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Landscape Construction

Course CodeBHT111
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Understand What is Needed to Build the Hard Landscape

Landscape construction is concerned with what it takes to build gardens and other landscapes. Since many types of construction in the landscape can be achieved in many different ways, this course serves as an introduction to some of the ways that different surfaces, enclosures and structures can be made.  

Learn the principles and techniques of landscape construction

This course provides essential study for any landscaper.

  • Learn about  hard landscaping
  • Explore the ways that stone, timber, water, and earth can be used and managed to create gardens
  • Develop a foundation for growing your knowledge of garden construction

Study at home using course notes or online, with guidance from international landscape experts.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Tools and Machinery
  2. Landscape Plans and Setting out a Construction Site
  3. Drainage in Landscape Construction
  4. Earthworks
  5. Surfaces, Paths, Paving and Turf
  6. Construction of Garden Structures I
  7. Construction of Garden Structures II
  8. Irrigation Systems
  9. Establishing Hedges and Other Plants
  10. Workplace Safety and Management of Landscape Construction Work

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.


  • Manage equipment for landscape construction projects, including tools and machinery.
  • Determine earthworks for a landscape development.
  • Plan the construction of different landscape structures including buildings, fences, and walls.
  • Manage the installation of a simple irrigation system in gardens.
  • Determine construction techniques for different building or installing different garden features; including paving, water gardens, rockeries and furnishings.
  • Determine techniques for creating soft landscaping.
  • Manage work being undertaken on a landscape construction site.

What You Will Do

  • Compare the quality and cost of a range of different tools and machinery used in landscape construction.
  • Identify tools and machinery used in everyday work by landscape constractors.
  • Explain appropriate uses for different tools and machinery on a landscape construction site.
  • Prepare landscape plans for a number of landscape sites
  • Research and report on marking out boundaries in construction sites
  • Describe how to locate contours
  • Determine the fall of existing drains, and identify appropriate falls, spacing and depths of drains
  • Observe and report on earth moving equipment in operation
  • Survey a site and recommend earthworks necessary
  • Examine surfacing materials for paths, gardens, etc and determine the appropriate landscaping function of each.
  • Assess the construction of a range of different existing landscape features
  • Describe preparation of foundations for a specified garden structure, on a specific site.
  • Design a rockery at least 30 square metres in area
  • Contact a range of suppliers of landscape materials and compare the products available in your locality.
  • Identify materials needed to install an irrigation system on a site selected by you.
  • Prepare plans of irrigation systems
  • Research which species of plants are suitable for hedging in your locality
  • Outline how to effectively transplant an existing tree
  • Prepare a detailed risk assessment for a landscape construction site
  • Identify safe working practices for a landscape construction site
  • Determine a list of work tasks to be undertaken on a landscape construction site. Give a time frame for completion of the entire project


Solid walls are great for privacy and unlike timber fences, they can reduce noise. Some of these kinds of stone or rock wall are discussed below. 

Dry Stone Walls
Dry stone rock walls can be constructed either as a free-standing barrier or as a retaining wall to hold soil on a slope or in a raised garden bed. Dry stone walls are built by stacking rocks or blocks one on top of another without using concrete or any other 'joining' material to stick them together. The individual units are stacked so that they interlock as much as possible to give extra stability to the wall.

The base of the wall should be twice as wide as the main section of the wall. This spreads the weight and helps prevent the wall sinking. On soft ground, dig a trench or “hitch”, 10-20cm deep, and lay large foundation stones in the base of the trench. This might not be necessary on compacted or stony ground.

When building a free-standing wall you should:

  • use large flat bottomed stones at the base of the wall
  • place the largest stones towards the bottom of the wall
  • lay the stones so that their longest side is running into the wall
  • fill the gaps between the stones with smaller stones
  • lay through stones (large stones placed cross ways in the wall) halfway up the wall for extra stability
  • build the wall so that it has a batter (a taper towards the top)
  • avoid horizontal or vertical lines between the stones
  • mix the colours of the stones

Wet Walls
The stones or blocks of wet walls are cemented together with a mortar mix (usually one part cement to three parts sand).  A wet wall can be solid – entirely constructed from stones, or veneered – using concrete blocks in the centre of the wall covered by a stone veneer.

To construct a wet wall, a strip foundation should be laid first, with steel reinforcing set in concrete.  The depth depends on the height of the wall and the type of subsoil. On average it should be approximately 235 cm deep and twice as wide as the wall.  The stones/blocks are then laid on top. Similar to dry stone walls, the stones in each course (layer) should overlap the stones below.  If built in a damp position, the wall will last longer if a damp-proof course is built in.  Made from brick, asphalt and bituminous sheet it should be built in the base of the wall, about 150 mm above ground level.

Course gaps
The gaps between the stone blocks are very important.  If they are too small the wall may be unstable; too large and the wall will look ugly.

Coping is the top layer of the wall.  Often made from a different material, it prevents water from seeping into the wall and provides an attractive finish. 
There is a range of pre-cast concrete and dressed stone copings that can be used. The different styles of coping may be useful in matching the wall with the rest of your neighbourhood.

Avoiding cracks
Too often wet stone walls expand or subside and develop dangerous cracks.  If a wall is longer than 10m, include expansion joints to prevent this problem.

Type of Stone
Traditionally, rocks for stone walls were collected when nearby paddocks were cleared for farming.  These days, the type of rock you use will depend upon what is available from the quarries in your area. 


Opportunities After Your Studies

This course is of great value to people wishing to work in landscaping. It will not lead to a construction license but should provide basic skills needed to undertake small scale landscaping projects which do not require council approval.  

It is likely to benefit people who wish to add basic construction to their landscaping and gardening skills. It could serve as a platform for further study or be taken in conjunction with other modules to enhance your learning experience.

People who should take this course are those working in, or wishing to work in:

Landscape construction
Landscape design
Garden maintenance
Garden restoration or conservation
Landscape materials supply

It could also add to the skillset of people wanting to start a landscape business, or be of value to people wishing to renovate a home garden.


Do you have any questions for our Landscaping tutors? If yes, then please click here.

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.
Timothy WalkerB.A.(Botany), RHS.M. Hort., P.G.Dip.Ed.

Check out our eBooks

Climbing PlantsDiscover which climbers to use to hide unsightly walls; how to grow green, flowering boundaries for privacy; and which climbers are the best for growing on the roofs of pergolas, arches and arbours. Chapters cover how plants climb, how to use them, and landscaping. The bulk of the book, however, is given over to an encyclopaedia covering 54 genera and hundreds of species, followed by two separate and more in-depth chapters: one on Bougainvillea and the other Clematis.
Garden Design Part 1This stunning full colour Garden Design ebook is full of useful tips, information and inspiration. It contains around 300 colour illustrations! It is comprised of three parts: Design, How a Garden Functions, and Aesthetics (making it look good). Let your inner designer out (outside). A great introductory text for garden designers. 299 high quality inspirational colour photos. 106 pages
Garden Design Part 2Part 2 of the Garden Design series is an inspiring accompaniment to the first book, but works equally well in its own right. It's brimming with ideas and practical advice for designing a wide variety of different gardens. You will learn about different styles of gardens and how to create a style to suit a particular site or client. It contains around 300 colour photos! Knowledge gained by John Mason over several decades of visiting and photographing gardens, writing, teaching and creating gardens. This ebook deals mostly with different types of gardens from water gardens to Mediterranean, formal and oriental. 287 high quality inspirational photos. 104 pages
Getting Work in HorticultureFind out what it is like to work in horticulture; how diverse the industry is, how to get a start, and how to build a sustainable, long term and diverse career that keeps your options broad, so you can move from sector to sector as demand and fashion changes across your working life.