Qualification - Certificate in Horticulture

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)700 hours

Essential Knowledge in Horticulture 

The certificate in horticulture provides students with a solid understanding of horticulture principles and practices. You'll learn about different types of soils, how to identify and control pests and diseases, plant identification and where to grow different types of plants, how to prune a range of plants, irrigation and feeding, propagation, and so much more.

The option to specialise in the second half of the course means that the course is relevant to people with an interest in different fields of horticulture. 

Whilst many other certificates have degraded over the years and often have less emphasis on science and plant knowledge, this course has remained at a high standard ever since its inception, and has been continually revised to add up-to-date content.

"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

How to Study Horticulture By Yourself at Home

With this distance education course, you are not really alone.... you have the benefits of independent, flexible learning, but all of the support you need from expert tutors as and whenever it is needed.


Students must complete and pass all of these core units.

1. Introduction to plants Minimum 40 hours instruction

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.

2. Plant culture Minimum 60 hours instruction

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 wood 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.

3. Soils and plant nutrition Minimum 50 hours instruction

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.

4. Introductory propagation Minimum 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.

5. Identification and use of plants Minimum 60 hours instruction

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.

6. Pests, diseases and weeds Minimum 50 hours instruction

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.


Students will choose one area of elective study. There are dozens of options, though the following are perhaps the more popular.

We would normally advise that it is better to complete the stream studies before making a final decision about which stream to pursue.

If you particularly want to know the options contact the school for information. Remember though, that the options available may have increased or changed a little by the time you complete the first half.

Landscape & Garden Design Stream

The aim of the stream studies is to develop skills and knowledge in landscape design, construction, features and landscape business management.


Through the stream studies, the student will attempt to achieve the following objectives:

*Review the historical evolution of gardens.

*Obtain pre-planning information and use of that information to draw plans.

*Identify different principles and styles of landscape designs.

*Analyze garden designs.

*Develop graphic skills, and a knowledge of drawing materials and techniques.

*Prepare cost estimates for a landscape job.

*Describe surfacing materials and their effects.

*Explain the quality and cost of different landscape materials.

*Develop a knowledge of plants, both native and exotic, suitable for local conditions.

*Select plants for difficult sites and conditions.

*Describe advantages and disadvantages of various pipes, sprinklers and pumping equipment.

*Recommend irrigation systems for different landscape situations.

*Design a simple irrigation system.

*Design a bush garden and the value and relevance of using native plants.

*Analyze and report on a cottage garden design.

*Analyze and report on a playground design.

*Prepare a playground design for a school or public park.

*Draw layout plans for a range of gardens.

*Conduct a detailed survey of a site, prepare a detailed plan based on that survey, estimate costs and develop contract documentation for that project.

*Explain earthworks and soil preparation techniques used in landscaping.

*Describe alternative techniques for establishing and growing plants.

*Explain a range of landscape construction techniques including building fences, walls, rockeries, paths, water gardens, paving and drainage.

*Compare different landscape materials with respect to their quality, cost, availability and application in garden construction.

*Describe the correct procedures for the proper and safe removal of a limb from a tree, and for the felling of trees.

*Develop a detailed maintenance program for a garden.

*Demonstrate the ability to prepare for, and plant a new lawn.

*Explain how to establish turf on a steep slope.

*Write and advertisement for a landscaping business.

*Explain basic management procedures.

*Show a reasonable level of communication skill.

*Explain health and safety requirements on a landscape site.

Ornamental Horticulture Stream

This part of the course involves four main areas of study:

Plant knowledge
Plant Care
Nursery Practices

*Landscape design (including pre-planning and drawing plans).

*Principles and styles of landscape designs.

*Analysis of garden designs.

*Graphic skills, materials and techniques.

*Estimating costs for landscape jobs.

*Surfacing materials and their effects.

*Quality and cost of different landscape materials.

*Plant knowledge, both native and exotic, suitable for local conditions.

*Plant selection for difficult sites and conditions (including treating degraded sites and interior plantscaping).

*Tropical and indoor plants.

*Environmental factors important for indoor plant culture.

*Bulbs, perennials and annuals.

*Planting design for flower beds (annuals and bulbs) suitable for the locality of the student.

*Herb culture and garden design.

*Miscellaneous growing techniques including; bonsai, terrariums, pot culture, baskets and hydroponics.

*Describe the importance of trees to humans.

*Procedures for the proper and safe removal of a limb from a tree.

*Tree problems and their treatment.

*Compartmentalisation and its effect on the spread of disease in trees.

*Preparing a detailed maintenance program for a garden.

*Seed selection, storage, preparation and spreading (sowing).

*Preparation, planting and establishment of a lawn.

*Establishing turf on a steep slope.

*Turf maintenance techniques.

*Analysis of nursery production systems.

*Preparing a flow chart for the production of a particular plant, from propagation to marketing.

*Preparing a maintenance program for green life in a garden centre.

*Preparing guidelines for the disposal of surplus or below standard stock in a nursery.

*Write an advertisement for a nursery or garden maintenance business.

*Basic management procedures for a one man nursery or garden maintenance business.

*Basic communication skills.

*Health and safety requirements for a nursery or garden maintenance workplace.

Turf Stream

This part of the course involves the following four areas of study

Turf Culture
Engineering and Irrigation

*List and describe the situations where turf is used.

*Describe features of turf plants including roots, stems and leaves.

*Explain the function of roots, stems & leaves; and describe variations which can occur in these parts.

*Use knowledge of cutting effects and recuperative potential of various turf plants to choose varieties for
different purposes.

*Identify and describe the difference between the turf varieties.

*Describe plant growth in both scientific and unscientific terms.

*Describe how day length, temperature, moisture and light affect turf plants.

*Explain how turf is affected by variations in watering and mowing techniques.

*Describe different methods of preparing an area for planting turf.

*Describe the methods (including timing) of establishing turf.

*Identify and describe tools and equipment used in turf establishment and maintenance.

*Explain how to determine if a turf area requires renovation and describe different renovation methods.

*Describe how weeds are spread and methods of controlling common weeds.

*Prepare, name and submit a collection of weeds of significance to turf culture.

*Describe how pests and diseases affect turf and the methods available for their control.

*Describe horticultural chemicals in terms of chemical group, application methods, rates and timing.

*Photograph or prepare pressed specimens, and identify a selection of turf varieties.

*Explain soil moisture, hydraulics and other aspects of water management

*Review the operation and programming of a multi‑stage irrigation system.

*Design and explain the operation of a simple irrigation system.

*Explain the operation and maintenance of different types of engines.

*Consider hiring vs. purchase of a range of different items of machinery

*Explain the uses of different tools and equipment available for turf culture.

*Select appropriate tools and equipment for a range of turf management tasks.

*Recommend techniques for storage and care of tools and equipment.

*Plan and write reports, articles and letters that clearly express what is intended.

*List the communication skills necessary for effective instruction of staff and scheduling of work.

*Develop an annual works program for at least two turf management situations.

*Draw layout plans for selected plants in a range of garden situations.

*Design a garden to achieve year round flowering by a selected range of plants.

*Prepare a bill of materials and costing for a landscape development.

*Describe to construct a variety of landscape features including paths and paved areas, water features,
retaining walls, fences and pergolas.

*Describe how to excavate, shape and cultivate a landscape site.

*Describe the forces that act on water in the soil and their significance to drainage.

*Describe how to determine levels for, and how to install drainage systems.

*Review erosion control methods (eg. mulching, terracing, retaining walls).

*Describe the construction details of different sportsgrounds.

*Identify the steps necessary to minimise wear and tear on various sportsgrounds.

*Describe the construction details of different greens.

*Explain workplace health and safety practices in the turf industry.

Plant Propagation Stream

The student will learn different methods of propagating plants for small scale or nursery operations.


*Collect seed from and propagate different varieties of plants with that seed.

*Describe the method and time of year used to propagate at least 200 different plant varieties.

*Draw and label the parts of a seed.

*Explain how a seed germinates, and grows in the early stages of its development.

*Explain a variety of different harvest and post harvest treatments for seed.

*Explain a variety of pre-germination treatments for seed.

*Collect, identify and prepare cuttings for at least 50 different varieties of plants.

*Propagate from cuttings and successfully grow on ten different plant varieties to the stage of a saleable tube.

*Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating cuttings and seed.

*Explain the reasons why particular propagation methods are preferred to other methods.

*Explain the propagation of at least 40 different varieties of plants by grafting or budding.

*Prepare examples of at least ten different types of grafts.

*Successfully execute at least ten grafts using at least ten different plant variety combinations.

*Propagate fifteen different plants by methods including separation, division and layering.

*Explain tissue culture techniques and their commercial relevance in plant production.

*Consider site features which are important to the operation of a nursery.

*Explain different nursery production systems.

*Construct a simple inexpensive cold frame.

*Prepare a routine maintenance program for plants in a production nursery.

*Analyse and report on the operation of two different production nurseries.

*Prepare a floor plan for the interior layout of a propagation/potting area.

*Describe how to pot up and plant out at least 20 different types of plants.

*Describe soils and potting media in terms of texture, structure and water holding and nutrient holding capacity.

*Prescribe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and aeration.

*Describe how to grow plants successfully in containers.

*Describe suitable potting mixes for container growing of five different types of plants.

*List safety procedures to be followed in a nursery.

*Show an awareness of irrigation equipment and its operation in a nursery.

*Explain growing structures and equipment used to enhance the propagation of plants including, hot beds, misting, fogging, cold frames and greenhouses.


Other options include:

  • Organic Plant Culture
  • Permaculture
  • Viticulture
  • Herbs
  • Horticultural Technology   and
  • Horticultural Science
  • ....and more

Exams:   There are two exams for the core. There are a further 2, or 3 exams for the stream, depending upon which stream you choose to do.

How the payment Options Work

These can be paid in full, in 2 or in 4 parts.
If you pay in full or in 2 parts, the fees are discounted.
If you pay in 2 parts, the first half of the course is supplied initially; and the second part payment is not made until you have completed the first half (at which time the second half of the course is supplied).
If you pay in 4 parts, the first half is still supplied; you are then billed a second payment (due 2 months later). The third payment becomes due when you commence the second half of the certificate.You can be either pay fees in one or two parts.




Some of our Horticulture Tutors

Diana Cole B.A. (Hons), Higher Dip. (Garden Design), RHS Advanced Cert. Horticulture, Cert Admin.Mgt., Dip. Inst. Personnel Management   In addition to her RHS horticulture, garden design, City & Guild construction, NPTC pesticide/legislation and business/management qualifications, Diana has a variety of skills drawn from setting up Arbella Gardens, a landscape gardening business. She also has administrative, management and training delivery experience drawn from her employment in other organisations such as the NHS and other educational institutions such as schools & universities. She has augmented her training expertise having gained the Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector qualification. She also has experience gained through working as a volunteer in a number of different roles including amenity style gardening in parks and practical conservation work.

Maggi Brown Cert.Ed.(Environment)
Maggi is regarded as an expert in Organic Growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association (now Garden Organic). She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more them three decades.

Yvonne Sharpe RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt.
Over 30 years of experience in horticulture, education and management, Yvonne has travelled 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.

John L. Mason Dip.Hort.Sc., Sup'n Cert., FIOH, FPLA, FAIH, MACHPER, MASA
Mr Mason has had over 40 years experience in the fields of Horticulture, Business, Education and Journalism. He has extensive experience both as a public servant, and as a small business owner. He has held positions ranging from Nurseryman and Landscape Designer to Director of Parks and Recreation (City of Essendon) and magazine editor.
John is a well respected member of many professional associations, and author of over forty books and of over two thousand magazine articles. Even today, John has written a number of best selling reference texts used by horticultural courses at universities and colleges internationally. His publishers include Simon and Shuster, and Landlinks Press (CSIRO Publishing

Dr. Lynette Morgan B. Hort. Tech., Ph.D. in Horticultural Science   Dr Morgan has a broad expertise in horticulture and crop production, and a keen appreciation of the global scene. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.

Gavin Cole B.Sc., Psych.Cert., Cert.Garden Design, MACA
Gavin has over 20 years of industry experience in Psychology, Landscaping, Publishing and Education. He was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up his own firm. He spent the best part of three years working in our Gold Coast office, partly as a writer for Your Backyard (gardening magazine), and partly as a tutor in both psychology and horticulture.

Martin Powdrill, Bsc (Hons) Applied Science (Resources Option), MSc Computer Studies, Permaculture Design Certificate. Martin’s goal as a catalyst for sustainable change brings together his strengths and experience in his environmental, project management, and business backgrounds. For 25 years, Martin has been involved in Telecommunications, IT, Organisational Development, and Energy Conservation & Efficiency, prior to setting up his own Permaculture consulting business. He wishes to make a real difference to people and the planet, by actively bringing new perspectives to current challenges and exciting opportunities. To realise this, he enables diverse groups of people to flourish and release their untapped potential, by re-igniting their passion and creativity. Additionally, Martin volunteers with many local environmental and community groups, and facilitates discussions on climate change, peak oil, and transition towns. Martin has an allotment, and is currently enrolled in the Scottish Mountain Bike Leader Award program.

Rosemary Davies Dip Hort Sc.   Originally from Melbourne, Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Burnley, a campus of Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer.
Suggested Reading
Getting Work in Horticulture  by John Mason (our principal) -click
 Starting a Nursery or Herb Farm by John Mason (Principal) -click

 Starting a Garden or Landscape Business by John Mason -click

Learning Facilities

ACS follows the old fashioned idea that “the student comes first”. Our staff are told to treat every student as an individual and respond promptly to their enquiries; and the facilities we have developed and continue to develop, are all focused on that goal. Facilities include:

  • Offices in two time zones (UK and Australia) –which means an international team of academics are responding to students 5 days a week and 16 hours a day.
  • An online student room with unique resources that are only available to students studying our courses, including online library.
  • Bookshop offering quality downloadable e books
  • A data base of 20 million words of unique information written by our staff over 3 decades that can be drawn upon if needed by academics for use in supporting our students.
  • Systems that ensure assignments are tracked, marked and returned to students, fast -commonly within a round 1 week & rarely more than 2 weeks (note: many other colleges take longer).
  • The school is active in social networking and encourages students to connect with us and each other.
  • No automated handling of student phone enquiries. When you call you get a real person; or leave a message and a real person will call you back within a day, but more commonly within an hour or two.
  • No additional charges for extra tutor support over the phone or email.
  • Free careers advice for graduates –It is our policy to provide support and advice to our students even after they graduate. If a graduate needs help with getting a CV together, or advice on setting up a business or looking for work; they only need ask.
  • The quality of academic staff is higher than many other colleges.

 How our Courses Differ

  • Courses are continually improved –we invite feedback from all graduates and change courses immediately the need is detected.
  • Courses are relevant to the whole world –we try hard to teach make the learning transferable to any region or country because the world is increasingly a global economy
  • Courses written by our staff, teach different skills to standard courses; giving a unique mix of skills and knowledge to provide a career advantage. Do you want an accredited certificate and the same skills as 100 other job applicants; or one of our courses with skills that no other applicants have?
  • Certificates and diplomas are longer. They teach you more, and our qualifications have built a reputation amongst academics and industry as being a very high standard for this reason.
  • We are focused on helping you learn in a way that improves your capacity to understand your discipline, apply knowledge, and continue learning and developing your capabilities beyond your course.

These things cannot be always said of other colleges.

Career Opportunities

Study alone can never guarantee career success; but a good education is an important starting point.

Success in a career depends upon many things. A course like this is an excellent starting point because it provides a foundation for continued learning, and the means of understanding and dealing with issues you encounter in the workplace.

When you have completed an ACS course, you will have not only learnt about the subject, but you will have been prompted to start networking with experts in the discipline and shown how to approach problems that confront you in this field.

This and every other industry in today’s world is developing in unforeseen ways; and while that is unsettling for anyone who wants to be guaranteed a particular job at the end of a particular course; for others, this rapidly changing career environment is offering new and exciting opportunities almost every month.

If you want to do the best that you can in this industry, you need to recognise that the opportunities that confront you at the end of a course, are probably different to anything that has even been thought of when you commence a course.


Visit our School bookshop at www.acsebook.com

  • Downloadable ebooks that can be read on ipads, PC’s, Laptops, or readers like a Kindle.
  • Titles are written by our principal and staff.
  • Anyone can purchase books –ACS students are offered a student discount

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