The best Starter Course for Horticulture. This is a great course new gardeners amateur or professional, with a thirst for proper learning that they can build expertise and experience on.

Course Code: BHT101
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn the fundamentals of Horticultural Theory and Practice

This course was developed in 1979 by John Mason, former parks director, nurseryman, landscaper, and garden writer; and has been revised and updated every year since. It has seen thousands of graduates go on to successful careers in horticulture at all levels in the industry.

This is an excellent foundation course; tried and proven time and time again. Even if you don't study anything more, this course will set you on a sound path for building your horticultural knowledge and experience in a proper and very useful way.

Student Comment:

I am extremely satisfied with my experience of ACS. The educational materials were easy to read and understand. The assignments were very practical and the administrative staff at the office were just superb. 
from "Jose" - studying Horticulture I


Lesson Structure

There are 13 lessons in this course:

  1. Plant Identification
    • Naming plants
    • Distinguishing the taxonomic divisions of plants including family, genus, species and variety or hybrid
    • Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons
    • Characteristics of Botanical Families
    • Structure and Arrangement of leaves and leaflets
    • Leaf terminology
    • Leaf Arrangements
    • Flower Structure and identifying the different parts of a flower
    • How seeds form
    • Plant Reviews
    • Collecting and Pressing Plants for Herbaria
  2. Planting
    • Garden terminology
    • Common garden problems
    • Basic Planting Procedure
    • Fertilising and Staking when planting
    • Dealing with BaZre Rooted Plants
    • Time of Planting
    • Deciding where to plant
    • Mulching
    • Making Garden Beds
    • Raised Beds
    • Sunken Beds
    • Planting Terminology
  3. Recognising Plant Families and Identifying Plants
    • Becoming familiar with plant families
    • Botanical Latin
    • Systematic Examination of Plants -dicot or monocot, type of wood, etc
    • Characteristics of important families including: Amaryllidaceae, Araceae, Asteraceae, Ericaceae, Lamiaceae, Fabaceae.
    • Getting to Know More Common Families
    • Other Ways to Identify Plants
    • Plants for Shade
    • Plants for Exposed Conditions
    • Plants for Inner City Gardens
  4. Soils
    • Purpose of Soil
    • Soil Structure: Classifying soils
    • Soil water and air
    • Soil temperature
    • Soil pH
    • Nutrient Availability
    • Naming a Soil
    • Improving Soils
    • Composting
    • Natural Plant Foods
    • Sampling and testing soils
    • Potting soil mixes
    • Soil Terminology
  5. Plant Nutrition
    • The Nutrient Elements
    • Major Elements
    • Minor Elements
    • Diagnosis of Nutrient Problems
    • Fertilizers: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium
    • How much fertilizer to apply
    • Terminology
  6. Water Management
    • Introduction to Irrigation
    • Feasibility of Irrigation
    • Soil and Water
    • When to Irrigate
    • Water Deficiency Symptoms
    • Types of Soil Moisture; gravitational, capillary, hygroscopic
    • Measuring Water Available to Plants
    • Rooting depths of plants
    • Estimating Water Requirements
    • Pumps, Sprinklers and other equipment
    • Understanding Hydraulics
    • Conventional Sprinkler Systems; portable, permenant, semi permenant
    • Cyclic Watering
    • Pulse Watering
    • Irrigation scheduling
    • Sprinkler spacing
    • Improving Soils for Water Management
    • Drainage
    • Erosion Management
    • Soil compaction
    • Acidification
  7. Garden Maintenance and Weeds
    • Cost of Garden Maintenance
    • Machinery
    • Comparing more and less costly areas of the garden.
    • Common Weeds and their Identification
    • Weed Control Methods -Chemical and non chemical
    • Plants that become Invasive
    • Environmental Weeds
  8. Pests and Diseases
    • Pest and Disease overview
    • Preventative measures for managing pest and disease
    • Review of major pest problems and control options: Aphis, Borers, Caterpillar, Leaf Miner, Mealy Bug, Red Spider, Scale, etc
    • Review of major Diseases and their control: Anthracnose, Black Leg, Rots, Botrytis, Damping off, Die back, Mildew, Rust etc.
    • Diagnosis of Problems
    • Introduction to Plant Pathology and Entomology
    • Chemical pesticides and basic toxicology
    • Integrated Pest Management
  9. Pruning
    • Reasons for Pruning
    • Identifying bud types
    • Basic rules of pruning
    • Pruning in a home orchard
    • Terminology
    • Winter Pruning
    • Pruning tools
    • Examples of Winter Pruning; Crepe Myrtle, Hydrangea, Raspberry, Fuchsia, Kiwi Fruit, Grevillea, etc
    • Rose Pruning
  10. Landscaping
    • Introduction and Pre Planning Information
    • Plant Selection Criteria
    • Covering the Ground
    • Living Plant Cover
    • Mulches
    • Container Growing Outside
    • General Considerations
    • Terminology
  11. Propagation
    • Methods of Propagation: Seed Propagation and Vegetative Propagation
    • Propagation Structures: Cold Frames
    • Cutting Propagation
    • Factors affecting rooting of cuttings
  12. Lawns
    • Turf grass varieties
    • Review of common turf species
    • Laying a new lawn
    • Common turf problems
    • Cultural techniques including watering, fertilizing, topdressing, aerating, pest and disease control.
  13. Aboriculture
    • What is Arboriculture
    • How to keep trees healthy
    • Where and how to cut trees to remove branches or prune
    • Why remove a tree
    • Ways to fell a tree
    • Removing a stump
    • Tree surgery; terms and techniques


  • Distinguish between different plants, to enable identification of the plant species.
  • Explain appropriate procedures for establishing a range of plants in different conditions.
  • Describe the characteristics of plant growing media necessary for healthy plant growth.
  • Explain the characteristics of plant nutrition necessary for healthy plant growth.
  • Determine appropriate water management procedures for healthy plant growth.
  • Understand appropriate procedures for pruning plants on a horticultural site.
  • Determine solutions for the management of a range of common weeds.
  • Determine solutions for the management of a range of common pests and diseases.
  • Prepare a concept plan for the development of a garden.
  • Understand commonly used plant propagation techniques.
  • Develop guidelines for general lawn care.
  • Develop guidelines for general tree care in a horticultural situation.

What You Will Do

  • Distinguish between plants in order to identify at least 120 plants on plant review sheets.
  • Plant out a container plant following a recommended procedure.
  • Sample and carry out simple tests on different soils.
  • Identify a range of nutrient problems in plants.
  • Identify a range of pest and disease problems in plants.
  • Demonstrate correct basic procedures for propagating, garden design, pruning and other gardening techniques
  • Identify a range of different plants, based on their flower and leaf structures.
  • Determine appropriate procedures for planting according to type of plant and site.
  • and More



Gardeners work in gardens, maintaining the landscape; undertaking jobs such as controlling weeds, pests and diseases;  pruning, mowing, fertilizing, mulching, watering, cleaning sprinkler heads, using machinery, staking, raking or blowing leaf litter, making compost, removing and replacing dead plants, lifting and dividing bulbs, cultivating and aerating soil, and simple handyman jobs such as repairing garden features such as paths, fences and walls or painting. The tasks which a gardener might do can vary greatly from one garden to the next. Tasks can also be seasonal, so the work undertaken can vary from week to week.

Some gardeners may work alone or perhaps with one other person; others can work as part of a small team, headed by a supervisor or foreman.
Small and medium size private gardens will often employ a “contract gardener” to visit weekly or fortnightly to do the required work. This type of gardener is commonly self-employed, and can earn a very good income if they are a productive gardener and adequate business person.

Parks, Commercial Properties (e.g. Industrial estates, shopping centres) and other large properties, may employ permanent full time gardeners. This type of gardener may not have to deal with issues associated with running a small business; such us traveling from job to job, making up for time lost during wet weather, or organising and maintaining tools and equipment. Their work may be more secure, and their lives less complicated; but the wages for this type of job can be minimal unless they rise to a supervisory or management position (in which case, income rises, but so does the complexity and stresses associated with the job).

Knowledgeable and skilled gardeners are often hard to find. There are plenty of people who will prune roses, remove weeds, spray pests and mow lawns; but there can be significant problems associated with doing any of these things the wrong way. Many clients who employ gardeners are oblivious to a gardener doing the wrong thing; but someone who knows how to do a good job will gradually build credibility, attract better jobs (in every respect), and secure a much better long term career.

Risks and challenges
Finding well paid work as a gardener may be difficult; though some self employed contract gardeners can earn extremely well; perhaps better than some university qualified professionals.

  • Building up a business of your own may take time and investment.
  • When running your own business you will need to develop adequate business skills as well as horticultural skills.
  • Gardening can be physically challenging at times.
  • You will need to be knowledgeable about plants to avoid making (potentially costly) mistakes.
How to become a gardener
To be a really good gardener, you need:
  • To be able to identify at least 500 of the most commonly cultivated plants in your locality
  • An understanding of principles plant growth; managing soil, fertiliser, water, light.
  • An ability to quickly differentiate weeds from garden plants
  • An ability to properly prune common garden plants
  • To be able to safely and properly use garden tools and machinery 

Some gardeners learn this through a course, others learn it on the job; but most often, the best gardeners learn by studying for at least a couple of years and working for at least a year alongside a highly skilled and experienced gardener.

Other jobs include

  • Greenkeeper
  • Groundsman
  • Landscape Gardener
  • Nursery Worker
  • Handyman
  • Florist
  • Arborist
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Accredited ACS Global Partner

Member of Study Gold Coast

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

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

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Adriana has worked in horticulture since the 1980's. She has lived what she preaches - developing large gardens and growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs and making her own preserves.
In 1992 she formalised her training by graduating with a certif

Diana Cole

Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Permaculture Design Certificate, B.A. (Hons)-Geography, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development
Diana has been an enthusiastic volunteer with community garden and land conservation projects sinc

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

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