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Course CodeBHT237
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn How to grow plants from Seed

  • Study seed anatomy, physiology and practical seed propagation techniques
  • Learn more about a passion or develop valuable skills for a career in the nursery industry
  • Expert tutors with decades of industry experience
  • Course developed a team led by John Mason, fellow of the Institute of Horticulture, and author of the classic text, Nursery management, published by Landlinks Press (CSIRO)

This course assumes general foundation knowledge of plant propagation. For those with industry or significant amateur experience, the course may contain some sections that are little more than revision, but for anyone with minimal or no knowledge of seed propagation, some additional reading may be required in parts in order to gain optimum benefit from the course.

Introduction to Seed Propagation

The two main methods of seedling propagation are:

  • Direct sowing - seeds are sown (by hand or machine) into individual pots, planting trays or planting cells (trays with many individual cells that are usually tapered slightly to aid and improve root formation).
  • Broadcast sowing - the seed is onto the trays randomly then 'pricked out' as seedlings into individual pots, cells or planting trays when they are large enough to handle.

The direct sowing method is the best approach (if possible), as it produces stronger seedlings and a much stronger natural root system. The advantage of direct sowing is that the natural root system:

  • increases good anchorage
  • reduces wind-throw
  • has a more efficient up-take system for nutrients and water - which increases growth rates


The broadcast method requires the 'pricking out' of seedlings. This method can create problems such as constricted or coiled root systems that can result in J-rooting (curled roots in the planting hole) causing instability (wind-throw), and stress caused by transplanting, resulting in poor or uneven growth. 

  • Commercial trees for forestry, fruit trees, ornamental trees etc are best planted by the direct sowing method.
  • Vegetables and colourful annuals and perennials are often sown using the broadcast method and later pricked out into individual pots or communal containers (punnets) of up to 12 per container.
  • Seedlings produced in the open ground are later often sold 'bare-rooted', this includes species such as fruit tree root stock, rose root stock and other root stock used for ornamental trees etc. The seeds are usually sown into a seed-lot in quite large numbers.
  • Seedlings of pine trees are also produced in the open-ground and are later sold with a small amount of soil on the roots (but virtually bare-rooted).
  • Field grown seedlings are also dug-up during the dormant season with the root ball and surrounding soil and then wrapped in jute - this is also known as 'bagged in burlap' stock.
  • Seedlings propagated in cell trays (ranging in size from 40 to 200 a tray), or individual pots are grown in potting media and sold as soon as they are of a certain size - but not so large as to have constricted root systems. Some forestry plants and re-vegetation seedlings are (usually) best grown in cell trays (eg. eucalypts and acacias). Seedling is often automated (vacuum seeding) - this process usually ensures a uniformity of quality and size of the seedlings that are produced.
  • Plants are also sown into individual pots (a more costly option per plant) to meet the demands of specific buyers such as smaller re-vegetation programs (requiring mixed species), local government, or smaller re-sellers.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction - scope, open ground propagation, controlled environment propagation
  2. Seed Botany - anatomy and physiology, pollination, hybridisation, genetic purity, etc.
  3. Seed Sources - selection, collection, timing, wild collecting
  4. Seed Storage - treatments; cleaning, drying, storage, disease control, germination testing
  5. Dormancy - and breaking dormancy
  6. Germinating Annuals, Perennials and Vegetables
  7. Propagating selected Woody Species
  8. Direct Seeding - grasses, woody species, revegetation projects, etc.
  9. Seedling Management

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.


  • Discuss the nature and scope of commercial seed propagation.
  • Explain the botanical characteristics of seed and the processes that occur when a seed germinates.
  • Determine appropriate procedures for harvesting different seeds in different situations.
  • Determine appropriate treatments for different types of seeds following harvest in order to sustain viability.
  • Determine appropriate treatments for breaking dormancy in order to initiate germination with a range of different seeds.
  • Determine how to sow and germinate seed of commonly grown herbaceous plants including vegetables, annuals and perennials.
  • Determine appropriate propagation techniques for a range of woody plants including trees, shrubs, ground covers and climbers.
  • Determine propagation and plant establishment strategies for developing a variety of different types of plantings through direct seeding onto sites where germinated plants will remain permanently in the position where the seed germinates.
  • Manage germinated seedlings as they develop in a way that will optimise the survival rate.

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Find Out More about Seed Propagation
Contact one of our Horticultural Experts

Meet some of our academics

Bob James Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry. He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Masters Degree in Environmental Science. He has worked a Grounds Manager at a major university; and a manager in a municipal parks department. Over recent years he has been helping younger horticulturists as a writer, teacher and consultant; and in that capacity, brings a diverse and unique set of experiences to benefit our students.
Dr. Lynette Morgan Lyn has a broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. Her first job was on a mushroom farm, and at university she undertook a major project studying tomatoes. She has studied nursery production and written books on hydroponic production of herbs. Lyn has worked on horticultural projects in countries from the middle east to the Americas and New Zealand to the Phillippines. Lyn has been a tutor with ACS since 2003 and has contributed to the development of a range of hydroponic courses.
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.
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.

Check out our eBooks

Growing & Knowing AnnualsIdentifying and learning more about Annuals is made easily with this ebook. 141 pages of stunning colour photography and great information and facts on Annuals. Ideal for the home gardener, gardening student, horticulturalists and nursery professionals.
Nursery Managementby John Mason (printed book) published by Landlinks Press
Starting a Nursery or Herb FarmIt's often amazing how much can be produced, and the profit that can be made from a few hundred square meters of land. To work efficiently and profitably, a nursery or herb farm must be both well organised and properly managed. As with any business, it is essential to be confident enough to make firm decisions as and when needed. This e-book is your ticket to a fragrant future.
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.