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Garden Maintenance

Course CodeVHT100
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Become a Professional Gardener

We usually think of garden maintenance as a spring and summer priority when lawns, weeds and plants grow vigorously but even in fall and winter a garden may deteriorate without regular maintenance.

Plants that are fed well are healthier, resist disease and pest problems, and generally require less maintenance. If a plant is unhealthy, it may be because of a lack of good nutrition, but it can just as easily be because of something else. Healthy plants resist pest and disease problems.

Heat, cold, wind, rain, frost, shade, pollution and other environmental problems can have disastrous effects on plants. Plant varieties vary in their tolerance of these conditions, for example the heat which might kill one plant may simply slow the growth of another. Some plants are very adaptable others not. 

This course will show you how to create healthy gardens year round!

  • Learn to maintain plants and gardens
  • Build the skills needed to be an effective gardener
  • Increase your employability and opportunities for work in garden maintenance

Comment from a Student:

"All feedback from the tutor I had was very constructive and helpful.” David Painter, ACS student

"This is the first correspondence course I have done and I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU. I appreciate everyone's effort in such a professionally-run organisation with seamless administration. The office staff's happy can-do attitude, their fast responses to all queries, tutor Shane Gould's quick turnaround in assignment marking and his supportive and motivational feedback and last but not least, the sound subject guides. Most importantly I hope my thanks and appreciation can be communicated to all the staff who have supported me long the way of my learning! I work full time and study on the weekend but really don't stop thinking about what gardening solution I need in order to answer my assignments every day of the week. Thank you for such a great learning experience and I cant wait to start the second half of my course!!" Skye, ACS student




Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction Planning and managing a garden.
    • Cost of Maintenance
    • Expensive and Less Expensive areas of a garden
    • Planning
    • Garden Checklists
    • Analyzing Maintenance of Parks and Gardens
    • Organising Garden Maintenance Staff
  2. Garden Furnishings and Machinery
    • What Tool for What Job
    • Overview of Machinery
    • Mowers and How to Mow
    • Aerators, Chippers, Mechanised Sprayers, Chain Saws, Brush Cutters, etc.
    • Tractors
    • Tool Maintenance
    • Engine Troubleshooting
    • Outdoor Furniture -plastic, timber, metal
    • Protecting Furnishings -paints, stains, preservatives
  3. Feeding Plants
    • Symptoms of Nutritional and other Problems
    • Conducting an Inspection of Plants
    • Soil Characteristics and identification of Soil Issues
    • Review of Plant Nutrition
    • Choosing the Right Fertiliser
    • Diagnosing Nutritional Problems
    • Improving soils
  4. Weed Control
    • Nature and Scope of Weed Problems
    • Natural Ways to Control Weeds -suffocation, burning, cultivation, etc
    • Common groups of weeds and options for treating and recognising different weed varieties.
  5. Weedicides
    • How Weeds Spread
    • Types of chemicals found in weedicides and suitable weedicide
    • Which chemical would control the weed.
    • Chemicals and the Law
  6. Natural Pest Control
    • Scope and Nature of Natural Controls
    • Cultural Controls
    • Mechanical Control Methods
    • Physical Control Methods
    • Methods for controlling selected insects
    • Companion Planting
    • Common Environmental Problems
    • Tolerance Levels in different plants
    • Biological Controls
    • Natural Sprays
    • Buffer Zones
    • Mulching
  7. Chemical Pest Control
    • Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
    • Ways of Applying Chemicals
    • Safety with Chemicals
    • Understanding Pesticides -toxicity, LD50, Persistence, etc.
    • Specific chemical treatments and a summary of pesticides.
  8. Turf Management
    • Common Turf Problems
    • Turf Pests
    • Chemical Damage
    • Establishment and Maintence of Lawns
    • Mowing, Fertilizing, Aeration, etc
    • Turf varieties, appropriate turf for specific areas, low and high maintenance turf.
  9. Irrigation
    • Importance of Water
    • Water Loss from different soils & Improving Water retention
    • Understanding Water Dynamics in soil
    • Irrigation -types of systems
    • Planning an irrigation system
    • Using an irrigation system
    • Controlling slippery surfaces
  10. Maintenance of Plants
    • Why Prune
    • Before Pruning
    • Time of Pruning -does it matter?
    • What to consider when pruning
    • Removing Dead Wood
    • Controlling shape and size
    • How to prune different types of plants

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.


  • Select and maintain tools and equipment appropriately for use in garden maintenance.
  • Describe maintenance requirements for garden structures such as furniture, gates and fencing.
  • Maintain appropriate nutrition requirements for healthy plant growth.
  • Control weeds in a garden.
  • Use weedicides in a safe and effective way.
  • Control pests using non chemical methods.
  • Use chemical pesticides safely and efficiently.
  • Maintain lawns in a healthy and well maintained condition.
  • Describe options for managing water in a garden.
  • Determine actions that should be taken to maintain a variety of different plants.

LEARN TO PRUNE PLANTS (and much more)

There are tens of thousands of different plants found in gardens; and they are all pruned differently. When you recognise this fact, you may think it is impossible to learn how to prune everything you might encounter in a garden; but when you properly understand the principles of pruning and how they can be applied to a range of different plant types -you then have a foundation for making sensible and appropriate decisions about pruning anything, anywhere.

The broad Principles of Pruning

Pruning involves cutting parts off a plant for one or several of the following reasons:

  • To remove dead or diseased wood which could affect other parts of the plant.
  • To exercise control over the type of growth which occurs. For example, to promote flowering, fruit or foliage, etc.
  • To control the size and/or shape of the plant.
  • To rejuvenate an old plant, replacing old wood with new wood.



The above things are achieved in different ways on different plants:

Removing Dead or Diseased Wood

  • Some plants are more susceptible to infection than others when you cut into their living tissue (e.g. Birch trees, some herbaceous plants). Such plants can find it difficult to contain wood rots once they start). Such plants need to have infected wood cut out and burnt before the disease spreads.
  • Always cut back into healthy, living tissue. Do not leave any diseased wood on a plant after
  • Make your cuts sharp and clean. Use sharp tools and don't tear or bruise plants. Use clean tools. If you prune diseased wood you may pick up disease spores which can then be transferred to healthy wood. It is a good idea to dip secateurs in an antiseptic when going from one plant to another.
  • No matter what you prune, or for what reason, you should always remove any dead or diseased wood.

Controlling the Type of Growth

  • There are three main types of plant growth: roots, vegetative top growth (ie. leaves and stems) and flowers/fruit. Discouraging one type of growth can help redirect the effort of the plant in the other types of growth.
  • Removing all flowers and fruit will usually stimulate vegetative growth.
  • Removing side shoots will generally cause a plant to grow taller more quickly.
  • Removing the growth tips will cause a plant to develop more side shoots and become more bushy.
  • Thinning out flowers and fruit will decrease the total number of flowers and fruit, but will usually improve the size and perhaps quality of those remaining fruit.
  • Cutting a plant back hard (if it can take it), will cause a flush of lush growth in the next growing season.
  • Cutting the roots of a plant, by plunging a spade into the soil or digging a trench, will force a flush of new growth in the roots closer to the base of the plant, for many plants, particularly those with fibrous root systems. This root pruning is used to either prepare a plant for transplanting, or to confine the roots from spreading into areas where they are not wanted). This treatment, however, can cause poor health or death in some plants, particularly if the cuts are made too close to the trunk of the plant.

Flower or Vegetative Buds?
Flower and vegetative buds can usually be told apart by their shape. Flower buds are plumper than vegetative (ie. leaf or stem) buds. Sometimes plants can also have mixed buds, where there are both flowers and shoots within the one bud. This occurs commonly in the terminal buds of the apple.
If you cut a bud open and look at it with a magnifying glass, you can usually see the premature leaves or flowers.

Controlling The Plants Shape and Size

  • It is important to remember that different plants have different levels of tolerance to hard cutting. With some plants, you can remove 50% of the foliage and improve vigour and health. With other types of plants, removing 50% of the foliage will commonly cause death.
  • Occasionally you will find a plant with low tolerance to hard pruning that will survive a hard prune. There are exceptions to the rule. You can state a plant's tolerance to cutting back as a percentage (e.g. Acacias can be cut back by up to 20%. This means that if more than 20% of the top growth is removed, the Acacia is likely to suffer).
  • If large branches are growing in a position where you do not want them, it is valid to remove them.
  • If foliage is spreading over a pathway, it is valid to cut that back.
  • Frequent light pruning is nearly always better for the plant than irregular heavy pruning.
  • If a branch that bears flowers and fruit hangs over a pool then removal of the branch may be
    Warranted. If a plant in a garden design is growing out of shape, then pruning to restore the initial design intention is recommended.

Rejuvenating A Plant

  • The lifespan of many plants is generally lengthened by regular pruning.
  • Removing old wood, while leaving in newer wood will rejuvenate most plants. Roses are typically pruned this way in temperate climates over a period of years, the younger growth emerging from the base of the plant are left if strong, while the older woody stems are cut out. The lifespan of a rose is increased greatly by this method.
  • Many annuals can be rejuvenated and given a second or third life at flowering due to pruning.
  • An old vigorously growing plant that has become too large can be refreshed and reshaped by rejuvenating pruning.

Start by Learning to Apply these Principles to specific plants such as roses, trees, flowering shrubs and fruit trees.


Learn What to Do and Why You Do it

As you progress through this course, you will develop an understanding of what needs doing and why; in order to keep a garden healthy and looking good. As your understanding builds, so does your ability to apply that understanding in a sensible and properly considered way, in order to achieve the best garden maintenance outcomes.

This is a course that teaches the  fundamental things which any gardener should know. It is an ideal course for anyone contemplating setting up a "garden care/services business. It's also a perfect training course for gardeners working in a parks department, on a golf course or in any similar situation.


  • Build self confidence to do jobs you may have avoided in the past
  • Fast track business or employment opportunities in gardening
  • Save time -no time and money lost traveling to college
  • Take control over when, where and speed of your studying
  • Support from a team of experienced professional horticulture tutors who have worked across both Australia and the UK
  • Learn to understand garden maintenance. Make better decisions, be more productive and effective in all you do.
  • Build connections with industry and become aware of new products, ideas, techniques and opportunities.
  • As a graduate, receive free career and business advice from our horticultural staff -yours for the asking.

Employment Prospects

  • Start a lawn mowing or garden care business
  • Buy an established gardening business
  • Get a gardening or groundsman job
  • Acquire knowledge and skills that will make you more attractive to employers or clients
  • Work in a plant nursery, landscape or other gardening business
  • Work in allied trades, horticultural sales or marketing




Meet some of our academics

John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Diana Cole B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild construction qualifications and an NPTC pesticide spraying licence (PA1/PA6). Diana runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens). Active in many organisations including the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
Yvonne SharpeRHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.
Bob JamesHorticulturalist, Agriculturalist, Environmental consultant, Businessman and Professional Writer. Over 40 years in industry, Bob has held a wide variety of senior positions in both government and private enterprise. Bob has a Dip. Animal Husb, B.App.Sc., Grad.Dip.Mgt, PDC

Check out our eBooks

WeedsA good cross section of of common weeds are illustrated and reviewed. These are plants that occur in many parts of the world, and some are not always weeds.
Plant Pests & DiseasesThis is a great guide to understanding, identifying and treating problems in your garden. Discover how to systematically examine and determine what is wrong with plants. Read about all of the main types of pests, diseases, and other problems that can occur, from frost damage to viruses. 197 pages
Landscaping & Gardening in the ShadeThe ‘Landscaping and Gardening in the Shade’ ebook explain what you need to know about designing a shaded garden. It will go through specific plants you could use, how to care for them and different plant varieties that will give you a great shaded area.
Growing & Knowing GrassesGet to all about the botany of grasses, how to identify them, how to cultivate grasses, the different uses for grasses and also includes a detailed illustrated encyclopedia of grasses and grass-like plants.