Horticulture correspondence course. Develop a sound knowledge of the principles of gardening and plant health, then specialise in landscaping, ornamental horticulture, turf or nursery.

Course Code: VHT002
Fee Code: CT
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 700 hours
Qualification Certificate
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This is a vocationally-oriented course comprising core studies in general horticulture plus specialised stream studies in an area of your own choice. The course is designed to lay a foundation for a long-term career in horticulture by developing your ability to identify a large range of plants, your knowledge of essential horticultural principles and practices, your practical skills in plant propagation, growth and care, and your ability to adapt to changing situations.


  • Exceptional tutors -on average each tutor has 4 years university level education and over 20 years of practical industry experience....compare this to other colleges!
  • Greater flexibility -you can study where and when you want; at your own rate, and relate your studies to your own situation.
  • More options for specialisation than most other similar courses.
  • A stronger focus on learning plants, foundation science and a broader base of general horticulture skills than some other college certificates.
  • Unique Content: we update notes more often, and have developed them in a way is relevant anywhere in the world. We emphasise learning and developing a capacity to identify, properly consider and solve horticultural problems even if never confronted before.
  • Strong support: quality and access to tutors is better than in most other colleges.
  • More hours of study for a certificate means more learning and more successful graduates (and more value for your fees).
  • Assessment -double marking of exams to ensure fairer results; unlimited options to repeat failed exams (fees apply though), and ongoing support for supplementary exams if needed.


This certificate involves the following:. .Core Studies  - half of the course involving approximately 350hrs over 15 lessons. Every student must complete these studies.
  • Elective Studies (ie. Stream). another 300-350 hours, involving stream studies specific to one sector of industry (eg. Landscaping, Nursery, Turf, Organics, Arboriculture etc). There are more than a dozen standard options.possibnility to design any number of others and have them approved.
  • Order of Study: You should always study the Core first. It provides a foundation which makes study of the stream far more logical (and easier).

    Selecting your Stream: You can choose your stream when you first enrol if you wish; however for many students, the experience of the core studies will often develop their interests in different directions and raise awareness about things which influences their preference for one stream over another. If you wish; it is perfectly fine to wait until you complete the core before selecting the stream.

    What You can Get From this Course

    • A qualification recognised by International Accreditation & Recognition Council (You can use the letters Cert.Hort after your name)
    • A foundation that is as good as most other certificates (any level)
    • A knowledge that gives you an edge on most people working as gardeners.
    • Credits toward higher qualifications (eg. diplomas) with ACS or affiliated colleges in a number of countries
    • Support and advice from our team of professional horticulturists to kick start your career


    Note: Brief outlines of some streams are included below. (NOTE: Only some streams may be studied on line or on CD)


    Students must complete and pass all of these core units.

    1. Introduction to Plants

    The purpose of this study area is to explain the binomial system of plant classification and demonstrate identification of plant species through the ability of using botanical descriptions for leaf shapes and flowers.


    • Describe the relevant identifying physical features of flowering ornamental plants.
    • Demonstrate use of references and other resources to gain relevant information for identifying and describing plants. 
    • Dissect, draw and label different flowers.
    • Collect and identify the shapes of different leaves.
    • Demonstrate how to identify between family, genus, species, variety and cultivar.

    2. Plant Culture

    Demonstrate the ability to care for plants to maintain optimum growth and health, while considering pruning, planting, and irrigation.


    • Describe how to prune different plants.
    • Demonstrate how to cut wood correctly, on the correct angle and section of the stem.
    • Describe how to plant a plant.
    • Demonstrate an awareness of different irrigation equipment, sprinklers, pumps and turf systems available by listing their comparative advantages and disadvantages.
    • Demonstrate selection of appropriate irrigation systems for a horticulture, explaining why particular systems would be preferred.
    • Define water pressure and flow rate and how to calculate each.
    • Describe regular maintenance of garden tools and equipment.
    • List factors to be considered when comparing types of machinery for use in garden maintenance.

    3. Soils and Plant Nutrition

    Develop the skills and knowledge to identify, work with, and improve the soil condition and potting mixes, and to evaluate fertilisers for use in landscape jobs to maximize plant growth.


    • Describe the soil types commonly found in plant culture in terms of texture, structure and water-holding and nutrient holding capacity.
    • Describe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and aeration.
    • List elements essential for plant growth.
    • Diagnose the major nutrient deficiencies that occur in ornamental plants and prescribe treatment practices.
    • Describe soil pH and its importance in plant nutrition.
    • Describe how salting occurs and how to minimise its effect.
    • Conduct simple inexpensive tests on different potting mixes and report accordingly.
    • Describe suitable soil mixes for container growing of different types of plants.
    • List a range of both natural and artificial fertilizers.
    • Describe fertilizer programs to be used in different situations with ornamental plants.

    4. Introductory Propagation

    Develop an understanding of propagation techniques with particular emphasis on cuttings and seeds; and to a lesser degree other techniques including division, grafting and budding are also explained.


    • Demonstrate propagation different plants by cuttings and seed.
    • Construct a simple inexpensive cold frame.
    • Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating both seed and cuttings.
    • Describe the method and time of year used to propagate different plant varieties.
    • Describe and demonstrate the steps in preparing and executing a variety of grafts and one budding technique.
    • Explain the reasons why budding or grafting are sometimes preferred propagation methods.

    5. Identification and Use of Plants

    Increase the breadth and depth of your plant knowledge, including taxonomy and also plant use in different situations. You should develop a tradesman level appreciation of different optimum and preferred growing conditions for different plants.


    • Select plants appropriate for growing in different climates.
    • Select plants appropriate to use for shade, windbreaks, as a feature, and for various aesthetic effects.
    • Categorise priorities which effect selection of plants for an ornamental garden.
    • Explain the differences in the way plants perform in different microclimates within the same area.
    • List and analyze the situations where plants are used.

    6. Pests, Diseases and Weeds

    Learn to identify, describe and control a variety of pests, diseases and weeds in ornamental situation, and to describe safety procedures when using agricultural chemicals.


    • Explain in general terms the principles of pest, disease and weed control and the ecological (biological) approach to such control.
    • Explain the host‑pathogen‑environment concept.
    • Describe a variety of pesticides for control of pests, diseases and weeds of ornamental plants in
    • terms of their active constituents, application methods, timing and rates, and safety procedures.
    • Prepare illustrated reviews of different problems.
    • Identify and recommend control practices for different insect pests of ornamental plants.
    • Illustrate, identify and recommend control practices for three non‑insect ornamental plant health problems (e.g. fungal, viral, bacterial).
    • Describe the major ways in which diseases (fungal, viral, bacterial and nematode) affect turf, the life cycle features that cause them to become a serious problem to turf culture and the methods available for their control.
    • Identify, describe and recommend treatment for  different weed problems.
    • Illustrate and identify different weeds, recommending chemical and non-chemical treatments which may be used to control each.
    • List and compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of different weed control methods.


    You  select one area of elective study usually from the list standard ‘Elective" options. Other options are possible though. If you want to do something different and specific to your own requirements, you may discuss this with one of our academics (professional horticulturists). Upon approval, a combination of three of our standard modules could be used to create your own unique "stream".

    Landscape & Garden Design Stream

    The aim of the stream studies is to develop skills and knowledge in landscape design, construction, features and landscape business management. On completion you will be able to conceive designs, produce landscape drawings and plan the construction of gardens - public, domestic and commercial.


    • Review the historical evolution of gardens.
    • Obtain pre-planning information and use of that information to draw plans.
    • Identify different principles and styles of landscape designs.
    • Analyze garden designs.
    • Develop graphic skills, and a knowledge of drawing materials and techniques.
    • Prepare cost estimates for a landscape job.
    • Describe surfacing materials and their effects.
    • Explain the quality and cost of different landscape materials.
    • Develop a knowledge of plants, both native and exotic, suitable for local conditions.
    • Select plants for difficult sites and conditions.
    • Describe advantages and disadvantages of various pipes, sprinklers and pumping equipment.
    • Recommend irrigation systems for different landscape situations.
    • Design a simple irrigation system.
    • Design a bush garden and the value and relevance of using native plants.
    • Analyze and report on a cottage garden design.
    • Analyze and report on a playground design.
    • Prepare a playground design for a school or public park.
    • Draw layout plans for a range of gardens.
    • Conduct a detailed survey of a site, prepare a detailed plan based on that survey, estimate costs and develop contract documentation for that project.
    • Explain earthworks and soil preparation techniques used in landscaping.
    • Describe alternative techniques for establishing and growing plants.
    • Explain a range of landscape construction techniques including building fences, walls, rockeries, paths, water gardens, paving and drainage.
    • Compare different landscape materials with respect to their quality, cost, availability and application in garden construction.
    • Describe the correct procedures for the proper and safe removal of a limb from a tree, and for the felling of trees.
    • Develop a detailed maintenance program for a garden.
    • Demonstrate the ability to prepare for, and plant a new lawn.
    • Explain how to establish turf on a steep slope.
    • Write and advertisement for a landscaping business.
    • Explain basic management procedures.
    • Show a reasonable level of communication skill.
    • Explain health and safety requirements on a landscape site.

    Ornamental Horticulture Stream

    This part of the course involves four main areas of study:

    • Landscaping
    • Plant knowledge
    • Plant Care
    • Nursery Practices


    • Prepare a landscape design (including pre-planning and drawing plans).
    • Describe principles and styles of landscape designs.
    • Analyze a garden design.
    • Demonstrate graphic skills, and use of materials and techniques.
    • Estimating costs for garden development.
    • Discuss surfacing materials and their effects.
    • Discuss the quality and cost of different landscape materials.
    • Demonstrate ornamental plant knowledge, both indigenous and exotic, for use in local conditions.
    • Select plants for difficult sites and conditions (including treating degraded sites and interior plantscaping).
    • Discuss use of tropical and indoor plants.
    • Discuss environmental factors important for indoor plant culture.
    • Discuss use of bulbs, perennials and annuals.
    • Design flower beds (annuals and bulbs) suitable for your locality.
    • Siscuss the use of herbs in a garden design.
    • Discuss a variety of growing techniques including; bonsai, terrariums, pot culture, baskets and hydroponics.
    • Describe the importance of trees to humans.
    • Explain procedures for the proper and safe removal of a limb from a tree.
    • Identify tree problems and their treatment.
    • Describe compartmentalisation and its effect on the spread of disease in trees.
    • Prepare a detailed maintenance program for a garden.
    • Discuss seed selection, storage, preparation and spreading (sowing).
    • Prepare, plant and establish a lawn.
    • Discuss establishing turf on a steep slope.
    • Describe turf maintenance techniques.
    • Analyze efficiency of nursery production systems.
    • Prepare a flow chart for the production of a particular plant, from propagation to marketing.
    • Prepare a maintenance program for green life in a garden centre.
    • Prepare guidelines for the disposal of surplus or below standard stock in a nursery.
    • Write an advertisement for a nursery or garden maintenance business.
    • Discuss basic management procedures for a one man nursery or garden maintenance business.
    • Demonstrate basic communication skills.
    • Discuss health and safety requirements for a nursery or garden maintenance workplace.

    Turf Stream

    This stream involves the following four areas of study

    • Turf Culture
    • Engineering and Irrigation
    • Management
    • Landscaping


    • List and describe the situations where turf is used.
    • Describe features of turf plants including roots, stems and leaves.
    • Explain the function of roots, stems and leaves of grass, and describe variations which can occur in these parts.
    • Use knowledge of cutting effects and recuperative potential of various turf plants to choose varieties for different purposes.
    • Identify and describe the difference between the turf varieties.
    • Describe plant growth in both scientific and unscientific terms.
    • Describe how day length, temperature, moisture and light affect turf plants.
    • Explain how turf is affected by variations in watering and mowing techniques.
    • Describe different methods of preparing an area for planting turf.
    • Describe the methods (including timing) of establishing turf.
    • Identify and describe tools and equipment used in turf establishment and maintenance.
    • Explain how to determine if a turf area requires renovation and describe different renovation methods.
    • Describe how weeds are spread and methods of controlling common weeds.
    • Prepare, name and submit a collection of weeds of significance to turf culture.
    • Describe how pests and diseases affect turf and the methods available for their control.
    • Describe horticultural chemicals in terms of chemical group, application methods, rates and timing.
    • Illustrate and identify a selection of turf varieties.
    • Explain soil moisture, hydraulics and other aspects of water management
    • Review the operation and programming of a multi‑stage irrigation system.
    • Design and explain the operation of a simple irrigation system.
    • Explain the operation and maintenance of different types of engines.
    • Consider hiring vs. purchase of a range of different items of machinery
    • Explain the uses of different tools and equipment available for turf culture.
    • Select appropriate tools and equipment for a range of turf management tasks.
    • Recommend techniques for storage and care of tools and equipment.
    • Plan and write reports, articles and letters that clearly express what is intended.
    • List the communication skills necessary for effective instruction of staff and scheduling of work.
    • Develop an annual works program for at least two turf management situations.
    • Draw layout plans for selected plants in a range of garden situations.
    • Design a garden to achieve year round flowering by a selected range of plants.
    • Prepare a bill of materials and costing for a landscape development.
    • Describe to construct a variety of landscape features including paths and paved areas, water features, retaining walls, fences and pergolas.
    • Describe how to excavate, shape and cultivate a landscape site.
    • Describe forces that act on water in the soil and their significance to drainage.
    • Describe how to determine levels for, and how to install drainage systems.
    • Review erosion control methods (eg. mulching, terracing, retaining walls).
    • Describe the construction details of different sportsgrounds.
    • Identify steps necessary to minimise wear and tear on various sportsgrounds.
    • Describe the construction details of different greens.
    • Explain workplace health and safety practices in the turf industry.

    Plant Propagation Stream

    The student will learn different methods of propagating plants for small scale or nursery operations.


    • Collect seed from and propagate different varieties of plants with that seed.
    • Describe the method and time of year used to propagate at least 200 different plant varieties.
    • Draw and label the parts of a seed.
    • Explain how a seed germinates, and grows in the early stages of its development.
    • Explain a variety of different harvest and post harvest treatments for seed.
    • Explain a variety of pre-germination treatments for seed.
    • Collect, identify and prepare cuttings for many different varieties of plants.
    • Propagate from cuttings and successfully grow on different plant varieties to the stage of a saleable tube.
    • Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating cuttings and seed.
    • Explain the reasons why particular propagation methods are preferred to other methods.
    • Explain the propagation of different varieties of plants by grafting or budding.
    • Prepare examples of different types of grafts.
    • Propagate different plants by other methods including separation, division and layering.
    • Explain tissue culture techniques and their commercial relevance in plant production.
    • Consider site features which are important to the operation of a nursery.
    • Explain different nursery production systems.
    • Prepare a routine maintenance program for plants in a production nursery.
    • Analyse and report on the operation of different production nurseries.
    • Prepare a floor plan for the interior layout of a propagation/potting area.
    • Describe how to pot up and plant out different types of plants.
    • Describe soils and potting media in terms of texture, structure and water holding and nutrient holding capacity.
    • Prescribe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and aeration.
    • Describe how to grow plants successfully in containers.
    • Describe suitable potting mixes for container growing of different plants.
    • List safety procedures to be followed in a nursery.
    • Show an awareness of irrigation equipment and its operation in a nursery.
    • Explain growing structures and equipment used to enhance the propagation of plants including, hot beds, misting, fogging, cold frames and greenhouses.


    Other Standard Stream Options include:

      • Permaculture
      • Organic Plant Growing
      • Grounds Management
      • Nature Park Management
      • Arboriculture
      • Plant Protection
      • Propagation 
      • Crops
      • Viticulture
      • Cut Flower Growing
      • Horticultural Technology
      • Herbs

    If you are wanting a stream other than these talk to the academic department.

    Exams:   There are two exams for the core. There are a further 2, or 3 exams for the stream, depending upon which stream you choose to do.


    • Recognised by International Accreditation and Recognition Council
    • Highly qualified and respected staff; renowned authors and educators
    • 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.

    Why Choose this Course?

  • International Recognition
  • Highly qualified tutors (Industry leaders, distinguished gardening authors, accomplished academics, practicing professionals, etc)
  • More choice and Flexibility (When, where & what you study)
  • Unlimited one on one access to tutors
  • More focus on science and plant identification than many other colleges or courses.
  • More focus on learning, less on Assessment
  • Outstanding track record - graduates actually succeed, and get jobs!
  • We are an Ethical and Green College


    Sample of Course Notes from this Course:


    The following list is not comprehensive. There are in fact many hundreds of different plant family names, and changes are continually being made. Very often, a new and old family name both remain in common usage for some time before the old name is gradually discarded. It is important for horticulturalists to realise that plant names are continually being revised.


    Current Names

    Old Names

    Examples Of Genera















    Cassia, Bauhinia









    Mentha, Salvia






    Kennedya, Pisum





    Note that plant family names have now been standardised so that they end in “aceae”.




    Plant names are based on the Latin language, and hence, pronunciation should normally be as with Latin. Pronunciation however, varies from place to place. Often nurserymen in one state or country will pronounce a plant name differently to the way their colleagues pronounce it in another place. The most important thing is to learn to write names correctly. If you can write them correctly, then you will be able to communicate with other people in the industry, even if your pronunciation is different.

    Usually, pronunciation will develop according to the influences received from colleagues. If you work in a small nursery with an old nurseryperson, you will tend to pronounce plant names the same way as the person you work with, even if their way is 'wrong'. If you are an active member of a garden club, you will pick up the style of pronunciation which most members of that garden club use.

    Pronunciation and the names (particularly common names) which you give to particular plants will be influenced by the people you mix with; and in turn, their naming and pronunciation was probably influenced by the people they worked with in the past.

    Pronunciation of scientific plant names should ideally follow the rules which apply to the classic Greek and Latin languages, from which most of these names are originally derived.

    In the Latin language letters or diphthongs are pronounced as shown below:



    A short "a" as in fat or that


    As the "y" sounds in why; or as the "i" sounds in mite


    As "ou" sounds in out or ouch


    A hard c or k as "c" sounds in cool or "k" sounds in keep


    As "e" sounds in bet, set or pet ... or as "a" sounds in hate


    As "a" sounds in gate


    As "ew" sounds in few, or "ough" sounds in through


    As "ow" sounds in how


    As "oy" sounds in toy


    can be as "o" sounds in cob, or as it sounds in note


    A hard "g" as in get, gone or good


    Can be as the "i" sounds in bin, pip, or fit ... or as "ee" sounds in been


    As "y" sounds in yet or yellow


    As "s" sounds in sit or ask ... not as "s" sounds in as or those


    Can sound as "u" does in bull or as it sounds in shute ... but never like it does in rub


    Pronounced like "w" in win or wheel


    Pronounced like the French pronounce "u"


    Examples of Pronunciation

    •  Callistemon - pronounce as follows ... Kal ‑ list ‑ tee – mon
    •  Lagerstroemia - pronounce as follows ... Lag ‑ erstrow ‑ me – a
    •  Kniphofia - pronounce as follows ... nif ‑ off ‑ ee – a
    •  Pyrethrum - pronounce as follows ... Pie ‑ reeth ‑ rum


    There are many points that need to be considered when you are looking for work and having a qualification is just one of them:

    Are you studying the right course? A good course will help you to not only gain knowledge in the field of study it will also help you to experience actual situations that you may encounter in the work place. This is called ‘Experiential Learning’ many courses concentrate on ‘Competency Based Learning’ – just ticking you off against a known list of tasks. Experiential or Problem Based Learning will help you to develop those problem solving skills that are much sought after in employees by commerce and industry.

    Are your studies broad enough? In horticulture for example to narrow your focus on one industry sector also narrows your opportunities. A Certificate in Horticulture (core units) will give you those under-pinning horticulture skills that are needed in any inter-industry sector whether you are designing gardens, working in a nursery, working as a gardener etc. You can then use these basic skills to specialise in a specific industry sector should you want to, but should you want to change sectors later you can still do so because of those basic horticultural skills you acquired by undertaking those fundamental core units.

    Are you lifting your profile? No matter what job we are in or hope to get into, networking is the best way to get your name out there and be noticed. Join online social media groups such as linked-in to establish a profile. Make sure you keep it up to date and list your educational and work experience, you would be surprised how many job offers come through these types of networks. Network with industry – attend seminars, industry exhibitions, garden shows etc. and make yourself known; someone may remember you later!

    Are your communication skills good? We all remember a good communicator. Communication is not just about being able to hold a conversation with someone though, it also includes writing and technology skills. Today it is essential for everyone to have basic computer skills, good telephone techniques, a respectful way of speaking with others and knowing what is acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour in the workplace.

    Are you well-presented? In some horticultural jobs it is almost impossible not to get dirty! Flower growing or crop growing or landscaping is all dirty work. However when presenting yourself for jobs you should be dressed in clean appropriate attire for the job interview you are attending. When you front up for work in the morning do so in clean clothes – it is too easy to think that you’ll get dirty anyway. A tidily presented person will stand out and be more likely to get ahead in their jobs than one that turns up at work in yesterday’s dirty clothes. If you are running your own business good presentation also evokes a feeling of confidence both from you to the customer and from the customer to you.

    Have you chosen the right school? Not all education providers are equal – some will push you through your course just to get you to the end. Others require you to study within set time frames and others give you little support. Many are more about getting that government funding than they are about educating their students.

    At ACS:

    • Are independent – we do not really nor apply for government funding – so we are less caught up in bureaucracy and more into educating our students
    • Allow our students to take their time.
    • Support our students through their studies – we encourage them to contact us and help us to help them as soon as the smallest problems arise.
    • Want you to succeed!

    Course Contributors

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

    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

    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

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