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Organic Plant Culture

Course CodeBHT302
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Study Online and Learn to Become an Organic Grower

This is an extensive, globally focused, foundation course in the use of natural methods for growing plants.
  • Course substantially revised and updated.
  • Learn to grow plants organically
  • Learn skills which can be applied on farms, in nurseries or in gardens
  • Work in horticulture, start a business, expand your horticultural skills, or further your career opportunities

Organic growing has increased in popularity over the past ten years due to the increasing awareness of safety in the garden and on the farm and the desire to produce food that is free from chemical inputs. For decades, farmers and growers have relied upon chemicals to control pests and diseases in order to produce crops for sale. Unfortunately it is only recently that we have become aware that many of those chemicals can sometimes cause health problems to humans, as well as long-term damage to the environment such as soil degradation, imbalances in pest-predator populations can also sometimes occur. As public concern grows, these issues are becoming increasingly important.

However the organic grower or gardener should understand that not all organic practices always guarantee a healthy environment, over-cultivation for example can also lead to soil damage. Organic growing practices should aim to ensure quality of both the environment in which we live and of the produce we grow in our gardens and on our farms.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction (Gardening styles, basic organic procedures, etc.)
  2. Plant Culture
  3. Understanding Soils
  4. Fertilisers and Plant Nutrition
  5. Soil Management
  6. Pests and Diseases
  7. Mulching
  8. Seeds - Collecting, storing and sowing
  9. Vegetable Growing in your locality
  10. Fruit Growing in your locality


  • Explain the concepts and principles of organic growing, including the common techniques used in organic growing systems.
  • Determine soil management procedures, which are consistent with organic growing principles.
  • Determine soil management procedures, which are consistent with organic growing principles.
  • Determine soil management procedures, which are consistent with organic growing principles.
  • Explain how pests and diseases are controlled using organic growing principles.
  • Determine appropriate mulches for use in different organic growing situations.
  • Determine the appropriate use of seed propagation, in organic plant culture.
  • Plan the production of an organically grown vegetable food crop
  • Plan the production of an organically grown fruit crop

Tips for Organic Vegetable Growing

Feed the soil not the plants
Plants obtain nutrients from the soil. When plants are fed constantly with soluble fertilisers they may grow quite well, but we are not improving the soil. In fact the opposite often occurs, with a build up of salts leading to damage of the soil’s structure.  When plants are grown in this manner the soil is really only being used as a medium to hold the plant in place - similar to hydroponics. When we add well decomposed organic matter i.e. animal manures and compost to the soil we are feeding the soil – improving the structure and the fertility - plants can then access the nutrients they require for healthy growth from the soil.

Choose the right plant for the right place
Plants grow best when they are grown in the situation and soil conditions that suits them best; prevalent conditions should be altered as little as possible to suit the plant.  This may seem like common sense but is one of the most common reasons why plants don’t thrive or die.  Therefore plants that require acid soils should be grown in acid soil, lime lovers should be planted in alkaline soils, shade lovers in the shade and sun lovers in the sun.  Using this approach helps to protect the soil from damage through overuse of soil ameliorants such as lime (to raise pH) or aluminium sulphate (to lower pH). However some cultural techniques such as the constant addition of organic matter in the form of compost, animal manures and mulch, can over time tend to acidify the soil. This is often unavoidable, particularly in vegetable growing areas. Soil ameliorants such as dolomite (for example) will then need to be used to raise the pH from time to time.

Keep plants growing vigorously
Well prepared soil before planting, regular application of compost teas, organic  fertiliser and managing soil moisture levels will all encourage plant growth and help reduce plant stress. However annual vegetables grow rapidly and use a lot of soil nutrients, the compost you incorporated in your initial bed preparation may not be released fast enough to keep up with the plant's capacity to grow. To overcome this - top-dress the soil with a suitable organic fertiliser. Plant leaves absorb nutrients very quickly and therefore applying foliar plant food is an ideal way to boost plant growth, particularly for leafy crops such as lettuce, cabbage, cauliflowers, and silver beet. Spacing is also important in plant growth and root spread. Small seedlings planted too close together will result in less then satisfactory growth, even with good soil preparation; plants starved for space and light will rarely produce a good crop. Over-crowding will also reduce ventilation around the plants, making them more susceptible to disease problems, such as mildews.

Don’t over feed
Overfeeding can lead to as many problems as underfeeding. Overfeeding produces lush green growth with sappy lax stems. This type of growth encourages insect attack and also tends to collapse during hot conditions.

Plant when conditions are favourable.
Planting too early, before the soil has warmed up for example, will check plant growth, may delay fruiting, may reduce the harvest and encourage insect attack. Planting out of season also creates problems – Asian cabbage planted during the hotter months for example tends to run to seed, lettuce seed won’t germinate in conditions over 30 degrees etc. 

Mulching will help control weeds and prevent erosion of the soil from around the crop roots, reduces water need and helps provide nutrients. Mulch also increases the soil population of beneficial organisms such as earthworms. Mulch material should not have direct with the stems, etc. of the vegetables, as this may result in pest and disease problems e.g. stem or collar rots.

Control Pests and Diseases Promptly
Regular inspection of your vegetables is a must. The early sighting of pest and disease problems can prompt early action and control with appropriate natural control methods.

Who Is The Course Suitable For?

With ever increasing interest in organically, naturally grown gardens and produce, demand for knowledgeable workers in these areas has likewise increased and will continue to do so.

This course is suited to people who care about the environment and who are working in:

  • Horticulture
  • Agriculture
  • Environmental protection
  • Land care
  • Home gardens

Do You Want To Know More?

You can enrol on Organic Plant Culture today - simply go to the top of this page and choose from either online or eLearning study methods.

If you have any questions, please do get in touch with us - connect with our expert Horticulture tutors, use our FREE COURSE COUNSELLING SERVICE.

Meet some of our academics

Maggi BrownMaggi 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. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
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.

Check out our eBooks

Food PreservingIdeal for students of nutrition, self sufficiency or horticulture, the food preservation ebook is a great introduction to preserving food.
Organic GardeningCreate a healthy, well-balanced garden. Attract abundant beneficial insects to pollinate your plants. Have healthy, fertile, organic soils teeming with life. Use this book as a guide to establish lush gardens laden with fruit, vegetables, herbs and ornamentals - without the use of chemicals. The ebook covers: soils and nutrition, pest and disease, natural weed control, conservation and recycling. 179 pages, 170 colour photos
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.
Fruit, Vegetables and HerbsHome grown produce somehow has a special quality. Some say it tastes better, others believe it is just healthier. And there is no doubt it is cheaper! Watching plants grow from seed to harvest and knowing that the armful of vegies and herbs you have just gathered for the evening meal will be on the table within an hour or two of harvest, can be an exciting and satisfying experience.