Course CodeVBS001
Fee CodeAC
Duration (approx)900 hours
QualificationAdvanced Certificate

Learn to be a Nursery Manager

  • A comprehensive course for a better career or business
  • Learn both plant production and business management in the same course
  • Develop a foundation to choose and grow plants that are valuable; and market them effectively  

This course is comprised of:

Core studies - Four units (400 hours) of compulsory subjects for all students.

Elective studies - Three stream units for the development of knowledge in a chosen industry sector.

Project - a workplace project of 200 hrs relevant to your field of study. The project specifically aims to provide the student with the opportunity to apply and integrate skills and knowledge developed through various areas of formal study. Contact the school for more information.



Totaling 400 hours. All four of these modules must be studied and passed.

1. Office practices

Develops basic office skills covering use of equipment, communication systems (telephone, fax, etc) and office procedures such as filing, security, workplace organisations, etc.

2. Business operations

Develops knowledge of basic business operations and procedures (eg. types of businesses, financial management, business analysis, staffing, productivity, etc) and the skills to develop a 12 month business plan.

3. Management

Develops knowledge of management structures, terminology, supervision, recruitment and workplace health and safety.

4. Marketing

Develops a broad understanding of marketing and specific skills in writing advertisements, undertaking market research, developing an appropriate marketing plan and selling.


The stream studies are as follows:


This subject involves eight lessons as follows:

  1. Nursery Site Organisation: Buying an established nursery or establishing a new site, site planning, estimating space requirements.
  2. Management: Government and commercial nurseries, partnerships, companies, sole proprietorships, developing a management structure, labour relations and seasonal staff, work programs and production timing.
  3. Nutrition and Pest Management: Field crops, container plants, principles of fertiliser use and plant nutrition.
  4. Growing Media: Soils and soil-free mixes, rockwool, sterilisation, techniques.
  5. IIrrigation: Methods and equipment, estimation of water requirements and use of liquid fertilisers through irrigation.
  6.  Modifying Plant Growth: Modification techniques, flower forcing and quality control.
  7. Marketing Strategies: Exploiting existing markets, developing new markets, advertising, product presentation, pricing, plant recycling.
  8. Selection of Nursery Crops: Developing a stock list, operational flow charts, market surveys.


    Explain the significance of property, marketing and contracts to site selection.
    Estimate the cost of producing different plant varieties as specified marketable products.
    Develop a nutritional program for plants in a wholesale nursery.
    Explain the implementation of integrated pest management in a specified nursery situation.
    Explain different chemical methods of controlling plant appearance.


The course is divided into ten lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction to Propagation - asexual and sexual propagation, plant life cycles, nursery production systems
  2. Seed Propagation
  3. Potting Media
  4. Vegetative Propagation I - cuttings
  5. Vegetative Propagation II - care of stock plants; layering, division and other techniques
  6. Vegetative Propagation III - budding and grafting, tissue culture
  7. Propagation Structures and Materials - greenhouses, propagating equipment
  8. Risk Management - nursery hygiene, risk assessment and management
  9. Nursery Management I - plant modification techniques, management policies
  10. Nursery Management II - nursery standards, cost efficiencies, site planning and development


    Develop the ability to source information on plant propagation, through an awareness of industry terminology and information sources.
    Plan the propagation of different plant species from seeds, using different seed propagation methods.
    Plan the propagation of different types of plants from cuttings, using different cutting propagation methods.
    Plan the propagation of various types of plants using a range of propagation techniques, excluding cuttings and seed.
    Determine the necessary facilities, including materials and equipment, required for propagation of different types of plants.
    Determine a procedure to minimise plant losses during propagation.
    Determine the management practices of significance to the commercial viability of a propagation nursery.
    Design a propagation plan for the production of a plant.


The course is divided into eight lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction. The principles of propagating plants by cuttings.:Importance of cuttings, Phenotype vs genotype, why choose cutting propagation, where to get cuttings from, basic cutting technique.
  2. Stem cuttings. Ease with which tissue forms roots, types of stem cuttings (softwood, hardwood, semi hardwood, herbaceous, tip, heel, nodal, cane etc), treatments (eg. basal heat, mist, tent, etc), testing rooting, etc.
  3. Non-stem cuttings. Leaf cuttings, root cuttings (natural suckering with or without division, Induced suckering, In situ whole root cuttings; ex situ detached root cuttings), bulb cuttings, scaling and twin scaling, sectioning, basal cuttage.
  4. Materials and equipment. Selection and maintenance of stock plants; disinfecting cutting material;
  5. Growing media. Propagation media; biological, chemical and physical characteristics of propagation and potting media, Testing for toxins, air filled porosity, potting up cuttings, soil-less mixes, rockwool, etc.
  6. Factors affecting rooting. Juvenility, Cutting Treatments (hormones & their application, anti transparents, acid/base treatments, disinfectants etc), Callusing, Mycorrhizae, Carbon Dioxide enrichment, etc.
  7. Setting up a propagation area. Creating and managing an appropriate cutting environment in terms of: Water; Disease; Temperature; Light and Air Quality. Greenhouses and other structures, watering methods (mist, fog, capillary etc), heating, etc.
  8. Management of cutting crops. Estimating cost of production; Keeping records, etc.


This is the final requirement that you must satisfy before receiving your award.

There are four options available to you to satisfy this requirement:

Alternative 1.

If you work in the industry that you have been studying; you may submit a reference from your employer, in an effort to satisfy this industry (ie. workplace project) requirement; on the basis of RPL (ie. recognition for prior learning), achieved through your current and past work experience.

The reference must indicate that you have skills and an awareness of your industry, which is sufficient for you to work in a position of responsibility.

Alternative 2.

A one module credit (100 hrs) can be achieved by verifying attendance at a series of industry meetings, as follows:

  • Meetings may be seminars, conferences, trade shows, committee meetings, volunteer events (eg. Community working bees), or any other meeting where two or more industry people or people who are knowledgeable about their discipline.
  • Opportunity must exist for the student to learn through networking, observation and/or interaction with people who know their industry or discipline
  • A list of events should be submitted together with dates of each attended and times being claimed for each
  • Documentary evidence must be submitted to the school to indicate support each item on the above list (eg. Receipts from seminars, conference or shows, letters from committee or organisation secretaries or committee members. All such documentation must contain a contact details)

Alternative 3.

Credits can be achieved by completing standard modules Workshop I, II and/or III. Each of these modules comprises a series of "hands on" PBL projects, designed as learning experiences that involve interaction with the horticultural industry. Research shows that PBL gives the learner greater long-term benefits than traditional learning, and many successful and progressive universities around the world use it in their courses. Graduates of PBL courses advance faster and further in their careers.

Other benefits of PBL:

  • Develops critical and creative thinking;
  • Creates effective problem-solvers;
  • Increases motivation;
  • Encourages lateral thinking;
  • Improves communication and networking skills;

Every PBL project is carefully designed by experts to expose you to the information and skills that we want you to learn. When assigned a project, you are given:

  • A statement of the problem (eg. diseased plant; failing business; property case study);
  • Questions to consider when solving the problem;
  • A framework for the time and effort you should spend on the project;
  • Support from the school.

The problems that you will solve in your course will relate to what you are learning. They are problems that you might encounter when working that field, adapted to your level of study .

Alternative 4.

If you do not work in the relevant industry, you can undertake a project as follows.

Design this project in consultation with a tutor to involve industry based activities in the area of specialized study which they select to follow in the course. The project outcomes may take the form of a written report, folio, visuals or a mixture of forms. Participants with relevant, current or past work experience will be given exemption from this project if they can provide suitable references from employers that show they have already fulfilled the requirements of this project.

For courses that involve more than 100 hours, more than one workplace project topic may be selected. For example, 200 hours may be split into two projects each of 100 hours. This will offer the student better scope to fulfill the needs of their course and to meet the number of hours required. Alternatively, the student may wish to do one large project with a duration of 200 hours.

Students will be assessed on how well they achieve the goals and outcomes they originally set as part of their negotiations with their tutor. During each 100 hours of the project, the students will present three short progress reports. These progress reports will be taken into account when evaluating the final submission. The tutor must be satisfied that the work submitted is original.

If you wish to do one large 200 hour report, then only three progressive reports will be needed (however the length of each report will be longer).


1. Students are expected to select a suitable project or task to complete that allows the student toapply and integrate the knowledge and skills they have obtained as part of their studies.

2. The student should submit a draft proposal outlining their proposed project, study or task. The expected outcomes of this project should be clearly stated. This will be looked at by a tutor andcomments made. Students are welcome to visit the school or to talk to a tutor to obtain advice on how to draw up their proposal. The proposal should indicate what the student intends to do, how they intend to do it, where they intend to do it, and what they expect to produce (e.g. a written report, a folio, references from an employer) as a means of showing what they have achieved during their project/study/task.

3. A refined proposal will be submitted by the student incorporating changes based on the comments made by the tutor. This updated proposal will either be accepted as being suitable or further comments made. The proposal may need to be submitted several times before it is finally accepted.

4. The student will then be expected to carry out the project, study or task.

Progress Reports

The student will be expected to submit three progress reports during the duration of the progress. This is in addition to the final project product (e.g. report, folio). Each progress report should show what you have done so far (e.g. what research you have done, what tasks you have carried out, etc.). It should also cover any problems you have had so far, and if so, what you have done to overcome these problems. Each progress report should be in the vicinity of 300 - 500 words in length.

Progress Report 1. This should be submitted about one quarter of the way through your study/project/task.

Progress Report 2. This should be submitted about one half way through your study/project/task.

Progress Report 3. This should be submitted about three quarters of the way through your study/project/task.

Final Report

The final report should summarise the objective of the workplace project, and be set out like a professional report. Although content is the most important factor in determining a pass grade for the workplace project, your report should exhibit elements of professional report writing (in regards to spelling, grammar, clarity and presentation).

For 100 hours Workplace Projects: this report should be about 1,500 to 3,000 words.

For a 200 hour Workplace Project: this report should be about 3,000 to 5,000 words.


ACS was founded by John Mason in 1979 as Australian Horticultural Correspondence School.

Right from these very early times, we've always believed that the best education only comes when the student is learning from the experience of a whole range of industry experts (rather than just a single teacher).

Every ACS course is a work in progress, continually evolving, with new information being added and old information being updated by our team of internationally renowned professional horticulturists.

Over the decades more than 100 horticulture experts from across the world have contributed to these courses, bringing their individual knowledge and experiences from as wide afield as England and Spain to Australia and America.

While may colleges and universities focus on providing courses that relate only to the country where they are based, ACS has always strived to make it's courses relevant to all parts of the world; any climate, economic or cultural situation. This has been achieved by involving a large number of professionals in the course development.

When it comes to tutoring, marking papers and mentoring students, the team approach is just as strong as with our writing. ACS students have the ability to obtain advice and support from staff across the world, with horticulture tutors located in the UK, Australia (both the north and south) and New Zealand.

The ACS team approach and global focus to both course content and student support, ensures our graduates have a unique and "real world" skills set. This unique approach is highly regarded by our colleagues in horticulture.

Contributors to ACS Courses over the years have included:

John Mason -former parks director (Melton, Essendon and Heidelberg), Landscape Designer (Playgrounds and recreation Association of Victoria), Nurseryman, President Australian Institute of Horticulture (Victoria), Committee International Year of the Child (Australia), Author ove over 40 books, Editor Garden Guide Magazine, Editor Your Backyard Magazine.

Maggi Brown - Education officer, Henry Doubleday Research Association (UK), gold medal winner Chelsea Flower Show, Garden consultant.

Adriana Fraser - Horticultural Consultant, TAFE Lecturer, Project Manager - Parks and Gardens, Horticultural writer.

Iain Harrison -Garden Manager Fibremakers, Garden Consultant, Lecturer Swinburn TAFE

Katie Freeth - Manager Commonwealth War Graves (France), Horticultural Consultant (France & UK), Board member Institute of Horticulture, and International Federation Parks & Recreation Administration

Tony Bundock -Horticulture Businessman, Consultant, Head of Horticulture Dept. TAFE

Jim Davis -Horticulture Businessman, Lecturer TAFE (NSW), Principal VCAH Burnley College

Dr Lyn Morgan -author and internationally renowned hydroponics consultant (New Zealand)

Dr Valeria Astorga -horticultural consultant, lecturer (Spain, Peru, Australia)

Alison Bundock -Editor (Kangaroo Press; Southern Cross University), Technical Writer (APM), Consultant

Rosemary Davies -Horticultural concultant, journalist, media personality (Victoria)


Starting a New Nursery

New nurseries, like many other small businesses, often fail because they have not been properly planned. Nurseries can be started with minimal cash investment, but the size of the operation must be geared to the amount of cash invested. If the initial investment is small, then the nursery should be small and grow slowly. Even if a sizeable investment is made initially, it is wise to retain up to one-third of the cash available to carry the business for the first couple of years. Nursery profits can fluctuate greatly from year to year. If the first year is a bad season because of pests, diseases, bad weather or poor sales, then a reserve of cash is necessary to carry the nursery through to the second year.
A new nursery manager is often limited by a lack of skills, poor knowledge of the market, and small reserves of money available to develop the operation. As mentioned in lesson one, it is possible to start a profitable part-time nursery in the backyard. This type of operation will provide a supplement to a normal income and, at the same time, allow you to learn from your experiences. A serious business venture is a different proposition where learning from mistakes is not an option.
Also, as mentioned in lesson one, the correct choice of plants is important and is influenced by location and demand. Furthermore, new nursery operators should avoid growing the more difficult plants and adhere to standardised packaging

The "Mission Statement"

Any well managed business should have a clearly defined purpose. A mission statement is produced by writing down this ‘clearly defined purpose’. The mission statement then provides a point of reference for managing the business.
If the aim is to make money, management decisions should be made to optimise making money. If the aim is to build an asset, then management decisions should be made to optimise building an asset. If the aim is primarily to produce quality plants while remaining financially viable, then the management decisions should reflect that aim.

Quality Control

The best way to control any nursery business is to develop written procedures and follow them. However, nothing should be set in stone. Strategies and procedures will need to retain some degree of flexibility in order to allow change as the situation and demands change in a nursery.

What Plants to Deal with?

One of the most important decisions for new nursery managers is what type of plants should be stocked.
The first decision is whether to specialise or not. A nursery can specialise in terms of the plant species grown, or in terms of the size of plants grown. Some nurseries grow a wide variety of plants but only in the one size container, or perhaps only in the open ground (where they are dug up and balled or potted before selling). Other nurseries might concentrate on one particular group of plants such as herbs or natives, but they might grow and sell those plants in a variety of sizes and containers. Some growers choose to be even more specific, selling only one genus of plants, such as fuchsias, geraniums or carnations.
There is a very real danger in choosing what to grow on a whim or a fancy. It is not a good business decision to specialise in something just because that is what you like! Just because you like a particular type of plant doesn't mean that many others will, or if there are several people who have the same attitude and make the same decision in the same locality, then supply of that type of plant is likely to exceed demand.
Developing a stock list should be an ongoing task. Plant varieties should be added to and removed from your stock list continually. The numbers grown or stocked should also be added to and reduced regularly. Each year, an annual assessment should be made of what has sold, what has not sold, and what has been requested or ordered.
Someone new to the industry may need to experiment to find their niche. Remember 'in-fashion' plants that you read about in magazines and see everywhere are sometimes being grown or sold by every other new nurseryman, so there might be a lot of competition. It is also important to remember that many of the newer varieties being widely sold are protected by plant breeders’ rights so it is illegal to sell them unless you have an agreement/license with the owner of the rights to do so.

ACS operates a student bookshop that supplies a range of horticulture texts to supplement our courses.
Many are written by the principal (well known gardening author John Mason), or other staff. All have been reviewed and approved by our academic experts (to be accurate and relevant to students studying our horticulture courses).
  • Student discounts are available to anyone studying with ACS Distance Education.
  • Both printed books and ebooks (as downloads) available

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