Foundation Certificate in Garden Planning and Development Level 3

Course CodeVHT042
Fee CodeS4
Duration (approx)200 hours

Foundation Certificate in Garden Planning and Development Level 3

Work in landscaping  

  • Learn about garden planning, construction and planting
  • Find a job, start a business, work in landscaping
  • 150,000 words of unique course notes developed by our staff
  • 200 hour self paced course
  • Support from an international team of highly qualified horticulturists and landscape professionals based both in the UK and Australia

Develop your ability to describe the principles of using landscaping and other specialist garden elements in the garden, landscape construction, garden design, survey techniques, specialist garden and urban planting.

Lesson Contents
There are 15 lessons in this course:

1.  History of Garden Design and Styles
Garden Styles
The Earliest Private Gardens
Ancient Mid-Eastern Gardens
English Garden History
The English Landscape Garden
Japanese Influences
Important English Landscapers
Monastery Gardens
Hispano-Arabic Gardens
Italian Gardens

2. Site Appraisals, Basic Surveying Techniques and Client Briefs
Influence of Trees on Buildings
Influence of Trees on Atmosphere
Species Suitability
Planning Considerations
Pre Planning Survey - Appraising the Site and Collecting Data
Understanding Soils
Soil Texture
Nutrient Availability and pH
Landscape Plans and Survey Techniques
Site Plan/Base Plan
Topographic Plan
Concept Plan
The Final Plan
The Planting Plan
Surveying Techniques
Steps in the Design Procedure
Landscape Graphics

3. Principles and Elements of Garden Design and the Influence of Site Characteristics
Principles and Elements of Landscape Design
Creating Landscaping Effects
Colour and Garden Design
Influence of Site Characteristics
The Sun’s Path and Its Affect on Shade
Extending the Garden Potential
Fragrant Trees and Shrubs
Potager and Picking Gardens
Determining Shadow Length
Gardens with a Sense of Mystery
Focal Point Ideas
Gardens for Children
User Friendly Gardens

4. Hard Landscaping Features and their Contribution to Garden Design and Function
Hard Surfacing
Flexible and Rigid Paving
Materials Used in Paving
Selecting Materials
Coloured Surfaces
Barriers and Walls
Creating Barriers
Plants to Grow on Trellis
Stone Walls
Garden Structures
Where to build in the Garden
The direction of the sun
Rockery Ideas
Water Gardens
Fountains, Waterfalls, Pot Ponds, etc
Using Water Features in the Landscape
Planning for Children's Play
Play Differs with Age
Child Safety
Designing the Garden for Children
Play Equipment for Different Ages
Recommended Play Surfaces
Environmental Sustainability

5. The Function of Drainage Systems in the Garden
Symptoms of Poor Drainage Systems
Typical Permeability Rates
Solving Drainage Problems
Hard Drainage Methods
Soft Drainage

6. Soft Landscaping Features and their Contribution to Garden Design and Function
Plant Selection
Plant Varieties
Colourful Year Round Foliage
Plants that Tolerate Poor Drainage
Coastal Plantings
Selecting Woody Plants
Deciduous or Semi-deciduous Trees
Evergreen Trees
Flowering Shrubs
Selecting Flowering Shrubs
Establishing Woody Plants
Planting Procedure
Windbreaks, Hedges and Screens
Establishing Hedges and Screens
Pruning or Trimming an Established Hedge
Alpine Plants
Selecting Annual Plants
Types of Annual Plants
Selecting Annuals of Differing Heights
Selecting Herbaceous Perennial Plants
Maintenance Hints For Perennials
Scented Plants
Dry Gardens
Selecting Water Plants
Establishing Water Plants

7. Turf and its Contribution to Garden Design and Function
The Benefits of Turf
Selecting Turf
Turf Varieties
Lawn Mixes
Wild Flower Meadows
Turf Establishment
Soil Preparation
Sodding/Instant Turf
Golden Rules for Laying Instant Turf
Mowing Turf
Mowing Heights
Direction of Cut or Pattern of Cutting
Mower Safety
Other Turf Maintenance Techniques
Fertilising Turf
Weed Control
Preventing Dispersal
Non Chemical Control Methods
Herbicide Use in Turf
Turf Health Problems
Commonly Used Chemical Pesticides
Commonly Used Chemicals; fungicides
Spray Equipment
Domestic Lawn Care Program
Turf Water Needs
Understanding the Movement of Soil Water
Irrigating Turf

8. Setting out a Site to Scale Plans and Drawings
How Landscape Plans are Presented
Setting Out the Site for Landscape Construction

9. Earthworks, Soil Storage and Drainage Systems
Slope Stability
Soil Types and Foundations
Try to Maintain Vegetation Cover Where Possible
Developing a Grading Plan
Required Grading Drawings
Grading Operations
Earth Moving Machinery
Use Experienced Operators
Cost of Earthworks
Earthworks Calculations
Volumes of Irregular Solids
Land Drainage Systems
Drainage Design
Springs and Under-ground Water Courses
What a Landscaper Should Know about Drainage
Sub Surface Drainage
Distance between Drain Pipes
Depth of Drains
Types of Drains
Laying the Drain

10. Landscape Construction Procedures and Materials
Load Bearing Capacity
Concrete Reinforcement
Paving Essentials
Paving a Slope
Setting out Circular Paving
Curved Paving
Concrete Surfaces
Laying Pebbles
Building a Timber Deck
Decking Materials
Decking Around Pools
Changing Levels , step by step
Retaining Walls
Construction Materials
Types of Retaining Walls
Dry Stone Walls
Clay Block Walls
Recycled Rubber Walls
How to Render a Wall
Fencing Materials
Supporting the Fence
Tips for Building a Timber Fence

11. Constructing Rock Gardens and Water Features
How to Build Artificial Rocks
Construction of a Water Garden
How to Make a Water Garden using a Liner
How to make a Water Garden using a Preformed Unit
Pond Filtration Systems
Work Safety
Safe Work Management Plans
Risk Assessment of a Landscape Construction Site
Risk to the Project
Risk to the Workers
The Adequacy of Existing Controls
Risk Control Methods
Example of a Risk Assessment Procedure
Example Risk Assessment of Protected Crop Production
Safety Techniques
Manual Lifting
How to Lift
Using Machines to do the Heavy Work

12. Amenity Bedding Schemes
Flower Bed Layout for Annuals
Other Types of Bedding Schemes
Shapes for Beds
Achieving the Best Results
Colour Themes
Get Your Timing Right and Getting the Most out of Your Flower Bed
Using Perennials
Herbaceous Perennials
Making Garden Beds - The Variables
Basic Planting Procedure
Time of Planting
Popular Annuals
Supporting Herbaceous Plants
Shade Tolerant Perennials
Bulbs which Grow in Shade
Plant with Fragrant Flowers
Fragrant Foliage
Night Scented Plants
Some Evergreen Perennials
Ornamental Grasses
Ornamental Grasses for Year Round Effect
Some Ornamental Grass-like Plants

13. Specialist Garden Areas and Urban Garden Options
Specialist Garden Areas
Garden Ornaments
Plants for the Eclectic Garden
Art Gardens
Plants for Topiary
Miniature and Table Top Gardens
Trough Gardens
Urban Gardens; other options
Acclimatising Indoor Plants
How to Care for the Acclimatising Plant
Acclimatising Period
How to Help Indoor Plants Survive
Watering Pot Plants over Short Periods
Re-potting Tips
Inner City Gardens
Types of Inner City Gardens
Community Gardens
Living Walls
Making a Small Courtyard Look Bigger
Natural Garden Planting Design
Planting Design Elements for the ‘Natural Garden’
Some Plants suited to Wild Gardens
Wildlife in Gardens
How Plants Benefit Birds
Using Ferns in Shaded Areas
Sensory Gardens
Low Maintenance Amenity Gardens
Container Plants
Planning the Cropping Program
Getting the Best Out of the Vegetable Plot
Sowing Vegetable Seeds
Sowing and Transplanting Guide
Broad Bean
Brussels Sprouts
Corn(Sweet Corn)
Pak Choi
Pumpkins, Marrows and Squash
Silver Beet

14. Specialist Pruning Techniques
The Basic Rules of Pruning
Pruning and Rejuvenating
Controlling the Plants Shape and Size
Pruning Overgrown Shrubs
Removing Dead or Diseased Wood
Controlling the Type of Growth
Rejuvenation Limitations
Pruning overgrown climbers and wall shrubs
Pruning Roses
Rejuvenating Old and Overgrown Hedges
Specialist Pruning Techniques

15. Adapting Gardens for Water Sustainability
Conserving Water in the Garden
Reducing run-off
Collecting and Storing Water
Water Quality
Recycling Water
Saving water in the garden
Minimising Plant Water Requirements
Irrigation - water saving techniques
Mulch Materials
The Green Roof
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.

Course lesson structure:

Unit 1 - Garden Survey Techniques and the Principles of Garden Design:

Lesson 1 - History of Garden Design and Styles
Lesson 2 - Site Appraisals, Basic Surveying Techniques and Client Briefs
Lesson 3 - Principles and Elements of Garden Design and the Influence of Site Characteristics

Unit 2 - The Selection and Use of Landscaping Elements in the Garden:

Lesson 4 - Hard Landscaping Features and their Contribution to Garden Design and Function
Lesson 5 - The Function of Drainage Systems in the Garden
Lesson 6 - Soft Landscaping Features and their Contribution to Garden Design and Function
Lesson 7 - Turf and its Contribution to Garden Design and Function

Unit 3 - Setting out and Construction of Landscaping Elements in the Garden; Risk Assessments

Lesson 8 - Setting out a Site to Scale Plans and Drawings
Lesson 9 - Earthworks, Soil Storage and Drainage Systems
Lesson 10 - Landscape Construction Procedures and Materials
Lesson 11 - Constructing Rock Gardens and Water Features

Unit 4 - Specialist Elements in the Establishment of Garden and Urban Plantings:

Lesson 12 - Amenity Bedding Schemes
Lesson 13 - Specialist Garden Areas and Urban Garden Options
Lesson 14 - Specialist Pruning Techniques
Lesson 15 - Adapting Gardens for Water Sustainability




To be great in garden design you need to understand the fundamentals of gardening and also of plant identification - not all garden designers have that knowledge. This is where a course such as this is so helpful - it not only covers design it also covers the basics of plant knowledge and how to use them in a garden (the right plant fot the right place). Knowing these things is trult the only way you can design a functional garden. 

Knowledge is More Important than Qualifications
Having a qualification is not the most important aspect though, what you learn, retain and recall, are much more important than the piece of paper. Our courses have been written by people with years and years of industry experience – they know what you need to know, they also know what the industry wants and also how to encourage and help you to gather those important skills and fundamental knowledge.

Consider Yourself A Professional
Gardeners should not be people that just pull out a few weeds, prune a few shrubs and do a bit of weeding – often without really knowing if they are approaching these tasks correctly or not. True gardeners are professionals and should consider themselves as such.  When you can confidently approach new clients knowing that you understand the needs of their garden, you will convey a much more professional approach and are also more likely to get the work. The same applies to finding work with a garden contractor – if you are able to ‘demonstrate your knowledge’, rather than just ‘show them your piece of paper’, you are more likely to get a job.

There is Competition out there
Don’t forget that there are many other people competing for the same job – some may have higher qualifications, but if you can confidently prove your skills and knowledge and also have a qualification to back them up - then you will stand out from the crowd.

What Other Skills Should You Have?

  • To communicate effectively and efficiently: verbally, in writing and face to face interactions with co-workers, employees and clients.
  • Computer skills – today irrelevant of your work it pays to be able to have good IT skills: email, to write up contracts, or send invoices, to keep your tax records or just to inform your clients when you are able to do the work.
  • Problem solving skills – this is where we can help you our courses are written around developing problem solving skills so sought after by employers but also important if you are running your own business. Problem solving skills means you can work through all types of situations in a systematic and detailed way.
  • Efficiency – this doesn’t mean you have to do things quickly you just need know the best way to approach work. Developing problem solving skills can also help you to be efficient at whatever task you undertake because you are able to look at the situation from several angles and choose the best approach.
  • Know your industry: know who you are competing with, what the industry rates ar for the work you are doing, understand the skills required for the work you are undertaking or going to undertake.
  • Be passionate about your work – passionate people who can also drive themselves forward, are the most successful in their work. There is a difference between having a ‘passion’ and being a ‘dreamer’ though – dreamers unless they also have tremendous drive rarely do well or stick at anything for long.
  • Presentation – always present yourself in the best possible light – that may not mean wearing your ‘Sunday best’ when you are a gardener, but it will mean having a professional approach, being respectful and listening to your clients’ needs or to those of your employer or potential employer. Asking lots of questions and using appropriate language.
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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