Qualification - Certificate in Horticulture (Grounds Management)

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)700 hours

Combine General Horticulture with Grounds Management

This Certificate in Horticulture involves the areas of work:

CORE STUDIES: This involves around 350 hours, divided into 15 lessons, approx. half of the course.

STREAM STUDIES: This involves a further 350 hours of study specific to irrigation, soils, plant care, pest, disease and weed control and turf care

Grounds management involves maintaining landscapes, gardens, or sports venues, either for appearance or for the functionality of the area. In some schools and institutions, they are referred to as 'horticulturists'.

This immersive course provides initial training for gardeners, groundsmen and others involved in the care and maintenance of parks, gardens and turf facilities. You'll learn about fundamental horticulture principles and practices before studying more specialised areas like tree care, turf care and irrigation systems.

A groundskeeper will be required to carry out certain types of responsibilities to improve appearance and maximise the utility of the area. These tasks may include:

  • Planting and/or watering trees and shrubs
  • Cutting away dead or excess branches from trees or shrubs (pruning/trimming)
  • Mowing and cutting lawns
  • Being responsible for the cleanliness and maintenance of pathways, driveways, car parks, areas around buildings, and other public areas
  • Installation of water and/or garden lighting systems
  • Construction and maintenance of fences, terraces, pools, fountains, planters, burial sites, and other grounds features
  • Applying pesticides, fungicides, weed killers, fertilisers, or other chemicals to the soil, weeds, plants, trees, shrubs, or any other surface that requires it
  • Planting seeds, bulbs, grass, foliage, flowers, and other plants for the beautification of the gardens and landscape facilities
  • The maintenance of plants and turf through applying mulch, aerating, weeding, grubbing, removing thatch, fertilising, or pruning.

Groundskeepers may undertake small construction jobs by following a site plan created by a landscape architect, or they may create their own design and present it as an alternative option if they have the skills to do so. They offer service solutions to small to large sized companies to ensure that their grounds are maintained to the highest standards.

Lesson Structure

There are 30 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Plants
    • Nomenclature and taxonomy, the plant kingdom, genus, species, hybrids.
  2. Parts of the Plant
    • How plants grow, plant structure, parts of the flower and leaf, modification of stems and roots.
  3. Plant Culture -Planting
    • How to plant and protect newly planted specimens, terms like: annuals, biennials, perennials, deciduous, evergreen and herbaceous plants.
  4. Plant Culture - Pruning
    • Purpose for pruning, rules for pruning, how to prune.
  5. Plant Culture - Irrigation and Machinery
    • Different irrigation systems, components of an irrigation system, designing an irrigation system, selection, use and maintenance of machinery and tools.
  6. Soils & Media
    • Soil classifications, testing soil, potting mixes, the U.C. System, ingredients of potting mixes.
  7. Soils & Nutrition - Fertilisers
    • Deficiencies and toxicities, N:P:K ratios, salting, fertiliser programming, compost.
  8. Propagation - Seeds & Cuttings
    • How to propagate plants by seed and cuttings, propagating mixes, cold frame construction, after care for young plants.
  9. Propagation - Other Techniques
    • Other methods to increase plant numbers - budding, grafting, layering, division and tissue culture.
  10. Identification and Use of Plants
    • How are plants used in the landscape, how to choose and purchase plants, selecting plants suitable for the climate and site.
  11. Identification and Use of Plants
    • Problems with plants and choosing plants for problem sites.
  12. Identification and Use of Plants
    • Indoor and tropical plants, flowers, herbs, bulbs, ferns.
  13. Pests
    • Identifying and controlling pests, chemical and natural methods for control, chemical safety precautions.
  14. Diseases
    • Identifying and controlling diseases, plant pathology, fungi, viruses, non-pathogenic problems, interactions with the host and the environment.
  15. Weeds
    • Identifying and controlling weeds, chemical terminology.
  16. Pest and Disease Management
  17. Weed Management
  18. Managing Plant Cultural Problems
  19. Turf Grasses
  20. Turf Culture
  21. Cultural Management
  22. Arboriculture
  23. Tree Physiology
  24. Tree Plant Maintenance
  25. Soil Degradation
  26. Soil Characteristics
  27. Soil Management
  28. Irrigation Equipment
  29. Understanding Water
  30. Irrigation Design and Operation

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.


  • Provide a sound broad based introduction to horticulture.
  • Introduce to all of the major disciplines of horticulture.
  • Provide a base for more specialised study in areas of horticulture.
  • Design a plant assessment sheet to be used in the field to record information about plant health problems.
  • Diagnose nutrient, pest, disease and environmental problems of plants.
  • Dissect, draw and label a range of pest/disease problems.
  • Explain ten alternative weed control methods including chemical and non chemical treatments.
  • Collect, press, label and mount a weed collection and a pest/disease collection.
  • Explain aeration, spiking, coring, dethatching and topdressing.
  • Describe selective weed control in turf.
  • Select turf species suitable for a range of different situations (eg: for shade, wet and windy sites).
  • Describe the steps in preparing an area for turf.
  • Demonstrate the ability to prepare for, and sow a new lawn.
  • Explain how to establish turf on a steep slope.
  • Prepare labelled sketches of three gardens created using different growing methods.
  • Review and select plants suitable for use in each situation.
  • Describe the importance of trees to humans.
  • Describe the correct procedures for the proper and safe removal of a limb from a tree.
  • Describe simply the processes of photosynthesis, respiration & transpiration.
  • List the environmental factors which affect photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration.
  • Explain compartmentalisation, and it's effect on the spread of diseases in trees.
  • Develop contact with local people involved in garden maintenance.
  • Describe maintenance procedures for a variety of different ornamental garden situations.
  • Explain soil (seedbed) preparation treatments for a range of soil types.
  • Explain soil degradation problems in terms of soil chemistry and structure, and how to deal with them.
  • Explain different ways of preparing virgin or farmland soil for treeplanting.
  • Explain different ways of treating a soil using soil ameliorants.
  • Collect samples of or literature describing products which can be used to assist with the improvement of soils.
  • Explain situations where cultivation can be used to improve a soil.
  • Explain a situation where cultivation can be detrimental to a soil.
  • Classify different soils using simple hand feel tests.
  • Explain pH and conductivity (EC) and their affect on plant growth.
  • List the comparative advantages and disadvantages of different types of irrigation systems.
  • Explain the operation of different sprinkler heads, different microjets and different drippers.
  • Explain the way water moves through soil and the mechanisms which affect the soils water holding capacity.
  • Select an appropriate irrigation system for a selected garden, and explain the reasons why it is preferred.
  • Explain the operation of a timer used in irrigation systems.
  • Design a micro irrigation system.


To grow good turf, you must understand the major factors that influence the growth and health of the plants, which comprise the turf. You need to know the different turf species, their soil requirements, environmental influences, disease susceptibility, nutritional requirements etc. You should also know and appreciate the purpose for which the turf exists.

Turf grass plants are made up of two components: the leaf system and the root system. The leaves manufacture food through photosynthesis for the use of the plant. Water and nutrients are taken in through the plant’s root system. When we look at a turf area we judge it by the way the leaf system appears, however it is the root system that actually maintains the health of the grass.

Many conditions or elements affect the growth of turf grass, including the physiology of the variety, including carbohydrate metabolism, plant water balance and plant nutrition; the effects of environmental stresses, such as frost, drought and shade; and the effects of cultural practices, such as mowing, irrigation and fertilisation.

In order for grass to grow the grass seed must first germinate. The following factors need to be considered:

  • Viable seed is used
  • Seed is stored in an area of low humidity and temperature
  • Soil is not dry or water-logged at the time of sowing
  • Seed is sown at the correct depth
  • Seed is not allowed to dry out after germination

Newly germinated grass seed made up of two parts: the root system and the leaf or shoot system. The young root system is composed of seminal or primary roots that are only active for about two to three weeks after germination. The seminal roots start to decay after about two weeks as the plant develops a long-lived, much-branched, fibrous, adventitious root system that arises from the stem tissue of the plant.

Turf grass species have either an annual or perennial root system, and even though all root systems only live for a certain period of time, annuals regenerate their root system almost entirely each year, whilst perennials retain some of their root system year to year. Perennial ryegrass has an annual root system while Kentucky bluegrass has a perennial root system.

There are many, many different types of plants able to be used for turf.  Most turf species, perhaps with the exception of clover, are species which belong to the family Poaceae (previously known as Graminae), the grasses.

There are lots of choices when it comes to planting a lawn but perhaps the most important one is what variety of turf grass to grow.

Most lawns are, in fact, a combination of different types of grasses – and perhaps other types of plants as well (usually unintentionally as weeds invade the lawn).

Ideally the lawn is a mix of grass varieties that are suited to different times of the year – as one grass variety grows strongly in winter, another weakens - then in hot weather the weaker variety grows rapidly as the other one diminishes. In theory, you should always have one strongly growing variety that dominates and chokes out any invading weeds.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work, as one grass often grows more vigorously than the others and ends up being the only variety in the lawn. As the grass goes into its dormant period, the lawn loses its vigour and the weeds start to take hold. So, it’s important to choose a mix of varieties which grow well throughout the year.

When choosing varieties, you should consider:

  • Your locality – lawn grasses are divided into two main groups: cool season and warm season grasses. Cool season grasses grow well in cool climates and during winter in warm climates; warm season grasses are best suited to frost free areas. You can grow cool season grasses in warmer areas, but they will require extra watering during summer. Most warm season grasses can be grown in cooler areas but will brown off during winter.
  • Soil type and fertility – most grasses prefer well drained, sandy loam, with a slightly acid pH (5.5-6.5).
  • Water (natural rainfall and irrigation) – water requirements vary considerably between varieties, e.g. cool season grasses, especially bent grass, require frequent watering though summer, whereas warm season grasses are generally more drought tolerant.

Above all, unless you are prepared to spend the effort and money to have a perfect lawn, do not try for the best lawn. An immaculate velvet green lawn just isn’t possible in some areas, especially if your backyard is used as a play area. If you have a dog, an energetic family, and not much spare time for lawn maintenance, choose the hardier varieties which will look good throughout the year for minimal effort.



People with knowledge of grounds maintenance are sought after for employment in different kinds of settings such as public gardens, parks, private estates, business grounds, city-scapes, and green spaces in urban or rural areas.    

Gardeners, groundskeepers and others involved in the care and maintenance of parks, gardens and turf facilities.




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