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Home Garden Expert Course

Course CodeAHT101
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


  • Want to know more about gardening?
  • Whatever your reason for gardening, this course will help you to garden more efficiently and effectively.

 Student Testimonials

"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 (Home Garden Expert Student)

"This is a great course for anyone interested in plants. There is lots of information in each manual, and plenty of time to do each lesson to give it your best shot. The manuals are really easy to understand, and the lessons are set out clearly. My tutor is very nice, and if need be, you can ring ACS for help. There are lots of avenues for getting information. Students who really want to learn will always find a way."    Pauline Ross, Home Garden Expert


  • Learn - identify plants, identify pests, prune, feed, water plants properly
  • Save - don't buy the wrong plants and garden materials
  • Impress - have a garden that looks stunning 

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Basic Plant Identification & Culture: Plant names, planting, transplanting, tools & equipment.
  2. Soils & Nutrition: Soil structure, nutrition, composting, soil building, drainage, fertilizers.
  3. Pests & Weeds: Identifying problems, sprays, biological control, weed identification & control.
  4. Landscaping: How to design a garden, rockeries, native gardens, traditional (European style) home gardens.
  5. Propagation: Propagating materials, seed, cuttings.
  6. Lawns: Turf varieties, laying a lawn, lawn care.
  7. Indoor Gardening: Hardy indoor plants, container growing.
  8. The Kitchen Garden: Vegetable gardening, fruit trees, herbs.

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.


  • Identify plant health problems and know treatments.
  • Know the plant naming system and how plants are classified.
  • Understand the effect of soil structure and texture on plant growth.
  • Understand plant terminology and planting methods.
  • Understand plant pruning requirements and methods
  • Know plant nutrition requirements
  • Understand soil conditions and when they require improvement.
  • Recognise a range of pests and diseases and the methods of control.
  • Recognise a range of weeds and know various control methods.
  • Know a range of garden styles and the history behind them.
  • Have knowledge of landscape construction techniques.
  • Understand the elements and processes of landscape design.
  • Understand various propagating techniques
  • Propagate plants by various methods
  • Understand the soil preparation and requirements to establish or renovate a lawn
  • Know lawn maintenance requirements.
  • Understand requirements, including environmental and nutritional aspects of growing plants indoors (including hydroponics and greenhouses).
  • Know how to select plants suited to growth indoors
  • Develop knowledge of vegetable growing procedures and requirements.
  • Have knowledge of a range of fruits and berries suited to the home garden
  • Have knowledge of a range of commonly grown herbs and flowers

What You Will Do

  • Read notes written and supplied by staff of this school
  • Watch instructional video
  • Test and name different soils
  • Mix inexpensive potting mixes
  • Make compost and explain how you made it.
  • Learn how to identify plants effectively.
  • Explain step by step how you would go about planting shrubs in your own locality.
  • Explain how to transplant and transport plants from one propertyu to another.
  • Determine the tools required to do gardening for a property, using a limited supply of money.
  • Explain characteristics of soil, including: Soil Structure, pH and Nutrient Deficiency
  • Describe how to fertilize a lawn
  • Explain how to improve drainage in a soil that is too wet for plants to do well in.
  • Explain how you would improve a specified soil
  • Identify a nutrient deficiency
  • Observe and identify different categories of pest and disease problems in growing plants.
  • Compile a weed collection with pressings or illustrations of different weeds
  • Compile a plant collection with pressings or illustrations of different weeds
  • Describe how environmental problems affect plants
  • Recommend ways of controlling different types opf problems in plants, using both natural and chemical.
  • Observe and evaluate different types of gardens.
  • Survey a garden in order to prepare a garden design.
  • Apply a systematic procedure to landscape design, in order to produce a concept plan for a garden.
  • Explain mistakes have you observe in the design and construction of different rockeries
  • Build a simple cold frame and us it to propagate plants.
  • Prepare propagating mix which would be suitable for striking most types of cuttings.
  • Propagate different plants from cuttings.
  • Prepare a plan for sowing annual flower seedlings over a 12 month period.
  • Evaluate and explain a lawn seed mix from the packaging of that mix
  • Observe different lawns and recommend their treatment
  • Explain how to establish a lawn
  • Observe and evaluate the condition of different indoor plants.
  • Recommend the treatment of different indoor plants.
  • Prepare lists of indoor plants for different applications.
  • Find an indoor plant which needs potting up & pot it up.
  • Plant a vegetable patch.
  • List fruit, nuts & berries most suited for growing in your locality
  • Observe the way in which herbs are used commercially (eg. in medicine, cooking etc)
  • Explain why crop rotation is used in growing vegetables?

Tips for Keeping a Garden Looking Good

Things fall or blow into gardens all the time. It doesn’t matter whether the problem is leaves and twigs dropping from overhead trees, or papers and plastic bags blowing in from the street, no-one likes to sit in a garden that looks really messy.

Fortunately, keeping the garden clean is a lot easier now than in the past. Modern machinery, and a better understanding of garden design, have greatly reduced what was once tedious and, in a large garden, back-breaking work.

There are several, very useful pieces of equipment, which can be bought or hired for quick clean-ups.

These are popular for cleaning driveways, paths and paved areas, by blowing leaves and other light debris out of the way to where it is not such a problem. This might be onto garden beds, or into a pile where you can then easily pick it up and dispose of it appropriately (e.g in the compost bin or garbage bin). Both petrol or electric-powered models are readily available, and there are now some great battery rechargeable versions on the market. Petrol machines will be louder than electric-powered ones. Costs can vary considerably in terms of the quality of workmanship, size of machine and the warranty provided.

These are great in autumn to clean up leaves or after a party. Vacuums work in reverse to the blowers by sucking up the debris into a collection sack attached to the vacuum (just like a vacuum used to clean your floors indoors). They can be bought or hired (like all other machines in this article). Petrol vacuums tend to be more popular as they tend to be more reliable and have a stronger ‘sucking’ force. Collections bags should be emptied when they are no more than one-half to two-thirds full (depending on the model) for best results.

Water Blasters
Water under pressure can be used to clean light and heavy debris from surfaces. The blast of water may be strong enough to lift stains and moss from old pavers, bricks and concrete. Water blasters are frequently used to ‘freshen’ up an old garden and the house especially when the owner is trying to sell the property or just as spring arrives.. These high-pressure water jet cleaners are either electric or petrol-powered. Most utilise cold water, although hot water use is available with some models.

For an alternative approach, hose and irrigation specialist companies, have produced simple attachments for hoses that turn the normal water pressure into a fine jet of water under high pressure. Although these can work well for many home duties they are not as powerful as the water blasters.



The way you design the garden can have a huge impact upon how much cleaning up you will need to do. There following tips will help you to minimise the work you are likely to face:

Around the house

  • Build fences along the boundaries. On windy days these will catch most of the air-borne material, so that all you need do is a quick clean-up along the fence line after the wind has stopped.
  • Avoid creating wind tunnels between buildings. Narrow passages between the house, garage and fence are particularly prone to becoming wind tunnels and, as such, are often full of papers, leaves and other debris.
  • Avoid the use of light-coloured, paved driveways, and grey cement paths and driveways. Oil marks, tyre marks, algae and mildew will show up much more readily on light-coloured surfaces. 
  • Avoid using light-coloured hard surfaces in shady, damp areas, otherwise you’ll be forever battling mould, moss, mildew and algae growth and stains.
  • Avoid locating gravel paths and driveways near trees,  which drop a lot of  leaves, seeds or twigs – they can be very difficult to rake out of the gravel.
  • Don’t use sandstone, light-coloured concrete blocks, or similar  materials around barbeques – the grease soaks in, leaving permanent stains.

In the garden

  • Use screen plantings along the boundaries to slow the passage of wind and to prevent rubbish blowing in.
  • Avoid trees that constantly drop leaves and twigs. Although deciduous trees drop lots of leaves in autumn, that only occurs for a short period, and the leaves can be easily raked up and composted. The real problem is those trees that drop small amounts of leaves, bark and woody twigs throughout the year. Eucalypts are especially prone to making a mess, dropping lots of dry woody plant material, which is slow to compost. Similarly, palm fronds can be troublesome to dispose of.
  • Avoid having plants that produce berries or other soft fruits overhanging lawn, hard-surfaced areas (such as paving), or garden furniture. The fruits can be a real clean-up problem, as well as posing a safety risk if people slip on them. Locate such plants in the middle of garden beds where the falling fruit will not be such a problem.
  • Avoid having plants that drip lots of resins (e.g. some conifers), saps, or nectar from flowers overhanging hard-surfaced areas.
  • Avoid planting shallow-rooted and short-lived trees in windy areas. Quick-growing acacias are notorious for toppling over in strong winds, and are potentially a major cleaning-up headache.
  • In windy areas, use heavier woody mulches, such as bark, in preference to fine light mulches, such as lucerne or deciduous leaves.
  • Keep the garden well watered. When plants are under stress they drop leaves as a survival mechanism.
  • Wildlife in the garden (birds/possums etc) can break foliage, make a mess with fruit and berries, and drop faeces on paths and outdoor furniture. Keep trees that attract such animals away from paths, walls and other hard landscaping.
  • Watch out for insects, which create a mess. Sooty mould – a black powdery fungus associated with scale insects and aphis – can mark hard landscaping features. If possible, treat infestations before they get out of hand, and avoid planting hibiscus, citrus and other plants susceptible to such problems near paths, furniture, etc.

You might be amazed how much time and effort you can save maintaining your garden, by following some of the simple design tips from above, and by using the right equipment to help you clean up when it becomes necessary to do so.

Meet some of our academics

Marie BeermanMarie has over 7 years in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie has been a co author of several ebooks in recent years, including "Roses" and "Climbing Plants". Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M.Hort. Dip. Bus. Cert. Ldscp.
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.

Check out our eBooks

RosesThe rose is the “queen of flowers” - classic and ever popular! Explore the richness of roses over six chapters covering: cultivation, soils, pruning, pest control, types of roses (hybrid teas to old world), using roses (from landscaping to cooking and perfumes), and an A-Z of cultivars. 56 rose cultivars described and illustrated with stunning photos. 81 colour photos 59 pages
OrchidsA colourful guide for students, home gardeners and orchid enthusiasts. The first part deals with growing orchids, and the second covers dozens of orchid genera, and hundreds of cultivars. Explore orchids as cut flowers, container plants, indoor plants and outdoor garden plants, in both tropical and temperate climates, across the world.
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
Growing and Using BrassicasBrassicas or Crucifers are plants belonging to the Brassicaceae family. The group includes many popular vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asian greens, radish and kale. Important condiments including mustard and wasabi are also brassicas. This book explores these and other brassica vegetables, and the differences between them in terms of how to grow them and how to use them. This well illustrated eBook is packed full of useful information, including tips and recipes.