Learn to grow horticultural crops outdoors in unprotected environments; covers trees, fruits, berries, vegetables and more. Study online.

Course Code: BHT112
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to grow Horticultural Crops in the Open Ground

Discover growing methods for a wide range of different types of crops from nursery plants and trees to nuts, vegetables, fruits and cut flowers.

See how soil is related to production yield and quality, how organic methods can be applied to any crop and which types of systems are better suited to particular crops.

Apply what you learn

What you learn here is flexible. It can be applied to:
  • Large scale commercial production
  • Small scale operations as a supplementary income or for home use
This course is a very extensive and relatively in depth overview for people who either work on a farm or are very serious about becoming more productive on their own property.
Student comment (M.Simpson):
"This course has been excellent.... I would be willing to recommend this course to any of my friends and colleagues"

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Crop Production Systems
    • Scope and nature of horticultural crops
    • Reasons for growing; subsistence or for market
    • Developing reliable resource information
    • Types of Cropping –row cropping, broadacre, hydroponics, container growing, etc
    • Monoculture vs Polyculture
    • Citrus
    • Berry Fruits
    • Nuts
    • Vines
    • Pome Fruits
    • Stone Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Cut Flowers
    • Nursery Crops
    • Fibres
    • Oils Seeds
    • Other Crops
    • Review of six different crops
  2. Organic Production of Crops
    • Defining organics
    • Organic certification systems
    • Organic culture techniques
    • Composting
    • Factors that affect Nitrogen release from organic sources
    • Mycorrhizae affect on plants
    • Non mycorrhizal plants
    • Crop rotation
    • Using Legumes for soil improvement –nitrogen fixation
    • Rhizobium bacteria
    • Review of six different crops
  3. Soils and Nutrition
    • Understanding soil composition and structure
    • Soil structure –types of particles (gravel, sand, silt, colloids)
    • Peds
    • Water and Air
    • Soil Temperature
    • Soil Life –earthworms, bacteria, mycorrhizae
    • Improving soils
    • Sampling soils for testing
    • Naming a soil type
    • Soil problems
    • Loss of soil fertility –causes, implications, control
    • Erosion–causes, implications, control
    • Salinity –causes, implications, control
    • Soil compaction –causes, implications, control
    • Soil acidification –causes, implications, control
    • Build up of dangerous chemicals –causes, implications, control
    • Increasing organic matter
    • Phytotoxicity
    • Adding non organic materials to soil –lime, sulphur, gypsum, etc
    • Cation exchange capacity
    • Ph –acidity and alkalinity
    • Nutrient availability
    • Conductivity
    • Salinity
    • Plant Nutrition
    • Choosing a fertiliser
    • Total salts
    • Diagnosis of nutrient problems
    • Natural Fertilisers
    • Manures
    • Blood and bone
    • Rock dusts
    • Seaweed
    • Review of six different crops
  4. Producing Nursery Plants
    • Container or Field Growing
    • The Process -Propagation, Transplanting, Growing on, Marketing
    • Growing in containers
    • In ground nursery production
    • Propagation in the nursery –seed, cuttings
    • Potting up methods -manual and mechanical
    • Choosing cultivars to grow and how to grow.
    • Nursery Standards
    • Cost Efficiencies
    • Quality control
    • Starting a production nursery
    • Revamping an existing nursery
    • Scope and nature of different plant products
    • Review of six different crops
  5. Orchard Fruit Production
    • Scope of tree fruits –deciduous and evergreen
    • Site selection for an orchard or plantation
    • Rootstocks
    • Field preparation
    • Production and training systems
    • Understanding Pollination
    • Understanding chilling requirements
    • Grading the harvest
    • Mechanised grading
    • Grading in different countries
    • Post harvest handling equipment
    • Review of six different crops
  6. Soft Fruits Production
    • Scope –berries, bush and vines.
    • Growing grapes
    • Selecting a site for grapes
    • Climatic effects on grapes
    • Harvesting and marketing grape production
    • Strawberry Production
    • Where to plant strawberries
    • Grading soft fruits
    • Strawberry growing
    • Raspberries
    • Chinese Gooseberries (Kiwi Fruit)
    • Cape Gooseberry
    • Gooseberry
    • Mulberry
    • Blueberry
    • Elderberry
    • Currants
    • Cranberry
    • Brambleberries
    • Review of six different crops
  7. Vegetable Production
    • Groupings of vegetables –brassicas, root and bulb crops, leaf and stem crops, cucurbits, fruit crops, etc
    • Factors affecting production
    • Planting methods –direct seeding, seedlings, crowns, tubers, offsets, etc
    • Seed sources –hybrid seed, collecting seed, etc
    • Storing seed
    • Sowing seed outdoors and under cover
    • Transplanting seedlings
    • Choosing what to grow & buy
    • Review and comparison of around 40 different types of vegetables
    • Mushroom production
    • Harvesting and grading vegetables
    • Review of six different crops
  8. Cut Flower Production
    • Types of cut flower production
    • Flower harvest and Storage
    • Grading and flower standards
    • Alstroemeria
    • Antirrhinum
    • Amaryllis
    • Anigozanthus
    • Aster
    • Carnation
    • Chrysanthemum
    • Dahlia
    • Freesia
    • Gerbera
    • Gladiolus
    • Iris
    • Narcissus
    • Orchids
    • Roses
    • Stocks
    • Review of six different crops
  9. Herbs, Nut and Miscellaneous Crop Production
    • Herb culture
    • How herbs are propagated
    • Review of significant herb species
    • Harvesting herbs
    • Nut Growing
    • Significant nut crops
    • Walnut production
    • Chestnuts
    • Almonds
    • Peanuts
    • Macadamias
    • Pecan
    • Hazelnut
    • Filbert
    • Pistachio
    • Cashew
    • Review of six different crops
  10. Crop Production Risk Assessment
    • Assessing workplace safety factors
    • Duty of care
    • Employer duties
    • Employee duties
    • Manufacturer duties
    • Duties of visitors or anyone else
    • Protective clothing
    • Sunscreen
    • Tool and equipment safety
    • Safety using electricity
    • Maintenance of tools and equipment
    • Harvest and storage risk
    • Review of six different crops


  • Explain different cropping systems and their appropriate application for the production of different types of crops.
  • Evaluate and explain organic plant production, and the requirements in at least two different countries, to achieve organic certification.
  • Explain the function of soils and plant nutrition in outdoor cropping systems.
  • Describe the commercial production of a range of nursery stock.
  • Describe the commercial production of a range of tree fruit crops.
  • Explain techniques used to produce a range of soft fruits.
  • Explain techniques used to grow a range of vegetables.
  • Explain the commercial production of outdoor-grown cut flowers.
  • Describe the commercial production of herbs, nuts and other miscellaneous crops.
  • Identify the risks that may occur in outdoor crop production.

Tips for Organic Vegetable Growing
 A range of growing methods is used in organic vegetable production:

Feed the soil not the plants
Plants obtain nutrients from the soil. When plants are fed constantly with soluble fertilisers they may grow quite well, but we are not improving the soil. In fact, the opposite often occurs, with a build-up of salts leading to damage of the soil’s structure.  When plants are grown in this manner the soil is really only being used as a medium to hold the plant in place - similar to hydroponics. When we add well decomposed organic matter i.e. animal manures and compost to the soil we are feeding the soil – improving the structure and the fertility - plants can then access the nutrients they require for healthy growth from the soil.

Choose the right plant for the right place
Plants grow best when they are grown in the situation and soil conditions that suit them best; prevalent conditions should be altered as little as possible to suit the plant.  This may seem like common sense but is one of the most common reasons why plants don’t thrive or die.  Therefore plants that require acid soils should be grown in acid soil, lime lovers should be planted in alkaline soils, shade lovers in the shade and sun lovers in the sun.  Using this approach helps to protect the soil from damage through overuse of soil ameliorants such as lime (to raise pH) or aluminum sulphate (to lower pH). However, some cultural techniques such as the constant addition of organic matter in the form of compost, animal manures and mulch, can over time tend to acidify the soil. This is often unavoidable, particularly in vegetable growing areas. Soil ameliorants such as dolomite (for example) will then need to be used to raise the pH from time to time.
Keep plants growing vigorously
Well prepared soil before planting, regular application of compost teas, organic fertiliser and managing soil moisture levels will all encourage plant growth and help reduce plant stress. However annual vegetables grow rapidly and use a lot of soil nutrients, the compost you incorporated in your initial bed preparation may not be released fast enough to keep up with the plant's capacity to grow. To overcome this - top-dress the soil with a suitable organic fertiliser. Plant leaves absorb nutrients very quickly and therefore applying foliar plant food is an ideal way to boost plant growth, particularly for leafy crops such as lettuce, cabbage, cauliflowers, and silverbeet. Spacing is also important in plant growth and root spread. Small seedlings planted too close together will result in less than satisfactory growth, even with good soil preparation; plants starved for space and light will rarely produce a good crop. Over-crowding will also reduce ventilation around the plants, making them more susceptible to disease problems, such as mildews.

Don’t overfeed
Overfeeding can lead to as many problems as underfeeding. Overfeeding produces lush green growth with sappy lax stems. This type of growth encourages insect attack and also tends to collapse during hot conditions.

Plant when conditions are favorable.
Planting too early, before the soil has warmed up for example, will check plant growth, may delay fruiting, may reduce the harvest and encourage insect attack. Planting out of season also creates problems – Asian cabbage planted during the hotter months for example tends to run to seed, lettuce seed won’t germinate in conditions over 30 degrees etc.  

Mulching will help control weeds and prevent erosion of the soil from around the crop roots, reduces water need and helps provide nutrients. Mulch also increases the soil population of beneficial organisms such as earthworms. Mulch material should not have direct contact with the stems, etc. of the vegetables, as this may result in pest and disease problems e.g. stem or collar rots.

Control Pests and Diseases Promptly
Regular inspection of your vegetables is a must. The early sighting of pest and disease problems can prompt early action and control with appropriate natural control methods.


Opportunities After Study

This course can be used as part of a larger qualification or studied by itself. It will be of benefit to people who wish to start up a market garden business or for those wishing to gain employment in farming enterprises. It is suited to:

Market gardeners



Hobby farmers

Business entrepreneurs


Course Contributors

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

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences.
Initially she worked with the Depart

John Mason (Horticulturist)

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 edito

Bob James (Horticulturist)

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 Maste

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