Weeds
Students must complete and pass all of these core units. 
The Organic Plant Growing Stream is divided into the following:-
Organic Plant Culture
Plus 2 of the Following Modules:
  • Commercial Organic Vegetable growing
  • Organic Farming
  • Permaculture Systems
  • Berry Production
  • Mushroom Production
  • Fruit Production

What Do the Core Units Cover?
Introduction to Plants (40 hours) 
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.
Plant Culture (60 hours) 
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 a plant stem 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.
Soils and Plant Nutrition (50 hours) 
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.
Introductory Propagation (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.
Identification and Use of Plants (60 hours) 
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.
Pests, Diseases and Weeds (50 hours) 
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
Stream Modules
Organic Plant Culture   (Compulsory module)
The ten lessons are as follows: 
  1. Introduction – Gardening styles, basic organic procedures, etc.
  2. Plant Cultural Practices
  3. Understanding Soils
  4. Fertilisers and Plant Nutritional Sciences
  5. Organic Soil Management
  6. Natural Pests and Disease Management
  7. Mulching and Weed Management
  8. Seeds - Collecting, storing and sowing
  9. Organic Vegetable Growing in your locality
  10. Organic Fruit Growing in your locality
Commercial Organic Vegetable Production (Or another option)
There are twelve lessons in this course as outlined below:  
  1. Introduction to Organic Vegetable Production
  2. Cultivation and Planting
  3. Vegetable Soils and Nutrition
  4. Managing Soils for Vegetables
  5. Review of Major Vegetable Varieties
  6. Pests and Diseases on Vegetables 
  7. Organic Vegetable Seeds
  8. Greenhouse Growing Organic Vegetables
  9. Lesser Grown Varieties and Herbs
  10. Irrigation 
  11. Mulching
  12. Harvesting and Marketing
Permaculture Systems (or an acceptable other option)
There are eight lessons in this course, as follows:
  1. Permaculture Principles
  2. Natural Systems
  3. Zone and Sector Planning
  4. Permaculture Techniques
  5. Animals in Permaculture
  6. Plants in Permaculture
  7. Appropriate Technologies
  8. Preparing a Plan
Managing Nutrition Organically
When you cultivate plants on a farm or in a garden; the nutrients can reduce over time, through harvesting or pruning parts of the plant and removing them from that part of the property. 
Using compost and mulch around plants can at least partially compensate for such losses; but to get the most from your plants, you may need to use natural plant foods as well.
Organic Ferilisers
Organic fertilisers are based on material from plants, animals, or minerals from the earth itself, such as ground rocks. Synthetic chemical fertilisers are not used in organic systems. Instead, growers use products such as home-made garden compost, animal manures, and other materials derived from similar sources. Cover crops too, such as green manures, will add important nutrients. 
Organic fertilisers have the advantage of being based, often, on materials considered to be ‘rubbish’. Recycling material, such as garden and kitchen waste, by turning it into a valuable resource is a huge environmental benefit. In addition, organic fertilisers are often released slowly in the soil, enabling plants to take up the nutrient over a much longer period. This in turn creates much hardier plants, growing more slowly perhaps, but without the lush growth so prone to insect attack. 
Due to their non-standard origin, it is not always simple to quantify the nutrient content of organically based fertilisers. Variability in NPK is normal in material created by combining waste materials coming from a variety of sources. However, some measurements have been recorded.
Animal Manures
All animal manures are valuable. When composted, the final material provides excellent all purpose fertiliser. The abundant natural chelating agents of the compost are greatly enriched by all the trace elements concentrated in the animal manures. The nutrient content can vary considerably, and it is not easy to give accurate figures of the trace element levels. Animals’ diet, temperature and moisture levels will cause considerable variation.
When using animal manures, it is important to have some idea of their nitrogen content. Well rotted cow, sheep, horse and goat manures are 'gentle' manures, safe and so mild that they can be used in seedling mixtures without 'burning'.  The general rule is, the higher the nitrogen and phosphorus content, the 'hotter' the manure, and the greater the care needed in its use.  As an example, well-rotted and pulverised cow manure may be dug into a bed prior to planting out seedlings that same day. The same treatment with an equal amount of poultry or pigeon manure would result in disaster, with most, if not all of the seedlings collapsing within a few days.  However, if dried pigeon manure is 'composted' in the soil between rows of plants, but well away from seedling roots in their early development stage  - used in effect as a side dressing -  it will supply much more plant nutrition in the long term than an equal amount of cow manure.
Poultry Manure
Poultry manure is usually plentiful these days, but organic growers should check the source. Make sure that the material comes from birds that are either organically managed, or at least are free-range birds. Manure from intensive systems is not acceptable. Apart from the issue about animal welfare, birds kept in intensive systems are usually managed with a range of treatments, including anti-biotics and hormones
(hormones are used in some countries – this is not the case in Australia where hormone use in poultry growing is banned). Waste from these birds often has residues from these treatments. Always compost poultry manure, covered, for at least six months, before either adding to the general compost heap, or to the soil. 
Bone Meal
Bone meal has a useful phosphorus content of better than 20 per cent, but it contains a much lower nitrogen percentage, about 4 per cent.
Seaweed has been described as 'worthless' by some.  It has however been used as a valuable fertiliser in different parts of the world for hundreds of years, particularly in island communities that do not have alternative fertilisers. It can be extremely valuable   not only for the good organic content it supplies, but for its trace elements and as a good source of readily available potash. The kelps are the best source of potash.  These are the large flat, brown strap like seaweeds that belong to the genus Laminaria. Always use fresh seaweed. This will have very little salt content. Seaweed dried at or beyond the high-water mark will be quite salty.
Seaweed Extracts
There are several liquid fertilisers on the market probably all sharing the same desirable properties.  'Maxi crop' and ‘Seasol’ are two such preparation that has been on the market in various parts of the world for about a quarter of a century.  The popularity of seaweed has increased enormously in the 1970s and unlike many commercial products, the increase in recognition and popularity has not merely been a result of advertising - always a good recommendation.  While seaweed solutions might not appear to have a high NPK analysis, it does contain a broad spectrum of micro nutrients that are chelated.   There can also be additional benefits with plant nutrition enhanced by increased bacterial, enzyme and other biological factors in the soil, that in turn provide far better nutritional status.
It appears to be difficult to overdose plants with seaweed.  Apart from general use in the garden, we have found this seaweed extract to be of great value in establishing young seedlings. 

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