Become the local Gardening Expert, learn garden design, how to grow the best, healthiest plants, pest control, growing seed, cuttings, planting mtechniques, pruning, weed control, plant identification and more.

Course Code: AHT101
Fee Code: S1
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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A Course for Gardeners with a Passion


With 100 hours of learning, guided by a team of professional horticulturists this is a course for Home Gardeners who want to take their passion for gardening to the next level.

  • Learn at your own pace, studying from home when the time suits you.
  • Build your knowledge of gardening to the level of an "expert" 

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Basic Plant Identification & Culture
    • Plant names-common and scientific
    • Recognising groupings of plants into families and genera
    • Planting
    • Understanding cold in the garden
    • Protecting new plantings
    • Different potting needs
    • Hanging baskets
    • How to select the most appropriate plant
    • Transplanting from pots
    • Basic planting procedure
    • Best time to plant
    • Planting bare rooted plants
    • Mulching
    • Tools & equipment.
    • How to cut with secateurs
    • Aims of pruning
    • Pruning terminology
    • When to prune
    • Pruning methods
    • Pruning in the home orchard
    • Review of 16 different plants
  2. Soils & Nutrition
    • Soil texture and structure
    • Different soils for different purposes
    • Terminology
    • Water, air, temperature of soil
    • Nutrient elements
    • Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulphur
    • Minor elements
    • Deficiencies and toxicities
    • Feeding plants
    • Factors affecting fertiliser application
    • Organic fertilisers; manures, rock dusts, seaweed
    • Ways to apply fertiliser
    • Soil chemical properties
    • Soil building
    • Improving texture, fertility, etc
    • Total salts
    • Acidity and alkalinity
    • Composting
    • Drainage
    • Review of sixteen different plants
  3. Pests & Weeds
    • Identifying problems
    • Preventative measures
    • Types of problems -parasitic and non parasitic, pest, disease, environmental etc
    • Chemical vs natural controls
    • Common problems and treatments used for them, both natural and chemical
    • Safety with chemicals
    • Plants to improve soils -cover crops
    • Biological control
    • Weed identification
    • Types of weeds
    • Types of weed problems
    • Weed control methods
    • Review of 16 different plants
  4. Landscaping
    • Types of gardens -formal, informal, natural
    • Cottage gardens, mediterranean, japanese, naturalistic, permaculture
    • History of Gardening
    • Design principles or concepts -line, texture, colour, balance etc.
    • Using paving, stone, gravel, etc
    • Selecting landscape materials
    • Moving earth
    • Using timber
    • Rockeries
    • Drainage -surface and sub surface
    • Designing a home garden, step by step, through to drawing the plan
    • Creating user friendly gardens
    • How to use colour
    • Creating a natural style
    • How to use plants
    • How to create a garden room
    • Native gardens
    • Traditional (European style) home gardens.
    • Hedges and Mazes
    • Review of 16 different plants
  5. Propagation
    • Methods -asexual and sexual
    • Equipment, cold frames
    • Seed treatments -acid digestion, stratification, scarification, etc
    • Soils, soil mixes, propagating media
    • UC mixes
    • ph
    • Types of media and components -rock, stone, synthetic, organic, soil
    • Growing plants from seed
    • Hygiene
    • How to sow into containers
    • Germination
    • Pricking out seedlings
    • Cutting propagation
    • Types of cuttings, hardwood, softwood, herbaceous, nodal, tip, etc
    • Cutting treatments -hormones, wounding etc
    • Managing parent plants
    • Cutting propagation for a range of specific plant genera
    • Setting out cuttings
    • Potting on cuttings
    • Review of 16 different plants
  6. Lawns
    • Value of lawns
    • Lawn shape and design
    • Ways of establishment -seeding, turfing, rough mowing
    • Laying a new lawn
    • Turf grass varieties -couch, fescue, rye, bent, kentucky,
    • Lawn problems -nutritional, environmental, pest, disease, weeds
    • Lawn renovation -topdressing, dethatching, aeration, etc
    • Turf maintenance practices -rolling, spiking,slicing, drilling, etc
    • Watering lawns
    • Review of 16 different plants
  7. Indoor Gardening
    • Why some indoor plants do not perform
    • Caring for plants -growth rates, dormancy
    • General rules to follow
    • Choosing the right pot or container
    • Hydroponics
    • Bonsai
    • Greenhouses
    • Shadehouses
    • Heaters
    • Other ways to grow plants -epiphytes, terrariums, water gardens
    • Selecting indoor plants for different light and other conditions
    • Hardy indoor plants
    • How to maintain indoor plants in pots
    • Problems with potted plants and solutions
    • Groups or types of indoor plants -foliage, flowering etc
    • Review of 16 different plants
  8. The Kitchen Garden
    • Getting started
    • Choosing what to grow
    • Planning a cropping program
    • Getting the best from a Vegetable plot
    • Crop rotation
    • Use disease resistant varieties
    • Timing
    • Special techniques -green manures, no dig beds, raised beds
    • Minimising water use
    • Making compost
    • Varieties and seeds
    • Raising and transplanting seedlings
    • Directory/review of how to grow most common vegetables (this is an extensive study)
    • Harvesting
    • Establishing a home orchard
    • Deciduous Fruit trees
    • Pollination needs
    • Review of common temperate and sub tropical fruits from grapes to mangoes and apples to citrus
    • Nuts -review of most common types
    • Berry Fruits -review of most common types
    • Using excess harvest -preserves etc
    • Herb cultivation
    • Review of most common herbs
    • Harvesting herbs
    • Designing a culinary herb garden
    • Companion planting
    • Using herbs -garnishes, soups, pot pouri, etc
    • Poisonous plants
    • Cultivating annual flowers
    • Review of 16 different plants


  • Identify plant health problems and determine appropriate treatments to manage those problems.
  • Explain how plants are named and the scientific system used to classify them into families, genera and species.
  • Describe soil structure and texture and how these things affect plant growth.
  • Describe different ways of planting and establishing plants; and do so by using terminology used by horticultural experts.
  • Describe pruning requirements and methods applied to different types of plants.
  • Determine plant nutrition requirements, to manage the soil fertility and feeding of different plants.
  • Determine soil conditions and know when and how soils need improvement.
  • Recognise a range of pests and diseases.
  • Identify a range of different weeds, and determine appropriate control methods.
  • Describe different garden styles, in their historical context, including formal and informal types of gardens.
  • Have knowledge of landscape construction techniques.
  • Understand the elements and processes of landscape design.
  • Understand various propagating techniques
  • Propagate plants by various methods
  • Understand the soil preparation and requirements to establish or renovate a lawn
  • Determine lawn maintenance requirements.
  • Determine how to grow different types of plants indoors or under cover; including using hydroponics and greenhouses.
  • Select plants suited to growth indoors
  • Develop knowledge of vegetable growing procedures and requirements.
  • Know how to grow a range of fruits and berries suited to the home garden
  • Know how to grow a wide variety of herbs and flowers in a home garden

What You Will Do

  • Read notes written and supplied by staff of this school
  • Test and name different soils
  • Mix inexpensive potting mixes
  • Make compost and explain how you made it.
  • Learn how to identify plants effectively.
  • Explain step by step how you would go about planting shrubs in your own locality.
  • Explain how to transplant and transport plants from one property to another.
  • Determine the tools required to do gardening for a property, using a limited supply of money.
  • Explain characteristics of soil, including: Soil Structure, pH and Nutrient Deficiency
  • Describe how to fertilize a lawn
  • Explain how to improve drainage in a soil that is too wet for plants to do well in.
  • Explain how you would improve a specified soil
  • Identify a nutrient deficiency
  • Observe and identify different categories of pest and disease problems in growing plants.
  • Compile a weed collection with pressings or illustrations of different weeds
  • Compile a plant collection with pressings or illustrations of different weeds
  • Describe how environmental problems affect plants
  • Recommend ways of controlling different types opf problems in plants, using both natural and chemical.
  • Observe and evaluate different types of gardens.
  • Survey a garden in order to prepare a garden design.
  • Apply a systematic procedure to landscape design, in order to produce a concept plan for a garden.
  • Explain mistakes have you observe in the design and construction of different rockeries
  • Build a simple cold frame and us it to propagate plants.
  • Prepare propagating mix which would be suitable for striking most types of cuttings.
  • Propagate different plants from cuttings.
  • Prepare a plan for sowing annual flower seedlings over a 12 month period.
  • Evaluate and explain a lawn seed mix from the packaging of that mix
  • Observe different lawns and recommend their treatment
  • Explain how to establish a lawn
  • Observe and evaluate the condition of different indoor plants.
  • Recommend the treatment of different indoor plants.
  • Prepare lists of indoor plants for different applications.
  • Find an indoor plant which needs potting up & pot it up.
  • Plant a vegetable patch.
  • List fruit, nuts & berries most suited for growing in your locality
  • Observe the way in which herbs are used commercially (eg. in medicine, cooking etc)
  • Explain why crop rotation is used in growing vegetables



Natural gardening goes hand in hand with conservation and recycling. In this section, various ways of minimizing and reusing 'waste' are presented.
Kitchen waste is generally the major part of what goes into our rubbish bins. By utilising or reducing kitchen waste we can have a number of benefits including: ‘
  • Adding valuable organic matter and nutrients to our garden.
  • Reducing the amount of waste going to tips. The rapid filling of tips is a problem for most towns and cities. Open tips are also a breeding ground for flies and other pests.
  • Recycling materials such as plastic, metals and glass means that valuable resources are not lost. In most cases the energy and other resources, such as water, required to process or convert these recycled materials into useable products is far less than required to obtain and process 'raw' materials. It also means that non renewable resources will last far longer, and by products of the manufacturing processes, such as pollution will be greatly reduced.
What to Reuse or Save
Add all food scraps (peelings, off-cuts and left overs and tea leaves but not meat or cooked food) to a compost heap or bin. Have a waterproof container near your "kitchen tidy" so kitchen waste can be separated out when cooking or cleaning up after a meal. When full, empty the container into a compost bin, a worm farm, or cultivate the material directly into soil that is being prepared for planting. Tea leaves can be used directly as mulch for some plants, particularly ones that like soils a little acid such as lemon trees, rhododendrons and azaleas. Many councils now sell compost bin made out of recycled plastic at a subsidised price to rate payers.
Non compostable waste in the kitchen can be reduced by careful shopping. Many companies now sell refills so an original container can be used over and over again and the refill package can be squashed to minimal size to reduce rubbish.  When shopping, take your own bags such as plastic bags you've accumulated or old fashioned string bags or wicker baskets. Avoid products with excess packaging. There are some shops now which specialise in unpackaged products. Aim to get rubbish down to as little as possible.
Most glass containers and bottles, many plastic containers (e.g. soft drink bottles), newspapers, and magazines can be recycled. Most local councils have regular collections of recyclable materials or have collection sites where you can easily deposit such materials. Contact them for further information.
Plastic drink containers can be turned into mini terrariums, or watering bottles for pot plants and establishing trees. Glass bottles can be cut and turned into drinking vessels, or can be used as a building material (e.g. they can be mortared into a non structural part of a brick wall to allow more light into a room). Resealable glass containers, such as jam and honey jars, can be reused to store your own produce or other foods, or for storing odds and ends, such as buttons. Newspaper and old carpet underlay can be used as garden mulch.
There are ever-increasing demands for what is essentially a limited resource - water. This increased demand leads to the construction of more water storage facilities which have a heavy impact on the environment, in such ways as flooding valuable agricultural land or native forests, or by changing the natural pattern of water flow in streams which have been dammed. By minimising the amount of water we use, we can reduce the requirement for additional water storage facilities, and therefore reduce the likelihood of negative impacts on the environment, as well as possibly reducing our production costs.
Most of the following methods of conserving water can be applied equally to crop production or to home garden use: 
  • By choosing plant species and varieties that best suit the local climate 
  • By maintaining a well-balanced fertile soil appropriate to the plants selected
  • By watering in the cool of the day
  • By using micro-irrigation systems e.g. trickle systems, where possible. These are much more efficient in their use of water than other irrigation systems. 
  • By slow, thorough watering: a thorough deep watering once or twice a week will be more effective than watering lightly every day or two 
  • By avoiding spraying water on windy days
  • By considering soil type when selecting a watering system: for instance, clay soils hold water well and will distribute it horizontally, so a drip system is suitable, whereas water runs quickly through sandy soil, so a micro-spray would be more suitable as it distributes water over a broader area.   
  • By reducing excess evaporation: this can be achieved by keeping bare soil covered using mulches or plants. Both organic (e.g. bark, compost, lucerne) and inorganic (e.g. gravel) mulches are excellent for reducing evaporation.  
  • Compact groundcovers will slow evaporation from the soil but they will use a lot of water themselves - larger plants will shade the soil and limit evaporation but they can make getting water to the soil in the first place rather tricky
  • By using rainwater tanks to gain extra water, particularly for domestic use, and for collecting water from large sheds to water stock. This can reduce the need for installing water mains to some areas to provide water for stock. Troughs can be filled directly from the tank.
It is possible to use excess water from the house to water gardens, in particular water from showers, baths and washing machines. This will involve some plumbing to reduce the drudgery of bucketing water out onto the garden. The simplest method is to undo your drain pipes and let the water from sinks flow into a bucket (for smaller amounts), or connect a hose to the drainpipes and let the water flow into a holding tank. This water is referred to as "grey-water" and can contain soaps, food scraps, grease and bacteria.
Water with cleaning liquids and solvents that are harsh to the skin or plants should be diluted before being used in the garden. Do not use water from the dishwasher. You should be careful to use biodegradable soaps and completely avoid detergents with boron.  Such detergents when added to the soil may be toxic to plants.
Use trickle irrigation to apply grey-water as wetting the leaves with it may cause leaf burn. A filter will be necessary to make sure any solid materials or residues in the grey-water do not block the pipes and nozzles. Another method is simply to allow the water to run across the ground surface (flood irrigation) by pouring water out of a bucket or allowing it to run out of a hose. Remember to water different areas each time to get even coverage.
You should check with your local council to confirm that they allow the use of grey-water.
Tanks are used to store water which is either collected as run off (e.g. rain collected from roofs), or pumped from natural supplies such as a river. A range of different materials are used to make storage tanks including concrete, metal and fibreglass. Whatever material is used, it should be inert and not contaminate the water. Fresh concrete can cause water to become alkaline, and it must be weathered to remove lime from the cement before use.
Newspapers can be used as a base for other mulch materials in your garden, or can be shredded and put in small quantities into a compost heap or used as a bedding material for your pets after which it can be composted. When laying newspaper mulch use four to six sheets and liberally overlap them. Cardboard cartons, opened out, make an excellent weed controlling base on which to build a garden. Avoid laying them in drier months, when plants are actively growing, as the cardboard in particular, may initially act as a barrier to water infiltrating into the soil, for the first week or two, until the cardboard absorbs enough moisture and becomes soft and more permeable.
  • Non composting waste in the kitchen can be reduced by careful shopping. Many companies now sell refills so an original container can be used over and over again and the refill package can be squashed to minimal size to reduce rubbish.  When shopping, avoid plastic bags.  Avoid products with excess packaging. There are some shops now which specialize in unpackaged products. Aim to get rubbish down to as little as possible.
  • Most glass containers and bottles, many plastic containers (e.g. soft drink bottles), newspapers, and magazines can be recycled. Many local councils have regular collections of recyclable materials or have collection sites where you can easily deposit such materials. Contact them for further information.
  • Plastic drink containers can be turned into mini terrariums, or watering bottles for pot plants and establishing trees.
  • Glass bottles can be cut and turned into drinking vessels, or can be used as a building material (e.g. they can be mortared into a non structural part of a brick wall to allow more light into a room). Re-sealable glass containers, such as jam and honey jars, can be reused to store your own produce or other foods.
  • Newspaper and old carpet underlay can be used as garden mulch.
In these days of increasing environmental awareness there are a number of ways in which you can go about your gardening that are environmentally friendly.
Alternatives to Engines
he exhausts from engines used to propel machinery such as mowers, edger, chainsaws, etc. contribute to air pollution. The noise they create can be extremely annoying, especially to someone trying to sleep in on a Sunday morning. Where possible try to use gardening methods that don't require engines. For example:
  • Instead of using a powered lawn mower use a hand pushed one.
  • Instead of using a brush-cutter or whipper-snipper/strimmer use a sickle or scythe. It is important that the blade is sharp on these tools.
  • In place of a chainsaw use a hand saw or axe. The exercise you gain from using hand tools instead of power tools can be very beneficial to your health, as long as you don't over-do it.
  • Grazing animals such as sheep or goats can be used to keep grass and weeds under control. They can also be used as a source of manure for your garden, of raw fleece for spinning, goat’s milk, etc. It is important to ensure that such animals:
  • Have adequate space.
  • Are securely fenced or tethered to prevent them wandering onto roads or into other gardens, etc. 
  • Are kept safe from dogs, kids, etc.
  • Have sufficient food supplies, water and shelter/shade.
  • Are permitted by council by laws.
  • More efficient engines
  • Keep engines running well and clean. Make sure wet grass or material that wraps around moving parts is regularly removed. Regularly carry out maintenance requirements, such as cleaning air filters, particularly in dusty conditions. Replace worn or damaged parts.
  • Make sure you use the right sized engine for the job. Too small and it will be under strain causing the engine to run inefficiently, and to quickly wear out requiring its repair or replacement. Too large     and you are wasting fuel and probably making a lot more noise than is necessary. 
  • It is a good idea to get advice from a reputable distributor of power products.
  • Performance products such as corrosion inhibitors and friction modifiers will often improve engine efficiency.
Utilizing energy produced in your garden
Try using the heat generated from compost/lawn clippings as bottom heat under trays of seeds or cuttings to promote their growth. Be careful not to have the composting material too close to the trays as the heat generated may be quite high. A little experimentation will help you determine the correct tray placement. A layer of sand between the compost and the trays is often quite effective.  As the heat produced by the compost decreases over time then the height the trays are above it can be reduced. The heat from composting materials can also be used to warm up a greenhouse or cold frame. Sawdust is a good material for this as it can be easily walked on while the composting is occurring without generally getting to slimy or slippery, or messy.
Choosing the right fertiliser
  • Timing is important so as not to waste fertiliser. In winter, some plants may be dormant so the fertiliser will not be taken up. Heavy feeding at the wrong time of year can also cause fruit trees to produce plenty of leaves at the expense of fruit.
  • Commercial fertilisers are available for certain types of plants (e.g. azalea food, rose food) or as general preparations to suit most plants. However, some are produced from non-renewable resources.
  • Quick-release or soluble fertilisers are very mobile, which makes them easier for the plants to get at, but unfortunately most of the nutrients can be leached into streams or ground water, eventually ending up in rivers, bays, dams and estuaries, causing such problems as algal blooms.
  • Using slow-release fertiliser can be a more efficient way of feeding plants, but again these may not be made from renewable materials.
  • Home-made fertilisers can be prepared using compost, animal manures and mulch material. Some plants themselves are excellent sources of nutrients, including legumes (e.g. Lucerne), nettles, comfrey and yarrow. Often weeds are able to absorb minor nutrients from the soil, so they can also be used. A handy way to make your own liquid fertiliser is to quarter fill a drum or bucket with any or all of the above ingredients, top up with water to cover the other material and leave it all to stew for a couple of weeks, stirring occasionally. The resulting dark liquid should be diluted with water (1 cup per bucket of water) and applied to the soil or leaves. The brew may be regularly topped up with water and other ingredients.


When you finish this course, you will have a completely new perspective on gardening; and a very broad understanding of the principles, techniques and science that underpins all good practice in horticulture.
  • This will make it easier for you to understand things you see, hear, read and experience with respect to plants and gardening
  • You will see plants and be able to remember their names more easily
  • You will identify distinguishing characteristics of different types of plants that give you an indication as to how to treat them (eg. how to propagate, prune or feed them),
  • You should make less mistakes in the garden, resulting in fewer sick and dead plants; and that should save you money.
  • You will new see possibilities for developing and maintaining your garden.
  • Your garden will be more productive, will look better, and you will do the work in your garden with less effort, less time, less money, and better results.
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

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

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 the Permaculture Association

Member of Study Gold Coast

Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (UK)

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

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

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