Qualification - Certificate In Horticulture (Herbs)

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)700 hours

Certificate in Herbs

  • Start a herb business, or get a job in this field
  • Unique, comprehensive and an extremely solid training ground for anyone wanting to start or work in a business that grows herbs.


There are two parts to this course: Core studies to provide a broad foundation in the identification and culture of plants; and stream studies which are focused only on herbs.


The Core Units are divided into the following sections:
1. Introduction to Plants - Taxonomy, plant families, pressing plants, basic botany.
2. Plant Culture - Planting, potting, plant selection, pruning, irrigation, tools and machinery.
3. Soils and Nutrition - Soil structure, chemistry, nutrition, potting media.
4. Plant Identification and Use - Seed harvesting and storage, germination treatments, cuttings, etc.
5. Pests, Diseases and Weeds - Identification and treatment (chemical and non-chemical).

After these you have a broad based foundation in horticulture, and then move on to learning to apply that knowledge specifically to herbs.

This course is similar to other C12CN002 horticulture certificates in its introductory (core) units, but devotes 50% of the course to topics specifically related to growing, harvesting, using, and marketing of herbs and herb products. 

Accredited through International Accreditation & Recognition Council


Lesson Structure

There are 30 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction To Plants
  2. Parts of the Plant
  3. Plant Culture - Planting
  4. Plant Culture - Pruning
  5. Plant Culture - Irrigation and Machinery1
  6. Soils and Media
  7. Soils and Nutrition
  8. Seeds and Cuttings
  9. Other Techniques
  10. ID and Use of Plants - Landscape Application
  11. ID and Use of Plants - Problems
  12. ID and Use of Plants - Indoor/tropical plants
  13. Pests
  14. Diseases
  15. Weeds
  16. The Industry Of Herbs
  17. Local Herbs
  18. Processing Herbs
  19. Herb Crafts
  20. Culinary & Medicinal Uses
  21. Cultivation Of Herbs
  22. Herb Farming
  23. Marketing & Management
  24. Principles Of Landscaping
  25. Landscape Materials, Constructions & Costs
  26. Landscape Designs Using Herbs
  27. Lamiaceae Family Herbs
  28. Asteraceae Family Herbs
  29. Apiaceae Family Herbs
  30. Garlic and Other Herbs


  • List and describe a range of contacts and resources.
  • Use prescribed reference books and other resources to gain relevant information.
  • Review the way plants are classified.
  • Compile a list of dried herbs commonly sold through retail shops.
  • Explain the differences in the way plants perform in different microclimates within the same area.
  • Visit and report on the operation of a herb farm.
  • Prepare lists of herbs suited to growing in different situations.
  • Explain the benefits of organic growing.
  • Describe appropriate weed control methods to use when growing herbs.
  • Demonstrate competence to harvest, dry and store herbs.
  • Demonstrate and make up three different herb crafts.
  • Describe how different herb crafts are made.
  • Cook a complete meal using herbs to appropriately flavour all courses and beverages.
  • Produce a saleable culinary herb product (eg: herb biscuit or confectionary).
  • Describe the use of herbs in different types of beverages and foods.
  • Describe different herb medicines.
  • In broad terms, compare herbal medicines with pharmaceutical.
  • Develop a "safe" preventative program of herbal medicines using only herbs and dosage levels which are widely and clearly accepted as having no side effects.
  • Describe a herb farming venture which has a high viability potential.
  • List herb products which are in high demand.
  • Describe a program to market produce from a herb farm.
  • Undertake harvesting and drying several different herbs, under a variety of different conditions.
  • Describe the harvest and post harvest requirements of different herbs.
  • Describe several problems which affect post harvest quality and explain how quality is affected.
  • Record methods of obtaining herbal oils.
  • Prepare a detailed maintenance program for an ornamental garden.
  • Describe maintenance procedures for a variety of different ornamental garden situations.
  • Conduct simple inexpensive tests on three different potting mixes.
  • Analyse and report on the results from soil tests conducted.
  • Describe suitable soil mixes for container growing different types of plants.
  • List a range of both natural and artificial fertilisers.
  • Describe fertiliser programs to be used in different situations with ornamental plants.
  • Write an advertisement.
  • Design an promotional leaflet to promote a plant variety.
  • Explain basic management procedures and basic staff management skills.
  • Show a reasonable level of communication skill.
  • Develop a business plan and prepare a budget.
  • Design a workplace (in a herb related business) to optimise efficiency and workplace safety.
  • Gather appropriate information required prior to preparing a landscape design.
  • Draw a sketch plan for an ornamental garden.
  • Describe various ways container plants can be used to create different landscape effects.
  • Calculate how to estimate materials and labour in order to quote for a landscape job.
  • Analyse existing garden designs and the garden's effectiveness.
  • Prepare detailed drawings for the construction of at least one garden feature (eg. A seat, wall).
  • Explain the differences between furnishings and other features which can be incorporated into a garden.
  • Analyse an existing park and show how redevelopment would improve the facility.
  • List the choices available in surfacing treatments, advantages and disadvantages of each, and where it might be most appropriate to use each.
  • Be familiar with alternative materials and their respective characteristics in terms of quality and cost.
  • Produce and photograph how to use herbs to create topiary and hedging.
  • Conduct detailed studies of a range of commonly grown herbs (including Mints, Lavender, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Garlic, Chamomile and Parsley).
  • Analyse a range of herbs (at least 150 varieties), their identification, culture and use.

Learn to Start a Herb Garden 

The simplest herb gardens start as a few pots of hardy herbs growing on a window ledge in the kitchen or on a veranda or courtyard within steps of the back door. Some people are more ambitious though and decide to create something bigger, more complicated or more decorative. Herbs are mostly pretty easy to grow, but keeping them alive is never quite the same as seeing them thrive. The suggestions that follow might just help you move beyond surviving to thriving! It is also fundamental knowledge for those designing and constructing herb gardens for others.

How Are You Going to Use Your Garden?
Herbs can be used in many different ways in the garden.  A separate herb garden is of course something special and potentially a stunning feature.

Herbs don't have to be segregated though from the rest of your plants. Most herbs are very hardy and adaptable plants which will grow happily in containers or garden beds through the rest of the garden.

There are herbs to fit every garden situation: full sun or shade, wet or dry soil, trees, shrubs, climbers and ground covers. You can find a herb for every situation if you look hard enough. The beauty of herbs of course is that they offer so much, bringing fragrance to the garden, and providing things which you can harvest and use in your kitchen and to create crafts.


Choose Herbs You Use: What will you eat or cook with? For most people that may be parsley, chives, garlic and mint, beyond those sage, thyme, marjoram, basil and rosemary.  (NB: one of the most commonly used ‘mixed herbs’ combination is thyme, marjoram and sage).

What scent do you like? Most people like lavender, but some people are allergic to some scents (eg. jasmine or orange blossom).  Apart from cooking, some herbs may be harvested and brought inside as cut flowers or used to create scented crafts.

Choose what Grows for You: Most herbs grow don’t grow well all year round. Some like it hot, others like it cool. Some need lots more light than others. Some need more water than others. If you are a beginner start with herbs that are in season and suit the condition of your garden, you can always add others to your collection later, as you become more confident and had some success. There’s nothing more depressing than failing with the first herbs you try - the way to avoid that is to leave the difficult ones until you have mastered growing the easy ones.

Choose a Growing Method that Suits You: Herbs can be grown lots of different ways: small pots, large tubs, in your existing soil, in raised beds with imported soil, in hanging baskets, in no dig gardens, straw bale gardens or even hydroponics. They all work but some techniques involve more than others attention to be successful. If your time and money are limited, your choices may be too.

Recognise Your Capabilities: Create a herb garden that is on a scale you can look after. Big gardens are great but they can take regular and sometimes back breaking work to look after. A small collection of herb pots though might demand no more than a few hours of work a month – but they will need daily watering so keep them close to a tap and to the house. They are also more likely to be used if they are near the kitchen too. 


If you plan to intersperse herbs throughout the garden, choose your plants carefully to avoid herbs which might take-over.  Vigorous creepers such as nasturtium, jasmine or honeysuckle can spread and smother other low growing plants if not kept in check. Herbs such as lemon balm, evening primrose and some types of fennel are notorious for dropping seed and coming up everywhere you don't want them. Creeping and suckering herbs such as mint, sorrel and violet will spread further and further if not kept in check.

These sorts should ideally be grown in some sort of container to stop them spreading.

A large range of other herbs are non‑invasive and fit in well with most common garden shrubs. You will have few problems integrating lavender, southernwood, wormwood, thyme, lemon verbena, rose and rosemary.

It is Always Best to Plan Ahead
Do you buy herb plants first, then try to work out where to plant them afterwards? You are not alone, most people do. That’s a bit like buying a truckload of building materials and then trying to work out how to use them to make your house. You wouldn’t do it for the house, so why do it for the garden?

If you want to save money, create the best garden and eliminate waste - plan your herb garden first.

1. Decide what you want

Why do you want herbs in your garden?  Decide what herbs you want and how much space you will devote to herbs. Are you going to plant all of your herbs together, or will you scatter them throughout the garden?

Decide which parts of your property best suits each of the herbs you want to grow. Most herbs like a well-drained soil and full or filtered sunlight.  Some herbs grow in damp areas (eg. mints). Dry areas might need to be mulched or irrigated for some herbs - especially short-lived leafy ones like basil and parsley. Others prefer drier soils, for example sage, rosemary and thyme.  When you choose your herbs also plant like with like – for example plant those that are short-lived together as they will need extra water, plant those that like dry soils together as you don’t want to drown these and cause root rot!

2. Choose the site and draw a base plan

Choose the area that best suits the needs of the herbs - as described earlier, full sun and well drained soils are best, for best results.

Measure the area and draw up a base plan for your herb garden to scale. A good scale to work on is 1: 100 (this means that for every 100cm in ‘real life’ (i.e. out in the garden), you should draw 1cm on your plan). In other words 1cm on the plan represents 100cm on the ground.

You might like to refer to herb books, or browse the internet first for some ideas, but try to keep it realistic. If you have enough time and money to put in paving and raised timber beds plus other features then that’s great, but if you want to keep it cheap and simple just spade edge and mound the beds and create grass or mulched pathways in your design. Keep it manageable in size too. Set aside the plan and consider it for a couple of days – you would be surprised how you will find things you need to change or things that just won’t work.

4. Research the plants, choose them and draw them on the plan

Use a pencil to fill in the detail showing what plants should go where – remember to group plants according to their needs. Also how placement will affect plant growth:

  • Don’t have small plants behind large ones – it will block out light.
  • Large plants can suck up moisture from smaller ones; use smaller plants along edges of beds – larger plants on corners or to the back of a bed.
  • Hedges (e.g. a tall rosemary hedge) placed running east/west can block out afternoon light to those plants planted on the east side of it. Some plants may become leggy because of this. Others prefer a bit of relief from afternoon heat in summer e.g. parsley will grow well in this situation.
  • Plant mints in pots rather than in beds – they will over-take the garden! Use a decorative pot of mint as a central feature, for example, instead.
  • Remember to allow for the future growth of your plants. If your plants are grown too close together, or if vigorous plants are placed too close to ones that are not so vigorous, then you will, as time passes, lose some of your plants through overcrowding.

Scent Can be Good or Bad

Many fragrant plants have both scented flowers and leaves. Plants with only fragrant foliage have one fragrance all year round; but the actual chemicals in the foliage that give it that fragrance, can change in composition from one time of the year to another.  The time of harvesting foliage or flowers, can be better in one season than another. A herbal expert can finfd great value in  knowing and understand how these scents (and flavours) change
When fragrant foliage is stood on, crushed, or in many cases just lightly brushed, aromatic oils are released into the air to create a fragrance in the garden. To get the full benefit of fragrant foliage, it needs to be planted alongside a path or somewhere where it will be brushed or bruised regularly.

Some however do release their scent on hot days without the need to crush foliage a good example is the curry bush (Helichrysum italicum) its scent intensifies as temperatures rise. There is nothing like fragrance drifting throughout a garden over summer and it becomes more intense in warmer weather.

Allergens and Toxins
Some fragrant herbs can cause very serious problems for allergy sufferers. 
Around one third of all plants, including many herbs, do contain chemicals that some, or all people, can have an adverse reaction to.

Often some people can love the scent of a particular plant, while others find that it makes their nose run, or even worse.
Chemicals from some plants may become air borne when the plant flowers, but for others, the toxic chemicals may only become a problem if they come in contact with skin; and yet others may need to be ingested.
Some of these chemicals may be safe to contact or even ingest in small quantities; but can become a big problem if ingested in large enough quantities by the wrong people.
Rosemary, for instance is unsafe for pregnant women; but can be perfectly safe to use when cooking lamb.  Heat can sometimes destroy the toxins in a plant, or at least diminish their potency. Many nuts for instance, contain poisonous chemicals, but when cooked, they become safe to eat.
Think about what herbs you use and how they are used; and always consider the people who might be exposed to those plants. It is a complex thing to learn and know enough about herbs in order to create a garden, or grow a crop, that is both useful and safe for all of the people who come in contact with that plant material.
This course is an excellent place to develop the fundamental knowledge you need to do just that.  

Who Will Benefit From This Course?

Those who would like to:

  • Start a herb nursery
  • A herb farm
  • Landscape herb gardens
  • Manufacture herb products
  • Market or retail herbs



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