Course CodeBHT112
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment
Learn to grow Horticultural Crops in the Open Ground
  • Large scale Commercial Production
  • Small scale as a supplementary income or for your own 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, broad acre, 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
    • Bramble berries
    • 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
    • Pistacio
    • 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

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.


  • 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 suits 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 aluminium 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 silver beet. 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 over feed
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 favourable.
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 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.

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.
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.
Maggi BrownMaggi is the classic UK "plantswoman". She can identify thousands of plants, and maintains her own homes and gardens in the Cotswolds (England), and near Beziers (in Southern France). Maggi is regarded as a leading organics expert across the UK, having worked for 20 years as Education Officer at the "Garden Organic" (formerly HDRA). Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS, Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Rosemary Davies 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 Department of Agriculture in Victoria providing advice to the public. Over the years she has taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer. She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe. In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has completed her 6th book this year and is working on concepts for several others. Rosemary has a B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing

Check out our eBooks

Farm ManagementThis new e-book looks at everything you need to improve your farm management skills. Learn about the farm site, production systems, managing livestock, managing pasture, crops, marketing and more.
Fruit, Vegetables and HerbsHome grown produce somehow has a special quality. Some say it tastes better, others believe it is just healthier. And there is no doubt it is cheaper! Watching plants grow from seed to harvest and knowing that the armful of vegies and herbs you have just gathered for the evening meal will be on the table within an hour or two of harvest, can be an exciting and satisfying experience.
Plant Pests & DiseasesAre you one of those people that kill every plant you touch? Perhaps it's not you. Perhaps it's a pest or disease. A little bit of reading might just turn your garden into an oasis. Learn how to identify pests and diseases and bring the spring back into your plant...visit the bookshop to find out more...
Profitable FarmingDiscover new ways to make money from your farm and broaden your perspective on the farming industry. A few things in life are certain; change is inevitable and people need to eat. Learn to embrace change as an opportunity and improve your ability to forge a sustainable career in farming.



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