Organic Plant Culture

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

Learn to produce organic crops and set up sustainable gardens

Organic growing of plants works with nature, rather than against it .It recognises the fact that nature is complex and accordingly endeavours to understand interactions between plants, animals and insects.

  • Develop a solid understanding of the principles and procedures underlying the cultivation of plants by natural methods.
  • Learn to grow plants naturally and by working with the natural environment.
  • Work with the environment and without the use of artificial fertilisers or sprays.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Scope and Nature of Organic Growing
    • Definitions
    • Influential People in the Organic movement: Lady Balfour, Sir Albert Howard, Jerome Irving Rodale
    • Different Ways to Garden Organically. Biodynamics, Permaculture
    • Resources
  2. Plant Culture
    • Different Cultivation Methods
    • Crop Rotation
    • Green Manure
    • No Dig Culture
    • Not TillPlanting into Grass
  3. Understanding Soils
    • Physical and Chemical Soil Properties
    • Soil Profiles
    • Identifying Soil Type
    • Soil Structure
    • pH
    • Cation Exchange Capacity
    • Buffering Capacity
    • Soil water and air, temperature, humus, etc
    • Organic Matter
  4. Fertilizers and Plant Nutrition
    • Organic Fertilisers; scope, nature, comparing different types of fertilizer and manure
    • Animal Manures
    • Seaweed and seaweed extracts
    • Liquid Feeds in Organics
    • Rock Dusts
  5. Management
    • Importance of Soil
    • Cultivation Techniques and their affects on soil
    • Cover Crops
    • Using Cover Crops
    • Green Manures as Cover Crops
    • Nitrogen Fixation
    • The Rhizobium Bacteria
    • Mycorrhyzae
    • Composting
    • Compost Bins
    • What can be Composted
    • Carbon Nitrogen Ratio
    • Compost heap conditions; cold and hot heaps
    • How to build a compost heap
    • Using Compost
    • Water in the Soil; infiltration, retention, when to water, period of watering
  6. Pests and Diseases
    • Pest and Diserase Prevention
    • Management Techniques; early intervention, using predators
    • Allowable inputs
    • Understanding Plant Problems
    • Disease Lifecycles
    • Review of Disease Types and their management
    • Viruses
    • Review of Pests and their management
    • Review of Environmental Problems and their Management
    • Companion Planting
    • Nutrient Accumalating Plants
  7. Mulching
    • Scope and Nature
    • Mulching Materials
    • Living Mulch
    • Weed Management, preventative measures, other weed control methods
  8. Seeds
    • Organic Seeds
    • Reproduction
    • Pollination and preventing cross pollination
    • Choosing Seed Plants for Vegetable Crops
    • Collection, cleaning, storing seeds
    • Sowing
  9. Vegetable Growing in your locality
    • Site Selection
    • Planning the Crop
    • Getting the most from a Vegetable Plot
    • Sowing Vegetable Seeds; outdoors, indoors
    • Transplanting Seedlings
    • Crowns, Offsts, Tubers
    • Selected Vegetables, their culture, production, harvest, etc
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Beetroot
    • Silverbeet
    • Cabbage
    • Capsicum
    • Carrots
    • Cauliflowers
    • Celery
    • Chicory
    • Cucumbers
    • Egg plants
    • Kohl rabi
    • Leek
    • Lettuce
    • Onions
    • Parsnips
    • Potatoes
    • Pumpkins
    • Radish
    • Spinach
    • Turnip
    • Tomatoes
  10. Fruit Growing in your locality.
    • Establishing an Orchard; site, climate, water
    • Designing an Orchard
    • Soil Management for Organic Orchards
    • Winter Chilling, Pollination and other fruit set factors
    • Choosing Fruit Varieties
    • Temperate and Cool Climate Fruits Review
    • Review of Tropical and Sub Tropical Fruits
    • Vine Fruits
    • Berry Fruits
    • Nuts


  • Explain the concepts and principles of organic growing, including the common techniques used in organic growing systems
  • 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.
  • 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

What You Will Do

  • Determine the roles of different organic farming and gardening organisations.
  • Explain how organic crops can be 'certified' as being organic in your country.
  • Explain the application of crop rotation in a specified garden, or farm.
  • Describe the construction of a 'No-Dig' garden, using materials readily available in your locality.
  • Explain the intended aims of a specific 'Permaculture' designed garden.
  • Explain different organic growing concepts, including:
    • biodynamics
    • sustainable agriculture
    • companion planting
    • fallowing
    • composting
    • recycling.
  • Explain how organic matter may benefit plants growing in different soils.
  • Compare the advantages with disadvantages of using organic versus non-organic fertilizers.
  • Determine different organic fertilizers that are commonly available in your locality.
  • Compare factors affecting the selection of different organic fertilisers, including:
    • Proportions of different nutrients
    • Likelihood of burn
    • Buffering characteristics
    • Where it is to be used
    • Method of handling
    • Cost
    • Availability.
  • Determine mulch materials readily available for organic growing in your locality.
  • Compare different mulches suitable for organic growing systems, in terms of:
    • Interaction with water (eg. repellence, absorbency, drainage)
    • Nitrogen draw down
    • Toxins
    • Rate of decomposition
    • Insulation properties
    • Weed suppression
    • Availability
    • Cost
    • Nutrient content
    • Ease of handling.
  • Explain how different, specified leguminous plant species, may be used to improve soil fertility.
  • Explain how different worm species may be used to improve soil fertility, on a specific site.
  • Determine how soils on a specific site may be managed, using organic principles.
  • Explain the different methods of natural control of pests and diseases, including:
    • Quarantine
    • Natural sprays
    • Physical controls
    • Plant selection
    • Use of natural predators
    • Environment manipulation.
  • Determine commercially available, naturally derived sprays that can be used in organic growing.
  • Explain the benefits of ten specified examples of companion planting, including:
    • Repelling pests away from crop plants
    • Attracting pests to bait plants
    • Improving soil (structure and nutrition)
    • Deterring growth of pests and diseases.
  • Develop criteria for evaluating pesticides, including natural pesticides, for use in an organic garden or farm.
  • Develop appropriate programs to control pests and diseases on different, specified cultivated plants.
  • Develop guidelines for seed variety selection, appropriate to organic plant culture.
  • Explain the importance of preserving seed sources of 'older' plant varieties.
  • Compile a catalogue of different, reliable seed sources for organic culture.
  • Explain appropriate methods for storage of different types of seed.
  • Explain various ways dormancy factors can affect seed germination.
  • Develop an annual timetable for planting different varieties of vegetables, appropriate to organic growing systems, in your district.
  • Compare the culture of different specified vegetable species, in organic with non-organic production.
  • Prepare organic production schedules for different food crops, including:
    • A vegetable
    • A fruit
    • A berry.

Organics Involves Working with Nature

Modern science has given us the tools to destroy anything in nature that is undesirable. In theory, this sounds good; but in practice, there will always be collateral damage. A far better application of science may be to understand and harness the good in nature to minimise the bad.

This is the Organic Way of doing things. It isn't anti-science - it is just utilising knowledge in what many would consider, a more responsible way.

Here are some examples of how biological factors can help us grow plants.

Worms and other insects for example can aerate (till) the soil, help to build up soil structure and texture and can help to control pest insects.

Once the soil biology becomes more complex and diverse, it is then not dependent on a limited range of soil organisms to maintain soil health and fertility. With diversity the structure and health of the soil improves, making it more resilient also improving its output.

If you improve soils to encourage more soil biological life:

  • You will need less fertiliser (because nutrient cycling will be more productive).
  • Lower pesticide input as biodiversity increases in the soil pest organisms are better controlled by other beneficial organisms active in the soil.
  • Soil structure and texture improves – improved structure reduces the need for tillage; it also improves crop yields - good soil structure promotes better root growth and water storage ability in the plant.
  • You reduce the possibility of pollution through leachate into groundwater or waterways. Soil biological life decontaminates soil by absorbing excess nutrients and chemicals in the soil and filtering out the contaminants.

Action of Soil Organisms
Most soil organisms are found in the topsoil and it is the action of microbes (microscopic organisms) which results in humus production. Organic matter only becomes humus when it has passed through a microbe's body. Of these microbes, certain bacteria are most important. Specifically, antinomycetes, which are thread-like in appearance, decompose organic matter into humus releasing nutrients as they do so. They also produce antibiotics which combat root diseases.

When dead plant material, or animal material, is added to the soil the decomposition begins. Initially, only those compounds which are easy to break down are decomposed through the action of soil organisms e.g. proteins, sugars. Over the next few years more complex compounds are decomposed e.g. lignins, cellulose. During the next ten years ever more complex compounds such as waxes, phenols and relatively stable compounds within the soil peds are decomposed. Finally, over hundreds and up to thousands of years, the remaining compounds are broken down into humus. The compounds within humus are extremely complex and are not recognisable as plant material. When humus has reached a point whereby it can no longer be broken down, it is said to be stable.

The benefits of humus are that it provides a food source for micro-organisms, it improves soil structure, it buffers against excess acidity or alkalinity, it increases the soil's cation exchange capacity and therefore nutrient retention properties, and it retains moisture.

After You Graduate From This Course

What will you be able to do with the knowledge and practical skills you gain from this course?

  • Start your own organic vegetable and fruit growing enterprise.
  • Start and organic gardening service.
  • Be a consultant - show others how to garden organically and sustainably.
  • Set up edible organic gardens for others.
  • Extend your knowledge gained in other areas such as permaculture.
  • Help save the environment.

Learn from experts - our tutors are experts in this field - some have had their own organic enterprises and have been gardening organically for decades. Let them help you to improve your knowledge and skills.

If you have any questions, or want to know more, please get in touch with our specialist Horticulture and Permaculture tutors today.

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