Learn to build a garden, to properly engineer earthworks, create stable surfaces and build structures that are solid and durable. Hard landscaping principles.

Course Code: BHT111
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn Methods Behind Basic Landscape Construction

Landscape construction is something which all landscapers should be familiar with, even if they are more focussed on soft landscaping. Construction skills are not only necessary in building hard landscape features, but also in repairing and restoring existing features.

Start your journey into landscaping

This course develops your knowledge of how to construct or build a landscape, rather than to design it.  

Learn to construct or build a garden the "right" way. This course provides a good grounding for someone entering the landscape industry. 
A course for:
  • Garden designers who need to better understand how their designs can be implemented
  • Gardeners, horticulturists, engineers, property developers or tradesmen who need a broader understanding of how to construct gardens
  • Property owners or developers who need to understand how to develop the landscape more effectively and appropriately.


    Lesson Structure

    There are 10 lessons in this course:

    1. Tools and Machinery
      • Manual Handling
      • Materials used for Constructing Tools and Equipment; ferrous metals, non ferrous metals
      • Safety with Electricity
      • Engine Troubleshooting
      • Machine Maintenance
      • Types of Machines
      • Chainsaws: safety, buying, using
      • Brush cutters
      • Earthmoving and Cultivating Equipment; rotary hoes, ploughs
      • Tools and Machinery
      • Manual Handling
      • Materials used for Constructing Tools and Equipment; ferrous metals, non ferrous metals
      • Safety with Electricity
      • Engine Troubleshooting
      • Machine Maintenance
      • Types of Machines
      • Chainsaws: safety, buying, using
      • Brushcutters
      • Earthmoving and Cultivating Equipment; rotary hoes, ploughs, cultivators, etc
      • Workshop and Hand Tools; spanners, chisels, hacksaws etc
      • Hand saws, Rakes, Spades, Shovels, Rollers, Wheelbarrows, Sprayers, etc
    2. Landscape Plans and Setting out a Construction Site
      • Reading Landscape Plans, Scale, etc
      • Understanding and Using Triangulation
      • Slope, Contouring, Grid Systems
    3. Drainage in Landscape Construction
      • Introduction to Drainage
      • Testing Drainage
      • Improving Drainage
      • Improving Soil Water Infiltration
      • Improving Drainage after construction; sand slitting, aerating, sub soiling
      • Sub Surface Drains; types, layout, outlet, gradients, pipe spacing, etc
      • Surface Drainage
      • Soil Testing; testing nutrients, pH, toxins
    4. Earthworks
      • Leveling terminology
      • Leveling Procedure
      • Leveling a Sloping Site
      • Earthmoving
      • Earthmoving Machinery; Bobcat, Backhoe, Dozer
      • Use an Experienced Driver
      • Topsoil Considerations
      • Earth Forming: creating Mounds
      • Building Raised Garden Beds
      • Earth Quantity Calculation
      • Soil Degradation
      • Erosion; water erosion, wind erosion, controlling erosion
      • Soil Acidification Management
      • Managing Soil Compaction
      • Managing Chemical Residues
    5. Surfaces, Paths, Paving and Turf
      • Introduction
      • Surfaces for Play Areas
      • Concrete; concrete, cement, mortar, variations in treatment and use
      • Loose Surfacing Materials: advantages and disadvantages
      • Bark Surfaces, Crushed tiles, pebbles, etc
      • Paths; concrete, asphalt, etc
      • Paving; laying pavers, setting out circular paving, curved paving, edges to paving
      • Lawns and Turf; shape, design, establishment
      • Garden Edges
      • Playing Field Construction
      • Sand Based Technology
      • Constructing Steps
    6. Construction of Garden Structures I
      • Buildings in a Garden; gazebos, verandahs, storage buildings, cubbies, etc
      • Where to build a building
      • Floors and Foundations for Buildings
      • Walls; brick construction, coping, expansion joints, etc
      • Fencing
      • Retaining Walls
      • Wooden Walls
      • Construction with Rock or Masonry; dry walls, wet walls
      • Home Playgrounds
      • Using Timber in the Garden
      • Differences between Softwood and Hardwood
    7. Construction of Garden Structures II
      • Compost Bins
      • Traditional Features: gazebos, statues, gates, arches, sundials, bird baths, urns, tubs, pergolas, pleached alleys, etc
      • Wooden Decks
      • Constructing a Deck
      • Greenhouse and Shadehouse; types, construction, installation
      • Water Features; Waterproofing, keeping water clean
      • Landscaping a pond
      • Tennis Courts
      • Spas
      • Rockery Construction
      • Artificial Rock Formation
      • Mulching Rockeries
      • Garden Furniture
      • Lighting in the Garden
    8. Irrigation Systems
      • Planning an Irrigation System
      • Types of Systems: sprinkler, drip, automatic, etc
      • Using and Maintaining an Irrigation System
    9. Establishing Hedges and Other Plants
      • Factors affecting successful plant establishment
      • Physical Plant Protection Methods
      • Hedges; site preparation, plant selection, spacing, planting, pruning, hedge maintenance
    10. Workplace Safety and Management of Landscape Construction Work
      • Risk Management on a Landscape Construction Site
      • Risks
      • Keeping a Work Site Safe
      • Duty of Care
      • Significance of Illness
      • Protective Clothing
      • Safety with Tools and Equipment
      • Safety with electricity and different types of equipment
      • Tool Maintenance ghs, cultivators, etc
      • Workshop and Hand Tools; spanners, chisels, hacksaws etc
      • Hand saws, Rakes, Spades, Shovels, Rollers, Wheelbarrows, Sprayers, etc


    • Manage equipment for landscape construction projects, including tools and machinery.
    • Determine earthworks for a landscape development.
    • Plan the construction of different landscape structures including buildings, fences, and walls.
    • Manage the installation of a simple irrigation system in gardens.
    • Determine construction techniques for different building or installing different garden features; including paving, water gardens, rockeries and furnishings.
    • Determine techniques for creating soft landscaping.
    • Manage work being undertaken on a landscape construction site.

    What You Will Do

    • Compare the quality and cost of a range of different tools and machinery used in landscape construction.
    • Identify tools and machinery used in everyday work by landscape contractors.
    • Explain appropriate uses for different tools and machinery on a landscape construction site.
    • Prepare landscape plans for a number of landscape sites
    • Research and report on marking out boundaries in construction sites
    • Describe how to locate contours
    • Determine the fall of existing drains, and identify appropriate falls, spacing and depths of drains
    • Observe and report on earth moving equipment in operation
    • Survey a site and recommend earthworks necessary
    • Examine surfacing materials for paths, gardens, etc and determine the appropriate landscaping function of each.
    • Assess the construction of a range of different existing landscape features
    • Describe preparation of foundations for a specified garden structure, for a specific site.
    • Design a rockery.
    • Contact a range of suppliers of landscape materials and compare the products available in your locality.
    • Identify materials needed to install an irrigation system for a site selected by you.
    • Prepare plans of irrigation systems
    • Research which species of plants are suitable for hedging in your locality
    • Outline how to effectively transplant an existing tree
    • Prepare a detailed risk assessment for a landscape construction site
    • Identify safe working practices for a landscape construction site
    • Determine a list of work tasks to be undertaken on a landscape construction site. Develop a time frame for completion of the entire project



    Small earth moving jobs in easy to dig soils can be readily done with a wheelbarrow and shovel. Most small jobs though, will benefit from additional rotary hoeing to loosen the soil (especially clay soils). It will then be easier to work the soil with a shovel.

    Larger jobs however, require larger equipment.

    A Rotary Hoe
    These are used to turn over soil, cultivating it using a series of rotating blades. They can range in size from small tillers for regular domestic use, to larger self propelled machines for larger work such as the initial cultivation at a new house site, to tractor driven models for heavier, deeper work, and for larger areas. The larger self propelled units can often be hired for a reasonable cost and generally don’t require a licence to operate. A solid day’s work with one can save you a great deal of work later on by hand, in both digging and weed control.

    Medium to large jobs (anything requiring movement of more than a couple of cubic metres of soil) will benefit from the use of some type of earthmoving machinery. These include:

    A Cat
    A small machine with rubber tyres and a tractor bucket on the front. The bucket can lift and carry loose soil, rocks, sand, etc. It can dig in soil to some extent, but not as much as some other machines. It is more likely to get bogged in wet or loose soil than a backhoe or dozer. Being the smallest, and often the cheapest to hire, a cat is most appropriate in confined spaces around a house on a small block (often it is the only machine small enough to gain access to the backyard).

    A Backhoe
    Larger than a Cat - with a bucket on the front and a digging scoop on a moveable arm at the back; It can do everything that a cat can do, and more. It is better at digging, it can dig trenches for pipes or foundations and can place rocks easier and more precisely than a cat or dozer. It has rubber tyres like a cat and can easily get bogged particularly in wet soil, but can use its digging arm to pull itself out.

    A Dozer
    Moves on "tracks" (like an army tank) rather than rubber wheels; it is not prone to getting bogged like a backhoe or cat; is able to work on steeper slopes than wheeled machines. Has a bucket or blade on the front. Good for digging and shaping the ground, but not always for moving materials or for trenching. It is not suitable for small areas, although in recent years a range of mini-dozers, have become available, which are more suitable for small areas.


    When you hire a machine, hire it with a driver who is experienced. A good driver will do three times as much work in the same period of time. Generally half a day should get most of the earthmoving and other heavy work done in an average new home garden. This might involve:
    • Some cut and fill work to terrace a part of the garden.
    • Establishing the basic levels for the lawn areas.
    • Bringing soil and mulch from where it was delivered at the front and dumping it in different parts of the garden where it will later be used.
    • Placing large boulders in position where they might be later used.
    Earth Moving Jobs  may include:
    • Bringing in topsoil to sow a lawn
    • Bringing in soil to build raised garden beds
    • Bringing in fill to raise a flood-prone area
    • Removing earth to lower an area to the desired height
    • Cutting and filling
    • Creating terraces for garden beds
    • Creating swales for water management (to direct water onto plants or away from wet areas)
    • Creating dams and ponds
    • Making cuts on sloping blocks for buildings
    • Removing unwanted or contaminated soil
    Moving Existing Earth
    When you move soil you disturb both the vegetation cover and the topsoil.  This can make it more difficult to grow plants – especially if you move topsoil away and attempt to grow plants on subsoil.  The exposed ground is also more prone to erosion.
    When moving existing soil take into account: 
    • Any potentially unstable soil in the area
    • The stability of any exposed cutting/embankments – is the angle of the excavation too steep?
    • The effects of wind and rain – will they scour the exposed surface?  Will they deposit silt or sand?
    • What maintenance is required to protect the exposed soil surface?
    • Will the excavation impact on the appearance and amenity of the site?
    • Are there any underground power lines, gas mains, water or drainage pipes?
    • Are there any easements on the property?

    How Will You Benefit?

    • Learn to take a more planned and systematic approach to building a landscape
    • Understand how preparing the ground better can enhance or hinder all of the work that follows
    • Make better decisions about building the hard landscape
    • Fast track business or employment opportunities in landscape construction
    • Save money and time -no traveling to classes
    • Determine when, where and how long your study sessions are, for yourself
    • Enjoy exceptional support from a whole team of horticulturists spread across Australia, England and beyond; accessed whenever you need them, via email, phone or online chat.
    • Develop a deeper understanding of designing and building cottage gardens appropriate to any site
    • Start networking with others who have involvement or interest the landscape industries
    • Raise your awareness of opportunities to work in landscape construction.


    Member of the Future Farmers Network

    UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

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

    Alternative Technology Association Member

    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)

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

    Recognised since 1999 by IARC

    Course Contributors

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

    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

    Bob James (Horticulturist)

    Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
    He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

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