Soil Management - Horticulture

Course CodeBHT105
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Find Out How to Manage Soils

Study this course to develop an understanding of the chemical and physical properties of soil and how this can help you to better manage soils in a sustainable manner - to improve productivity and plant health. 

  • Learn more about the importance of soil management to horticulture.
  • Study different management practices
  • Understand the properties and soil and more...

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Physical and Chemical Properties of Soils
    • How soils develop
    • The main rock forming minerals: silicates, carbonates, oxides and sulphates
    • Types of rock: igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic
    • Denitrification, immobilisation, mineralisation and ammonium fixation
    • Understanding soil function: plant nutrition, support, water and air supply
    • Naming a soil
    • Improving soils for plant culture
    • Organic matter
    • Plant nutrition
    • Nutrient availability and pH
    • Cation exchange capacity
    • Conductivity
    • Salinity build up
    • The nutrient elements
    • Major elements and minor elements
    • Total salts
    • Diagnosing nutrient problems
    • Fertilisers
    • Composting
  2. Soil and Plant Tissue Test Methods
    • Soil sampling
    • Common soil tests: pH, texture, structure, etc
    • Tissue analysis
    • Different methods od measuring pH
    • Water content of soil
    • Fertiliser solubility
    • Testing the effect of lime
    • Laboratory testing of soils
    • Measuring salinity
    • Colorimeters
    • Bulk density
    • Understanding soil analysis
    • Deciding when and how to test
  3. Soil Science and Health
    • Organic carbon
    • Available phosphorus
    • Soil colour
    • Texture and its affect on plant growth
    • Structure and its affect on plant growth
    • Consistence: affect on plant growth
    • Depth of profile, pH, porosity and other things affecting plant growth
    • Soil classification and description: different horizons
    • Factors affecting soil formation: parent material, climate, ecosystem, etc
    • Weathering processes in soil formation: physical, chemical, geochemical
    • Pedochemical weathering
  4. Container Growing
    • Introduction
    • What to grow
    • Problems with containers
    • Care of containers
    • Comparing materials: plastics, terracotta, fibreglass, etc
    • Aesthetics of containers
    • Potting up
    • Potting mixes
    • Ideas for container gardens
    • History of potting mxes
    • UC mixes
    • Soilless mixes
    • Testing for toxins in potting media
    • Propagating media
    • Problems with Organic materials in media
    • Coir
    • Rockwool
    • Components of potting media
    • Cleanliness with soils and potting media
    • Hydroponics
  5. Land Degradation and Other Soil Problems
    • Chemical damage to soil
    • Builders rubbish in soils
    • Salinity
    • Dogs or cats urinating
    • Growing plants in dry areas
    • Soil degradation
    • Erosion
    • Salinity
    • Acidification
    • Compaction
    • Chemical residues
  6. Soil Management Applications
    • Aims of soil management
    • Soil management in orchards
    • Fertilizer application
    • Soil covers
    • Soil management for Vegetables
  7. Organic Techniques and Soil Management
    • What is organic growing
    • Organic principles for overcoming soil problems
    • Natural plant nutrition
    • Trace elements
    • Earthworms
    • Types of mulch and its use
    • Nutrition managementin a plant nursery
    • Applying liquid fertilizers
    • Organic fertilizers
    • Natural fertilizers
    • Mineral rock fertilizers and soil conditioners
    • Apatite phosphate rock
    • Dolamite
    • Gypsum
    • Soil management in market gardens
    • Crop rotation
    • Determining kind and quantity of fertilizer to use
    • Cover crops
  8. Soils and Managing Earthworks
    • Eath forming
    • Machinery
    • Creating mounds
    • Sources of "fill"
    • Drainage
    • Improving drainage
    • Improving surface drainage after construction
    • Designing a drainage system
    • Improving permeability during construction
    • Layout of drains
    • Types of drains


  • Describe the significance of different physical and chemical properties of soil, in relation to the growing of plants.
  • Take samples of soil, appropriate to different situations; and then conduct a range of simple tests to determine varying characteristics of the sample taken.
  • Explain the characteristics of a soil, scientifically; and relate those characteristics to the capacity of a soil to grow plants.
  • Select and manage potting and other alternative media for growing plants in containers.
  • Diagnose and recommend the treatment of a variety of soil degradation problems
  • Explain principles of sustainable soil management
  • Manage programs for different soils in horticultural situations.
  • Recommend soil management practices which are not going to cause a degradation of soil quality.
  • Explain the methods used in managing earthworks in a way which is sensitive to soil condition

Soils make plants grow or can make plant growth slow!

If you can get the soil right, you can have a tremendous impact upon the success or failure of the plants you grow in it. There is a huge amount to learn about soils though. Some people spend their lifetime just studying soil. You might not need to go that far; but if you can understand how soil is structured; how nutrients and water are delivered to plants; and the many factors that can cause problems with soil: you will have a foundation for achieving far more successful and profitable plant growth.
Understanding Erosion Prevents Soil Degradation
Soil erosion, which is the movement of soil particles from one place to another by wind or water, is considered to be a major environmental problem. Erosion has been going on through most of earth's history and has produced river valleys and shaped hills and mountains.  Such erosion is generally slow, but the action of man has caused a rapid increase in the rate at which soil is eroded (i.e. a rate faster than natural weathering of bedrock can produce new soil).  This has resulted in a loss of productive soil from crop and grazing land, a
s well as layers of infertile soils being deposited on formerly fertile crop lands, the formation of gullies, siltation of lakes and streams, and land slips.  Humans have the capacity for major destruction of our landscape and soil resources. Hopefully, they also have the ability to prevent and overcome these problems.
In cases of severe land degradation the first step towards rehabilitation is identifying the problem and the underlying causal elements. Often there will be a number of contributing factors. Therefore, these factors must be neutralised or rectified in order to obtain as best as possible a complete solution to the problem. With any problem that is encountered, there is a wide range of help and advice available directly from government and other initiatives such as Landcare or Countryside Management
Erosion is nornally caused by either wind or water moving soil particles. Both can be significant; but in situations where the land is covered by dense vegetation; water erosion is more likely to have a greater impact.
Water Erosion
With water erosion, soil particles are detached either by splash erosion (caused by raindrops), or by the effect of running water.  
Runoff is the term applied to the movement of water (especially rain) when flooding occurs. In the process of moving towards the line of least resistance the water builds up speed and begins to eat away at surface soil.
Several types of water erosion are common in our landscapes.  These are:
  • Sheet erosion   where a fairly uniform layer of soil is removed from an entire surface area.  This is caused by splash from raindrops, with the loosened soil generally transported in rills and gullies. It commonly occurs in areas which are overworked, such as pastures which do not get a chance to regenerate. Sheep are especially hard on pastures due to their close grazing attributes. Managed rotational grazing is advised. This may mean subdividing to reduce grazing pressure, putting cattle instead of sheep on ailing pasture or even reducing stock levels. Steep hills are also prone to sheet erosion, especially if lacking vegetation.
  • Rill erosion   this occurs where water runs in very small channels over the soil surface, with the abrading effect of transported soil particles causing deeper incision of the channels into the surface. Losses consist mainly of surface soil.
  • Gully erosion   this occurs when rills flow together to make larger streams.  They tend to become deeper with successive flows of water and can become major obstacles to cultivation.  Gullies only stabilize when their bottoms become level with their outlets. Management of catchment systems on farms is a vital element in controlling gully erosion. Without it unsightly and more importantly production sapping holes appear on the landscape. Soil is washed downstream with every rainfall and the gullies widen. Maintaining or developing vegetative cover is the key to correcting gully erosion. Plantings of native trees, shrubs and grasses are recommended. Stock should be excluded from access, except at designated drinking spots. Vermin, especially rabbits must be controlled as they are most destructive in terms of erosion. Certain structural works may be required, that are designed to direct or contain water flow.
  • Bank erosion   this is caused by water cutting into the banks of streams and rivers.  It can be very serious at times of large floods and cause major destruction to property.
  • Tunnel erosion - is generally associated with rabbit problems and dispersive soil types. Ripping to break down tunnels and sowing deep rooted pastures is recommended. Fence off stock, at least temporarily and control rabbits to rehabilitate affected land.
  • Land slips - result from many of the factors already mentioned, also excessive clearing which leads to water-logging problems. Areas prone to slipping require re-vegetation using trees and pasture which will use excess moisture, and the establishment of effective drainage.

Where Can This Course Take Me?

The course is specifically designed for ornamental gardens, landscaping, container growing and turf situations.

  • Horticulturists
  • Nursery growers
  • Head Gardeners
  • Turf Specialists

Anyone interested in knowing more about soils and how we can use soil to benefit our landscapes and gardens without causing damage.

Learn from experts: our tutors are well-qualified in this field - they are there to help you through your course with support that rivals most other institutions.


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