Course CodeVHT028
Fee CodeAD
Duration (approx)2500 hours
QualificationAdvanced Diploma

How to Become a Horticultural Manager

Some managers are born into the job (eg. They inherit the family business); some build a business from scratch, and others are employed as managers. Whatever path they take, a manager doesn't succeed and stay in a job unless they have the capacity to do the job and do it well.

A course like this is often the first step; and despite being a huge commitment, it will lay a far better foundation than shorter courses, and vastly increase your chances of sustaining a long term career.
This course recognises that knowledge alone is not enough to succeed. It aims to:

  • Provide a bank of horticultural knowledge and skills.
  • Build your awareness of the horticulture industry, locally, regionally and internationally.
  • Develop a network of contacts within the industry.
  • Increase your ability to think laterally and solve problems in horticulture.

Horticulture is an industry that is continually moving through peaks and troughs. Changes in seasons, development booms and government policies can all impact on this industry, making one sector (eg. nursery, crop production or landscape) boom while another sector declines. A successful manager will always have a capacity to adapt through these boom and bust periods, moving from a low sector to a high sector as the occasion demands. This diploma has a distinct advantage over some more specialised courses in that it provides the broadest foundation, preparing you to work in any sector of this industry.

Course Structure

Stage 1 Core Studies

The following six modules are undertaken first as a foundation for further studies:

  • Horticulture I
  • Horticulture II
  • Horticulture III
  • Plant Selection & Establishment
  • Outdoor Plant Production
  • Garden Maintenance

Exemption is granted for this stage to anyone who has the following:

  • Any Certificate or Advanced Certificate from ACS
  • Horticultural studies of 600 hrs or more class contact duration from another approved institution (Approved institutions include universities, IARC recognized institutions, institutions with a teaching approach that have a strong emphasis upon foundation science and plant knowledge)

Note: Modules from either stages II & III may be undertaken after stage I is complete.

Stage II Electives

Ten modules chosen from the following:

  • Organic Plant Culture
  • Permaculture Systems
  • Engineering Applications
  • Plant Protection
  • Amenity Horticulture I
  • Amenity Horticulture II
  • Turf Care
  • Sports Turf Management
  • Turf Repair and Renovation
  • Arboriculture I
  • Arboriculture II
  • Trees for Rehabilitation
  • Landscaping I, II, III
  • Planning Layout & Construction of Ornamental Gardens
  • Restoring Established Ornamental Gardens
  • Propagation I
  • Cutting Propagation
  • Wholesale Nursery Management
  • Garden Centre Management
  • Cut Flower Production
  • Cut Flower Bulbs
  • Cut Flower Orchids
  • Greenhouse Cut Flowers
  • Hydroponics I
  • Hydroponic Management
  • Commercial Vegetable Production
  • Protected Plant Production
  • Fruit Production
  • Viticulture
  • Berry Production
  • Herb Culture

Other options may be considered, though the above are generally considered the better options for this particular course.

Stage III Compulsory Modules

The following should all be completed

  • Horticultural Resource Management
  • Machinery and Equipment (Engineering I)
  • Project Management
  • Horticultural Marketing
  • Operational Business Management I
  • Operational Business Management II
  • Horticultural Research I
  • Horticultural Research II
  • Industry Meetings or Workshop I (Note: This can be completed without difficulty anywhere in the world).




Horticulture I

There are twelve lessons in this course, as follows:

  1. Plant Identification
  2. Planting
  3. Soils
  4. Nutrition
  5. Water Management
  6. Pruning
  7. Weeds
  8. Pests and Diseases
  9. Landscaping
  10. Propagation
  11. Lawns
  12. Arboriculture

Horticulture II

The content of each of the ten lessons is outlined below:

  1. The Groups of Plants
  2. Use of Plants
  3. Australian Native Plants
  4. Exotic Ornamental Plants
  5. Indoor & Tropical Plants
  6. Bedding Plants
  7. Vegetables
  8. Fruits, Nuts & Berries
  9. Herbs
  10.  Alternative Growing Techniques

Horticulture III (Plant Health)

There are ten lessons in this module, as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of Preventative Controls
  3. Insecticides
  4. Other Pesticides
  5. Spray Equipment
  6. Insect Biology
  7. Fungal Biology
  8. Environmental Problems
  9. Viruses
  10. Nematodes, Molluscs and Crustaceans



-something every manager needs to consider.

Every job begins with a quote. The gardener or landscaper must look at the site, discuss what is needed with the owner, and then propose what work he might do and what price he might charge. At this point, there are lots of variables (e.g. when will the job be done, and to what standard?). Every one of these variables must be considered and made 100% clear before any work commences. Unless this is done, there are likely to be costly disputes later on.

It is also important to get to know your client. There are different types of clients, some are easy to work for, and others can be difficult; and a difficult client can cost you more in time, labour and materials than an easy client does.

  • Some clients are simply looking for an inexpensive job.
  • Some are pedantic or fussy, wanting to discuss every fine detail of the job with you repeatedly.
  • Some have very definite ideas of what they want, and will not change their idea, even if it is an impractical one.
  • Some are very poor communicators.
  • Some change their minds about what they want as the work proceeds.
  • Some are domineering or condescending, perhaps showing little regard for your knowledge and experience.
  • Some are genuinely seeking advice.

Remember: You may be better to miss getting a job than you might have been if you took on a job with a difficult client who ended up costing you valuable time and money, as well as creating a lot of stress.

Be wary of the following errors:

  • Giving a quote based on a gut feeling rather than real figures.
  • Not writing down all costs systematically.
  • Basing the quote on an overly optimistic scenario.
  • Not covering obscure costs such as advertising, taxes, superannuation, loss of work due to wet weather, etc.
  • Basing the quote on only wages and not including profit in the quote.
  • Not allowing for any contingencies (e.g. increased materials costs, damage by storms, etc).
  • Giving a quote only verbally and having nothing to refer to if there is a dispute.
  • Leaving ambiguities in the contract so it is uncertain who is to pay for some things (e.g. does the client or contractor pay for removing rubbish, and for after care of plants?).
  • Skill problems (e.g. quoting on a large costly project before developing appropriate skills to implement and carry through the project).
  • Liquidity problems.
  • Depending too heavily on one client (or type of client).
  • Lack of contingencies.


You need to know how to determine costs and charges for your work. There are several things to be considered when you set a level of fees which you will charge for work:

1) Materials
Includes such things as chemical sprays, fertiliser, lawn seed, ties and stakes, soil conditioners, landscaping materials (e.g. rocks, railway sleepers, fencing materials, pavers etc), soil, plants, and so on. Be sure of your costs. Just because railway sleepers cost you so much the last time you bought some, perhaps only a couple of weeks ago - don't assume they will cost the same when you go to buy them for the current job you are quoting for.

Ring around your suppliers and check current prices, and ask also if there are likely to be any price increases forthcoming. Do not forget minor costs. Anything you provide should be charged for.

2) Equipment Costs
Includes small and large tools and equipment such as rakes, secateurs, wheelbarrows, lawn mowers, chainsaws, tractors, and so forth. Use of your vehicle to and from the job, and for any errands or deliveries, should also be accounted for. Include car, truck, trailer, any road equipment you need for the particular job.

Costs can be calculated on an hourly charge rate or a per kilometre rate.  It is usually easier to run on-the-job equipment at an hourly rate, while it may be easier to calculate road equipment on a per kilometre basis.  For those items you will be using on the job, you may use similar charge rates set down by an equipment hire business as a guide. However, even if you do use a similar rate, it is best to calculate your own real cost to ensure you are getting reimbursed for the full cost to you.

A hire rate can be based upon your estimated lifespan of the tool or equipment. For example, you may have a piece of equipment, say a lawn mower, that you expect to last     in use for 1 year.  The lifespan for that piece of equipment is 2000 hours if it is in use 40 hours a week for a year, or 1000 hours if it is in use half of the time, etc.  Divide the cost of replacing the machine by the lifespan hours. So, if a replacement mower will cost you $700.00, and you intend to use the machine for 2000 hours, the hourly rate for machine alone is $0.35. In addition to this, you must include a charge for fuel and maintenance.  So, you must determine approximately how much fuel you need to run the machine for the hour, plus maintenance costs for the year.  In this exercise, we will allow $500 for maintenance for the year, divided by the 2000 working hours, which is $0.25.  Finally, if the machine needs 1 litre of fuel per hour, at say $1.40 per litre, then the total hourly cost to hire or use the lawn mower is $2.00 ($0.35 + $0.25 + $1.40).

Road vehicle travel can be calculated in the same manner, or you can use a per  kilometre rate.  The tax department has a schedule rate for cars, based on their engine capacity, and this can be used as a guide.  Don't forget to include the cost of running a trailer and the effect this may have on your actual fuel and mileage costs.  This will give you the 'charge out' rate.

3) Insurance Costs
Insurance adds a high cost to running a business. At the very least, all businesses should carry public liability, to ensure that any accidents that occur on the job do not spell the end of the business. If you are employing staff, there will be workers compensation insurance, but this will be considered as part of the wage.
Other types of insurance including vehicle (which can be included in your car on-road costs), contents insurance for the business premises (including rates if you own the property), loss of work for yourself, etc. 

4) Wages
This is the part of your fee which is going to be paid to the person who does the work, whether that person is you or someone else who you employ. This can range from $10 per hour for someone new and inexperienced in the industry, to $30 for someone qualified, experienced and with a good reputation. 

Wages costs should include all costs of having the employee on the job. This will include workers compensation insurance, superannuation (pension) contributions and tax to be paid. Provision should also be made for leave and sickness entitlements, cost of training, and any necessary safety equipment and work clothing you provide. If you are employing someone, you need to register and pay for them.  Or, you may choose to employ staff as sub-contractors.  Sub-contractors will normally command a higher rate, as superannuation and tax charges will be paid by them directly.  A minimum of 25% over the wage rate should be expected for sub-contractor rates. If you work alone, you need to put aside 25-30% of your wages towards tax (this percentage will vary from country to country), which is normally paid in a lump sum during the year.

5) Administration Overheads
There are numerous other costs which a business will incur and should be passed on to the customer.  These include:

  • The cost of preparing a bill, posting it out, waiting for payment and processing payment when it comes. This includes stationary, postage, labour and possibly collection costs.
  • The cost of advertising - this is usually no more than 5% of your annual turnover, although you may find the cost higher in the first year, until your reputation and clientele are more established.
  • The cost of printing stationary, business cards, etc for everyday use, such as for quotes, planning, etc. The time spent preparing quotations - you may choose to give free quotes, or you may elect to charge for a quote and deduct that fee from the cost of the final job. Regardless of how you approach the quote, the cost of it should be factored in as an administrative overhead.
  • The cost of running an office - this includes items such as telephone, utilities, office rent, office furnishings.  You should charge for the use of space or office, even if it is a home office. Many people believe that, if they own the buildings, then they can charge less to the customer. However, if you were not using the space for your own business you would be using it for something else that would likely earn income, such as renting out the space, or having a smaller mortgage because without the need for the office and storage space, you could be comfortable in a smaller home.  Having a business space, even if you own it, is an expense to you and must be included in your costs.

6) Profit
This is what is left after all other things have been paid for.

You should try to make a minimum of 10% over your costs on each job.  Keep in mind that you have to remain competitive, but working without profit is work not worth doing.
You may find early in the business that you are not making the profit you would like, for instance costs may be greater than what you first anticipated.  However, strive to keep that profit margin on all costing, so that money is on hand to cover extra costs and to put back into the business to allow it to grow.

Note: If you are not making a profit - just making enough to cover your wages and other costs, then you might be better off working for someone else (less risk to you), and investing any money you would otherwise invest in your own business elsewhere. This way you will at least make some additional profit from your investment.

The first year is always the hardest, as you want to cost your jobs at a competitive rate while still achieving a profit to reinvest and allow the company to grow.  Here is where good record keeping will be of great help.  By keeping track of all costs, from every stamp purchased to every litre of fuel or maintenance bill, you can, in the second year of business, accurately calculate your costs. This may show you that you need to increase charges, or it may indicate that your profit margin is greater than you had expected.  While using last year's results to calculate current costs is ideal, do keep an eye on inflation rates so that you do not lose out. Costing rates should be reviewed at least once every six months so that changes in things such as fuel and insurance costs can be catered for.

  • Recognised by International Accreditation and Recognition Council
  • Highly qualified, experienced and respected staff
  • A range of memberships and affiliations in the UK, Australia and elsewhere.
  • Affiliations and articulation arrangements with a range of other colleges in the UK and Australia.

Course Manager

This course has been designed, and is managed by John Mason, our principal. Since graduating in horticultural science (1971), John has worked as a landscape designer, nurseryman, parks manager and research officer working with field crops, prior to establishing this school in 1979. Since then, apart from managing this school he has been editor of 4 national gardening magazines, written over 40 books and maintained a small practice as a horticultural consultant.

John has been made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture (UK) and the Parks and Leisure Institute (Australia).


All teaching staff are highly qualified and experienced professional horticulturists. Most hold both degrees an post graduate qualifications. On average, their industry experience exceeds 20 years.

A unique aspect of this course (and others through ACS) is that tutors and course developers come from both northern and southern hemispheres, and from both warm and cool climates. The content and delivery of the course aims to prepare you to work in any climate, country or social situation. We consider this aim to be exceedingly important in a world that is changing so rapidly. We aim to provide a foundation that will serve you wherever you find yourself in the future.


Either Year 12 (passed), an acceptable certificate (eg. Completed apprenticeship) or over 21 yrs of age.


Finding Your Career Path

Decisions you make today will affect the opportunities you create for yourself tomorrow. 
There are an infinite number of choices which a person can make about their career path; and an infinite number of paths you can set yourself on.
  • Some paths may take you to a desirable place; while others might not.
  • Some paths are easier to get onto than others.
  • The thing that many people do not appreciate is that most paths have many different entry points. It is often easier to jump from an undesirable path to a more desirable path than to get onto a desirable path when you are on no pathway at all.

When you start out in horticulture, it is important to keep your training and experience broad.
People who have a broader understanding of the industry can better adapt the business they work in, or their own career direction, as they move into the future.
The first and most important step in finding a satisfying career path is to get started in the workplace. Get a job, any job, as soon as you can. It doesn’t matter too much what your first job is. It might be delivering mowing lawns or potting up plants, or volunteering with a conservation or land care group. It doesn’t need to be paid, it just needs to get you started.
If you are studying at secondary school or university, still try to do some part time work at the same time. An education is always important, but the majority of people who study something will end up working in something different to what they studied. Even doing volunteer work or starting a small business while you are a student can have a major effect upon your prospects after you complete your studies.
Experience and learning acquired through part time employment are often just as impressive to a future employer as the qualification you are studying. Either one without the other may put you in a less advantageous position in the future.
Once you have a job keep looking for opportunities to improve your situation, whether in the existing job, or by moving on to something different. You will learn skills in every job you do, even if they are not skills you recognise at the time. As you progress through your career you will build on your skillset and develop new skills. Even if you change career you will often still be able to draw on skills you have developed in a different career, just in a different context. For example, if you start working in a garden centre you will develop skills in customer service which can be applied to any other future job. If you start working as a gardener and apply yourself, you will observe how different things affect plants: both things you do, like feeding, pruning and watering; and things you cannot control, like changing seasons or pest infestations.
To build a career, you need to think of education as being an important piece of the puzzle; but only one piece. You need to work on experience, communication skills, networking, your attitude and other things all at the same time. An education by itself is unlikely to get you where you want to be. Similarly, a good attitude and ability to sell yourself may get you a job, but it won't get you a promotion and advance your career.




It is possible to choose any 15 modules (for example), to create an Associate Diploma; provided the combination is sensible and approved by one of our academic staff.

Design your own Associate Diploma, Diploma or Advanced Diploma. Our system is very flexible.

Email the school for assistance with compiling a qualification that is unique, giving you a totally different mix of skills to graduates from other courses!
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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.
Gavin Cole 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. In the mid 90's he worked as a manager and garden designer with the well respected UK company -The Chelsea Gardener. A few years later he formed his own garden design business, at first in the UK, and later operating in Queensland Australia. He has since moved to, and works from Adelaide. Apart from his work in landscaping, Gavin has been a prolific garden writer and a tutor with ACS Distance Education since 2001. He is currently part of the team of garden experts that produce Home Grown magazine.
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.
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.
Professional Practice for ConsultantsExplore becoming a consultant. This ebook contains chapters on how to be a consultant, packaging your services, delivering the services, building your resources, finding the work and getting the job, planning and ethics.
Starting a Gardening or Landscape BusinessExpert advice on how to get started in your own garden or landscape business! Packed with valuable business advice, horticultural and landscaping knowledge, and practical ideas - this book is a must have for garden lovers. It is great for anyone thinking about (or already involved in), a horticultural, landscaping or garden business. This updated re-print is only available as an ebook.
Getting Work in HorticultureFind out what it is like to work in horticulture; how diverse the industry is, how to get a start, and how to build a sustainable, long term and diverse career that keeps your options broad, so you can move from sector to sector as demand and fashion changes across your working life.



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