Best Foundation Career Gardener Course internationally. Comprehensive trade level qualification covering areas such as plant identification, pruning, landscape design.

Course Code: VHT003
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 150 hours
Qualification Certificate
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Learn Online - Fundamentals of Horticulture

This vocationally-oriented course comprises core studies in general horticulture plus specialised elective studies. The course is designed to lay a foundation for a long-term career in horticulture by developing the ability to identify a large range of plants, knowledge of essential horticultural principles and practices and practical skills in plant propagation, growth and care.


There are ten lessons in this course:
1. The Plant Kingdom (part a)
2. The Plant Kingdom (part b)
3. The Plant Kingdom (part c)
4. Plant Propagation
5. Outdoor Food Production
6. Garden Planning
7. The Root Environment and Plant Nutrition
8. Protected Cultivation
9. Horticultural Plant Selection, Establishment and Maintenance
10. Horticultural Plant Health Problems


The average person can complete this to a minimum required level in around 150 hours. Some students may spend longer in preparation for the exams.


  • Demonstrate a broad range of horticultural knowledge; communicate clearly and coherently in writing on horticultural matters; and relate horticultural science to its practical application.
  • Understand the classification of higher plants and appreciate the internal structure of higher plants.
  • Understand the external structure of higher plants
  • Develop an understanding of the principles and main practices of plant propagation in horticulture.
  • Understand the fundamental physiological processes within the plant including photosynthesis, respiration, water movement, pollination, fertilisation, seed formation and germination.
  • Develop an understanding of the principles and main practices of plant propagation in horticulture.
  • Understand basic cultural operations and production methods necessary to obtain outdoor food crops.
  • Understand basic surveying and design principles and apply them to basic garden design and planning requirements.
  • Develop an understanding of the constituents, properties and management of soils and growing media.
  • Develop an understanding of environmental control and plant cultivation in greenhouses and other protected environments.
  • Develop an understanding of plant selection, establishment and maintenance of a range of ornamental plants.
  • Develop an understanding of pest, diseases and weeds that affect horticultural plants, and the cultural, biological, chemical and integrated systems used to control those problems.


On the course you will do the following activities and more:

  • Draw and label a diagram of a plant cell.
  • Draw a diagram showing where active cell division is located within plants.
  • Draw two diagrams (one of a monocotyledon, the other a dicotyledon), showing the external differences between a monocotyledon and a dicotyledon.
  • Identify plants with botanical keys.
  • Dissect two different flowers and identify their parts.
  • Collect and identify different types of fruits.
  • Collect different leaves, draw and describe them.
  • Sow different types of seed, draw and describe the changes occurring to the seed.
  • Try to find as many examples of modified plant parts that you can.
  • Compare different pollination methods
  • Define botanical concepts and terms
  • Develop a crop rotation system for a vegetable garden - submit with your assignment.
  • Visit an orchard and discuss suitable cultivars and root stocks selection, fertilisation, certification schemes available for fruit plants, pests and diseases control, crop production and harvest methods
  • Find articles, plans or real life gardens that represent the following five styles (one garden for each style): formal, informal, productive vegetable and fruit garden, greenhouse or conservatory garden and walled garden (or courtyard).
  • Study and compare different landscapes
  • Identify the soil layers (soil horizons) of the soil profile.
  • Take a soil sample for later analysis.
  • Contact irrigation suppliers and compare irrigation systems.
  • Draw a diagram outlining the carbon and nitrogen cycles.
  • Visit a fertiliser supplier or garden centre and collect/gather information in relation to the various types of fertiliser available.
  • Contact growing structure suppliers and manufacturers, i.e. home greenhouses, conservatories, cloches, and any other growing structures. Collect brochures and catalogues on the products they sell. Try to include information on heating, irrigation, cladding, etc.
  • Visit a commercial greenhouse and take photographs of equipment they use to assist with environmental control including heating, lighting, ventilation, misting or fogging systems.
  • Investigate the type of pots and potting mixes available in the market.
  • Investigate the current legislation in your area regarding the approved use of chemicals for the control of fungi, pests and bacteria and legislation in relation to runoff and other environmental factors associated with greenhouse production.
  • Investigate the health and safety issues and risk associated with greenhouse production.
  • Research a range of plants suited to greenhouse growing or those that start their life in a greenhouse.
  • Compile the list of plants above; include the botanical name, description including flowering time, propagation techniques, potting, feeding, watering trimming/pruning/deadheading, tying/staking, harvesting, cultural requirements for each plant, and any associated pest and disease problems.
  • Interview a local horticulturist, landscape contractor, nursery person or garden designer regarding the selection and establishment of plants in your local area.
  • Find and identify 15 weed species growing in your locality.
  • Research the pests and diseases that commonly attack plants
  • Investigate the chemical, cultural and biological control methods used to control those pest and diseases in your locality.
  • Research two examples of IPM successfully implemented to protect crops in your region or country.
  • Find six plants with significant health problems. For each plant, conduct a plant inspection and attempt to diagnose the cause(s).

EXAMS:  2 Exams

How to Prune Plants
Pruning is something that we need to do for a variety of reasons, and the best way to prune plants varies from place to place. Some plants need to be pruned to keep them healthy and vigorous; others need pruning to improve flowering and fruiting.
Many plants can grow quite happily without needing to be pruned unless they get out of hand or develop disease. If a plant is too big for the position it is grown in, it may make more sense to replace it with a smaller-growing plant, rather than constantly cutting it back.
  • Use sharp tools ….don’t bruise or tear plant tissues with rusty, blunt secateurs or loppers.
  • Bypass secateurs are better than anvil type ones that tend to bruise the plant.
  • Whenever you remove a part of a plant, make the cut just above or as near as possible to a bud.
  • First remove weak, dead or diseased tissues.
  • Next remove anything growing in the wrong place (eg. making the plant look an awkward shape, or perhaps growing over a path or another plant).
  • Finally, prune to encourage or preserve the type of growth that is desired for that plant (eg. if the plant produces flowers or fruit on young wood, cut it hard to stimulate new growth. If it produces on old wood, be sure you retain sufficient older wood).
  • After pruning, feed the plant with a slow release fertiliser (fast acting fertilisers do not achieve much if applied in winter when the plant is dormant).
  • Dip secateurs in methylated spirits and wipe clean after each plant to reduce the spread of disease.
  • Pruning can help to reduce disease outbreaks by removing diseased tissues and by thinning growth to allow air to circulate through the plant.
  • Pruning encourages the plant to “bush up”. Frequent light clipping encourages many new shoots to form, so that the plant has a compact, bushy appearance.
  • Pruning can rejuvenate old, unproductive plants. By cutting back hard into old wood, dormant buds can be forced into growth (but beware that not all plants can tolerate cutting into old wood).
  • Pruning enables you to create a strong tree structure that can better hold large amounts of fruit.
  • Pruning will help to improve fruiting and flowering, eg. pinching off the lead buds on tomatoes and passionfruit will cause the plants to send out bushy side shoots that bear more fruit.
  • Pruning is an enjoyable exercise with immediate results that improve with time. Clippings can be recycled as mulch or ingredients for compost.
  • Don’t prune plants that are cold sensitive during cold weather. Plants like Fuchsias will send out tender new foliage that is susceptible to wind and frost damage if you prune them now.
Sometimes roots need pruning as well. This may be because they are growing into places where they are unwanted; or perhaps some other reason
You may want to promote a more compact root system in preparation for transplanting; or you may want to dampen the vigour of the top growth. When root systems are made smaller (eg. with bonsai), this can help keep the foliage above from getting bigger.
How to root prune:
  • You may root prune when potting up a container plant; or you may dig a trench around an in ground plant to root prune it.
  • First remove outer soil and untangle as much of the root mass as possible. Tease long roots out of the ball and cut them off with pruning shears. You can cut off between one-half to one-third of the roots.
  • For root-bound plants, slice pieces of soil and roots off the edges of the root ball with a sharp knife--about 3cm all around--and make vertical cuts from top to bottom in several places. Then, tease out the remaining roots on the outside of the root ball.
  • Root pruning will shock the plant a bit, so keep it in a low light area for several weeks and water frequently.
 Every plant is different; and in different situations it needs to be pruned in different ways. By studying the fundamentals of horticulture; and plant identification, as you do in this course; you will develop a basis for making properly considered decisions about how to prune what plant, wherever you encounter it.
Rose Pruning
If you want good flowering, roses must be pruned. This is regardless of where you are, but the way you prune them varies from place to place, and depending on the type of rose. Here are some general guidelines for pruning roses:
  • Most people don’t prune roses hard enough. It is difficult to kill them by pruning, but do not cut a grafted rose below the graft.
  • Be careful not to damage the roots. This can cause suckers to shoot.
  • Cut off suckers (shoots emerging from the roots or soil line) cleanly, any time of year.
  • In warmer climates prune less, but more often. You can still cut at least 30% of the foliage off when you prune a rose, virtually wherever you are.
In cold climates (eg. Tasmania, Northern England) prune once a year in late winter.
In milder, temperate climates, a heavy winter prune and light summer prune may be appropriate.
In sub tropical places (eg. South-east Queensland) prune hard, any time of year, removing 50-70% of foliage; and you’ll get a great display of flowers around two months later.
Pruning different types of Roses: 
  • Standard Roses: Standards should be pruned hard early on. Thin out weak and diseased wood. Standards need to have suckers removed and the stem must be kept clean. After establishment, prune to within 1-3 buds of the last season’s growth. In later years, you can then remove about half of the previous season’s growth.
  • Bush Roses: First, remove dead/diseased wood. Then shorten the shoots and branches. Strong shoots can be taken back to a length of 4-6 buds above the last season’s growth. Cut weak shoots back even further. Keep the middle of the bush clear of shoots.
  • Climbing Roses: Climbing roses should only be pruned gently after planting. The branches that you want to climb should be left, unless they are very thin or shrivelled. If there are multiple stems, then cut back until you have 3 or 4 left. In later years, you can cut back old stems to allow new, healthy ones to replace them.
  • Carpet (Groundcover) Roses: Thin foliage but don’t reduce the overall spread (unless the plants are encroaching on paths or other plants). The aim is to increase ventilation and encourage new shoots
Wisteria Pruning
Wisteria should be pruned immediately after flowering in spring. Cut back the current year’s side growth to about 15 cm. Also cut back over vigorous tendrils in summer.
How to Prune Lavender
Lavender will become spindly and bare if it’s not pruned enough. The trick with lavender is to prune often, starting when the plants are small. Tip prune small plants with secateurs to encourage a dense, compact shape. When the plants are established, cut them back with hedge shears after flowering to around 1/3 of their size.
In cold areas, wait until the new growth starts in late winter or early spring to shear the plants (autumn pruning may stimulate new shoots that are susceptible to cold damage).
Don’t cut back into old, leafless wood – the shoots won’t regrow; and don’t prune when the flowers are forming.
Bamboo Pruning
Bamboo hardly needs any pruning. Removing dead wood can actually remove the plant’s natural support, which is important during extreme wind, rain, snow etc. If you want to limit the growth of a bamboo, simply stamp firmly on new shoots coming up through the ground. This will prevent them from growing and keep your bamboo a bit smaller.
Prune Summer-Flowering Shrubs and Trees in Winter
Summer-flowering plants such as hydrangeas, crepe myrtles, tibouchina and hibiscus, produce their flowers on the current season’s wood (ie. stems produced after winter). Pruning these plants in winter encourages new buds and growth. In cold areas, wait until the frosts have finished before pruning.



 A qualification isn't actually the most important thing - the knowledge you have gained (and retained) and your attitude and passion for the work is much more important. A qualification  will of course help you get a foot in a potential employer's door, but if i during a job interview you can demonstrate your skills, knowledge and passion, you are much more likely to get a job than someone who has (for example) a diploma but hasn't retained enough of their knowledge to recall it when needed.

What are the key elements for getting ahead in horticulture?

  • Passion for the work - a person who is passionate about their work is much more likely to take the time to learn about it and to be good at their work.
  • Keep abreast of new developments - things change rapidly and this also applies to horticulture; do a bit of research each week to see what is new and where your industry is heading, attend seminars, garden shows, trade exhibitions and so on.
  • Networking - 'who you know' is just as important as 'what you know'. If you network it makes people aware of you and this is a proven way to capture good opportunities and develop your career.
  • Do a course of study which will give you expertise rather than give you a 'piece of paper'. Not all courses are equal, some only tick you off against a set of known parameters (competencies). ACS courses concentrate of developing your knowledge but also, more importantly, your problem solving skills. The work place is inundated with 'problems' both small and large each and evey day - most management skills are centred around finding solutions to those problems. If you can demonstrate your problem solving skills every day in your work place, you are far better placed to be noticed and advance in your career.
  • Be a good communicator - this applies to all types of communications skills for example: know how you speak to people - use a respectful and confident approach at all times with all people whether your peers, your supervisors your employers, your staff or your customers. Good writing skills are also important; in daily worklife you will almost certainly be asked to produce some sort of written work at some time and to get ahead (e.g. a management role) you  need to have good writing skills. Have a great telephone manner - we all love people that know how to speak on the phone e.g. that are a bit upbeat in their approach, use respectful terms, use your name, say please and thank you and always use a professional approach.
  • Know how to use technology - all workplaces expect you to be able to know your way around a computer, you don't have to be the world's fastest typist, but you should know how to use basic programs such as word and exel and be able to do internet searches.
  • Be well presented -  in horticulture this can be difficult and it is easy to fall into the trap 'oh well I am only going to get dirty anyway'. You don't need to be a fashion tragic, but your clothes should be clean and well presented at least at the start of the day, even if you work in an industry sector that will ensure you get dirty by the end of the day! Nobody will notice you if you turn up scruffy every day - but they will if you look bright, sharp and clean at the start of every day! Good presentation is even more important if you are client facing - this not also includes your clothes but also grooming.
  • Develop your efficiency skills - the horticulture industry is built on efficiency - for example an efficient propagator can prepare 300 or more cuttings in an hour! Efficiency isn't all about how fast you can do things though - it is knowing how to use the best methods, do them in a logical order to get the best possible result. This goes back to problem solving skills - if you have well developed problem solving skills you are also more likely to be a good organiser, to understand logical sequences of work and to be able to apply this towards efficient work practices.

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Adriana has worked in horticulture since the 1980's. She has lived what she preaches - developing large gardens and growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs and making her own preserves.
In 1992 she formalised her training by graduating with a certif

Diana Cole

Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Permaculture Design Certificate, B.A. (Hons)-Geography, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development
Diana has been an enthusiastic volunteer with community garden and land conservation projects sinc

Gavin Cole (Horticulturist)

Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. I

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