An advanced course for landscapers wishing to build on basic trade level training.

Course Code: BHT242
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn How to Plan Garden Construction Work

Develop an in-depth understanding of the principles and procedures for all aspects of planning for development of a hard landscape; including: site assessment, plan drawing, plan interpretation, project specification and construction planning.

  • It assumes a foundation knowledge of landscape and horticultural management.

  • It is a valuable study program for even those who have worked in landscaping for some time, but who seek a deeper and broader knowledge of garden renovation.

  • This course has been developed by professionals in both Australia and the UK, with the aim of being relevant throughout the world.

Every site has a unique set of micro climatic and soil conditions. Other factors such as the site's exposure to traffic, pests and disease, will also be unique.

All of these things are relatively uncontrollable; although the way the landscape is designed will impact on these characteristics as well. 


  • Planting large plants can modify existing microclimates by buffering temperature fluctuations, changing light intensities etc.
  • Changing contours can alter soil temperatures, soil moisture, exposure to light, as well as drainage patterns, etc.
  • Treatments of surfaces can change drainage characteristics, soil conditions,
  • Buildings, drainage pipes, services (electricity, gas etc)can be affected by the nature and type of landscape treatment

Some styles of landscape are going to cause greater changes to a landscape than others.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Site Appraisal, Interpretation and Risk Assessment
    • Scope and Nature of Site Survey
    • Prior Site Use
    • Tree Data
    • Tree Impact and Suitability
    • Building Construction Data, etc
    • Chid Proofing a Garden
    • Managing Slippery Surfaces
    • Risk Assessment of a Landscape Construction Site
    • Keeping a Work Site Safe
  2. Preparing Site Plans and Specifications
    • Base Plan
    • Topographic Plan
    • Design Drawing
    • Different Types of Lines
    • How Much Detail in a Plan
    • Completed Designs
  3. Influence of Site Characteristics
    • Introduction
    • High Impact Site Changes
    • Creating User Friendly Gardens
    • Providing Shade
    • Understanding the Sun's Path and changing effects
    • Determining Shadow length
    • Making a Garden Warmer
    • Paths
    • Garden Features
    • Entries, Exits, Gateways
    • Fragrant Plants
    • Focal Points
    • Types of Gardens
    • Dry Gardens
    • Extending a Garden's Potential
  4. The Use of Hard Landscape Features
    • Hard Surfacing
    • Laying Pavers
    • Concrete Use
    • Pebble Gardens
    • Fences
    • Inexpensive Fencing
    • Rockeries
    • Stone Walls
    • Planning for Children's Play Provision
  5. Setting out a Site to Scale Plans and Drawings
    • Plans
    • Survey Techniques
  6. Soil Handling and Storage
    • Excavation
    • Changing Levels
    • Slope Stability
    • Soil Types
    • Foundations
    • Maintaining Vegetation for Soil Stability
    • Developing a Grading Plan Grading and Filling Operations
    • Earthmoving Equipment and Operators
    • Cost of Earthworks
  7. Land Drainage Systems
    • How Much Drainage is Needed
    • Solving Drainage Problems
    • Creating a Drain Pit
    • Draining Turf
    • Springs and Underground Water
    • Sub Surface Draining
    • Rainwater Harvesting and Storage
    • Bore Water
    • Grey Water
    • Diverting Storm Water
    • Water Quality
  8. Ground Preparation Techniques
    • Working Soil
    • Cultivation Equipment
    • Making Garden Beds
    • Raised Beds
    • Sunken Gardens
    • No Dig Beds
    • Earthmoving
    • Buying Soils
    • Changing Ground Shape
  9. Construction of Paths and Patios
    • Paths
    • Soft and Hard Paths
    • Load Bearing Capacity
    • Paving
    • The Effect of Paving Design
    • Paving on a Slope
    • Paving Maintenance
    • Verandahs
    • Timber Decks
    • Decking Materials
    • Hand rails and Balustrades
    • Steps
    • Decking Round Pools
    • Paints and Stains
    • Heavy Work: Lifting with machines or without
  10. Construction of Steps, Ramps, Dwarf Walls and Fences
    • Changing levels
    • Steps
    • Ramps
    • Railings
    • Retaining Walls
    • Types of Retaining Walls
    • Building a Brick Wall
    • Dry Stone Walls
    • Rendering Walls
    • Wet Walls
    • Fencing and Fencing Materials


  • Explain how to conduct a site appraisal and interpret the results.
  • Conduct risk assessments associated with planning layout and construction of ornamental gardens
  • Produce and interpret site plans and specifications using basic survey measurements.
  • Explain how site characteristics may influence choice of garden design style.
  • Evaluate and explain the contribution made by hard landscape features to design and function
  • Describe the practical procedures for setting out a site to scale plans and drawings.
  • Describe and explain the reasons for correct soil moving and storage during construction works.
  • Explain the factors which determine the design and specification of land drainage systems and describe procedures for setting out and installing land drainage.
  • Explain requirements for a range of ground preparation techniques for different landscape features.
  • Specify a range of materials and outline procedures for construction of paths and patios.
  • Specify a range of materials and outline procedures for construction of Steps, Ramps, Dwarf Walls and Fences

Tips for Managing and Manipulating Soils on a Landscape Project

Changing levels and preparing the ground for a garden development requires proper and appropriate movement of soil; and very often, storage and reinstatement of stored earth after construction work.

There are many things that can go wrong during such work.
  • Once earth is disturbed it becomes more vulnerable to erosion (rain, wind etc).
  • The unexpected may be unearthed (eg. rock, dead tree roots, pipes or cables, even human remains or archaeological remains. These and other things can add costs to, delay, or force changes to a project)
  • The ease of excavation can change if preceded by excessive dry or wet periods.
  • Underground streams may be encountered in deeper excavation
  • Water or gas (or cables) may be accidentally cut delaying work).

Excavation needs to be clearly planned to minimize these and other unforeseen and unbudgeted costs.
  • Access to the site: The best machinery might be large. Do roadways support such machines (without causing damage); will neighbours allow access?
  • Clearing can be costly and time consuming. Removing existing vegetation with a bulldozer might only be part of the job. Burning it might be illegal, or a slow costly process. Composting or chipping it can take time. You may be able to dump it at a tip, but there may be fees involved; or tipping might not be allowed.
  • Having a place to store any earth that will be re used, and how it might be stored (eg. storing on a slope may be unsustainable - it could wash away in the first rain) 
  • Processing any earth before re use (eg. removing tree roots, rock etc)
  • Keeping excavated top soil and sub soil separate.

Another factor is the degree to which original soil is compacted.
Soil being excavated from a disused construction site or parking lot may be harder to dig, and could create more volume after excavation (per cu. metre) than soil taken from virgin forest or farmland.
When calculating cut and fill volume, allow 5 to 10% less cut volume than fill volume for sites where you are excavating out compacted soil.
Similarly, if the soil is being compacted after filling (eg. an area being prepared for paving or a road), you should allow 15-20% more cut in order to get the desired quantity of fill.

Slope Stability
Whether being stored for later use; or being moved to a permanent location, slope is critical to the stability of earth. Consider:
  • Steep slopes are unstable unless held in position by a wall or something else.
  • Plant cover can improve the stability of a slope, but not completely.
  • A properly constructed wall is the only way to permanently retain a very steep slope.
  • Some soil types will hold together with a steeper slope than others.

Benefits of Studying This Course

  • Learn how to organise a range of garden landscaping projects.
  • Find out how to undertake earthworks, prepare drainage systems, and make garden beds.
  • Discover how to plan and set out different hard landscape features like steps, walls, and paving.
  • Become prepared for all sorts of hard landscaping jobs.
  • Use what you learn to establish your own landscaping business, add to your existing skills, or expand your employment possibilities.

Career Opportunities

  • Landscape gardener
  • Garden designer
  • Gardener
  • Builder
  • Self-employment
  • Small business
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Our principal John Mason is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

Alternative Technology Association Member

Accredited ACS Global Partner

ACS Distance Education is a member of the Australian Garden Council, Our Principal John Mason is a board member of the Australian Garden Council

Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow. ACS certificate students are offered a free membership for this leading professional body.Provider.

Member of Study Gold Coast

Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (UK)

Principal John Mason is a member of Parks and Leisure Australia since 1974 and a fellow since 1998

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

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

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

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

Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has

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