Know More About Horticultural Machinery and Mechanised Equipment. Learn to manage, select, operate and maintain tools and equipment used in agriculture and horticulture safely.

Course Code: BSC105
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Manage the Selection, Operation and Maintenance of Tools and Machinery


With appropriate tools and equipment, and the knowledge to use them, working in horticulture, agriculture or property management can be far more productive, and a lot less hard work.

This course provides a foundation for doing just that. It will broaden your perspective of what is possible, and help you to make work decisions that are far more realistic. 

If you work in the horticulture industry and need to expand your knowledge into the selection, safe use and care of the equipment that is part of everyday horticultural operations then this course is for you.










Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Engine Operation
    • History of Engines
    • Measurements and mechanical principles
    • Load, Force, Pressure, Atmospheric Pressure
    • Gravity, Centre of Gravity, Specific Gravity
    • Density, Volumetric Efficiency, Vacuum, Work, Power, Energy
    • Bore, Piston Motion, Piston Displacement
    • Compression Ratio
    • Converting Imperial Measurements to Metric
    • Understanding a Petrol Engine
    • Engine Operating Cycle
    • The Transmission System Stages in 4 Stroke Spark Ignition Engine Cycle
    • Stages in 2 stroke spark ignition Engine Cycle
    • Engine Efficiency
    • Understanding Electricity
    • Circuits
    • Measuring Electricity; current, voltage, resistance, Ohm’s Law
    • Power
    • Electricity Supply; batteries, mains power, generators, solar cells
    • Electricity and Engines
    • Electric Motors
  2. Hydraulics
    • What is Hydraulics
    • Simple Hydraulic System
    • Pumps
    • Tractors
    • Hydraulic Tappings
    • System Valves
    • 3 point linkage on tractors
    • Pressure
    • Measuring Pressure
    • Pressure Head
    • Friction Loss
    • Calculating Friction Loss
    • Calculating Discharge or Flow
    • Velocity
    • Water Hammer
    • Submersible Pumps
    • Irrigation
    • Measuring Water available to plants
    • Irrigation Calculations
  3. Machinery Components
    • Parts of an Engine
    • Lubrication System
    • Cooling System
    • Fuel System
    • Ignition System
    • Transmission System
    • Examples of Mechanisation; potting machines, planters and drills, harvesters, graders, mowers
  4. Hand Tools
    • Lifting objects manually
    • Scope of tools and equipment
    • Secateurs
    • Hand Saws
    • Rakes
    • Spades and Shovels
    • Forks
    • Aerating Equipment
    • Rollers
    • Hoes
    • Wheelbarrows
    • Sprayers
  5. Power Tools
    • Types of tools
    • Drills
    • Grinders
    • Power Saws
    • Compressors
    • Hedge Trimmers
    • Chain Saws
    • Brush Cutters
    • Mowers
    • Mulchers
    • Rotary Hoes
    • Tool Safety
    • Tool Maintenance
  6. Tractors
    • Choosing a tractor
    • Choosing implements and attachments
    • Mini Tractors
    • Tractor Parts
    • Clutch
    • Transmission
    • Tractor safety
    • Tractor operation
    • Tractor Engine Fault Finding
    • Common operating faults
  7. Equipment Maintenance
    • Cleaning and Sharpening tools
    • Secateurs and branch cutting tools
    • Shovels and spades
    • Saws and Chainsaws
    • Rust protection
    • Maintaining timber handles
    • Plastic handles
    • Storage
    • Maintenance Procedures and Schedules
    • Training Equipment Operators
    • Rules for Operators
    • Engine Oil Additives
  8. Specific Workplace Requirements
    • Machinery Specifications
    • Application for an Industry Sector


  • To explain the operation of different types of motors, including petrol and electric engines.
  • To explain the principles of hydraulics in relation to agricultural and horticultural use.
  • To explain the operation of the main components of machinery commonly used in agriculture and horticulture including cooling, lubrication, fuel distribution, ignition and transmission systems.
  • To explain the safe and effective operation of different hand tools commonly used in agriculture or horticulture.
  • To determine the safe and appropriate operation of power tools in horticultural and agricultural situations.
  • To explain the safe and appropriate operation of a tractor in horticultural and agricultural situations.
  • Explain the maintenance procedures for different equipment commonly used in agriculture and horticulture, including hand tools, power tools and tractors.
  • To determine appropriate equipment for minimum work requirements in an agricultural or horticultural workplace.


Machines have many advantages, making difficult work easy; but they can also be dangerous, particularly if you don't keep them in good condition, and operate them in a proper and appropriate way.
General Tractor Safety
  • People are frequently killed when driving tractors. They can overturn!
  • Be careful - never think it can't happen to you!
Follow these precautions:
  • Read the operating instructions thoroughly
  • Keep safety guards and shields in their proper positions
  • Do not allow children near tractors
  • Only ride on the seat (don't let a second person ride on the tractor)
  • Wear tight fitting clothes
  • Don't drive when sick or tired
  • Adjust the seat so that you are comfortable and can easily reach all controls
  • Start engine only with the brake on and gears in neutral
  • Don't start engine in a closed shed
  • Don't drive fast, particularly on sloped or rough ground
  • See equipment is well clear of ground when driving
  • Cross ditches at right angles
  • Reduce speed before applying brakes to turn
  • Don't reverse unless you have a clear view
  • Don't get off a tractor until it has stopped, switched off, and brakes are on
  • Do not park on a steep slope
  • Set tractor wheels as wide apart as possible (this improves stability)
  • Follow instructions when hitching or unhitching implements
  • When towing or pulling, move slowly and carefully (do not tug in jerks)
  • It is always wise to have a safety cab or roll bars built around the seat for added safety!
Using Chain Saws 
For some garden jobs, you can’t go past a chain saw for making light work of an otherwise monstrous task. Chain saws are also dangerous, needing proper handling and regular maintenance.
Buy or Hire?
If you have a large property it might be worth buying a chain saw. These are tools that need constant maintenance though, and for the occasional user, it is cheaper to hire one from a reputable hire company.
When you hire a chain saw, you are guaranteed a machine that is in good working order (which is essential for safety), a model that is reliable, and chains that are sharp. You don’t need to worry about resharpening chains or maintenance after use.
Ever wanted to prune a limb off a tree, but your secateurs or shears were too small for the job? Ever wanted to cut your fire wood up with less effort? Why not make life easier by using a chainsaw.
Pruning trees
For small pruning jobs around the garden a chainsaw can be helpful to:
  • remove low or obscuring branches
  • lower the height of large shrubs
  • creatively change a boring small tree into a topiary
For large trees that need pruning it is best to leave the job for qualified arborists. If a non-insured tree pruner, or yourself, causes damage to your house, you may not be covered by insurance.
A chainsaw is a great way to cut larger pieces of timber into suitable fire sized portions.
Use of timber is common in landscaping. A chainsaw can be very helpful for making rough cuts through sleepers or log sections. If you are planing to cut second-hand timbers and sleepers it is essential to remove all old nails, metal attachments, and any bits of debris, soil, and gravel..
Chainsaw options
Petrol or Electric
Petrol powered chainsaws are more common and tend to be sturdier and stronger, and offer greater portability than electric models. They are however, heavier to use, require frequent refueling, and require a fair amount of maintenance.
Electric chainsaws are significantly quieter, with no fumes, no difficulty with starting and no need for regular topping up of fuel. There are smaller in size, weight and strength, and their power cords can be a real hazard, in particular for tripping over, getting tangled with objects, and their potential for being cut as you use the saw. They require a power source (power point) nearby.
Bar Size
Larger engines have the power to operate bigger chains. The longer the bar a machine has, the thicker the pieces of timber you can readily cut. For domestic use a 14 or 16 inch bar (400 – 450mm) is usually sufficient. For heavier use, such as tree lopping, or regular firewood harvesting a larger engine, with a blade of 18inches (500mm) or more is more efficient.
Using A Chainsaw Safely
Chain saws need to be routinely serviced and maintained if they are to be safe. Safety is crucial. A chainsaw can be a very dangerous tool. All chainsaws should come with a cut-off guard close to the upper handle - this mechanism prevents the chainsaw jumping up towards the user’s face while the blade is running, and can trigger a chain break that stops the chain from running.
  • Always wear protective glasses or a visor, earmuffs, safety gloves, snag proof clothing, steel capped boots, long sleeves and long trousers, and ideally kevlar chainsaw trousers or chaffs.
  • Always hold the chainsaw firmly with both hands. Thumbs and fingers should encircle the handles. For a right handed person the left hand should be on the front handle, and the right hand on the rear handle. The left arm should be held rigid, and the chainsaw should be held close to body, but to the right of your body in case of kickback.
  • Make sure you have a clear working area. Remove any stones, or cut bits of wood, or other objects that might cause unstable footing. Maintain a safe distance from other people, animals and power equipment.
  • Stand in a well balanced position with your feet about shoulder width apart and firmly secure on the ground.
  • Always turn off the chainsaw and put it down while you are not actually cutting wood.
  • Never operate the chainsaw under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Only ever cut wood. Never allow the chain to touch soil or other foreign matter.
  • Don’t cut above shoulder height.
  • Avoid using the upper parts of the bar for cutting, only use the straight sections of the bar for cutting to avoid kickback.
  • Don't force the tool when cutting –let the chainsaw do the work.
  • Check the chain break is operating properly before starting, and periodically during operation
  • Ensure the cutting teeth are kept sharp and in good condition, and that the chain is regularly checked for tightness.
A hired chainsaw will be regularly sharpened and maintained to ensure optimum performance. Hence the popularity of hiring as opposed to purchasing.
The secret to low maintenance is to ensure you use your chainsaw properly. This includes the use of correct fuel, general cleaning and chain care.
Extending Chain Life
  • Chainsaw chains can wear out very easily if misused, and they're not cheap to replace. To get the most out of your saw, do the following:
  • Don't use the saw in dirty or gritty situations.
  • Don't cut timbers which might have nails or other foreign matter embedded in it (eg: railway sleepers or used building materials).
  • Don't use a chain when it starts to become blunt. Depending on the conditions , and the type of wood you are cutting, you might need to sharpen the chain after as little as only a dozen or so cuts.
  • Keep the chain properly tensioned (don't use it when it becomes loose).
  • Don't use an over worn sprocket. A worn out sprocket can destroy a new chain in a very short time.
  • Always use plenty of oil (never allow the oil to run dry).
  • Stop cutting immediately if the cut becomes crooked and restart afresh.
If you want to maintain your own chainsaw, then make sure you thoroughly read any maintenance manuals provided with your chainsaw, and carry out recommended maintenance procedures. In general:
  • Regularly remove and clean air filters, particularly when operating in dusty conditions.
  • Regularly wipe clean your chainsaw to remove debris such as sawdust.
  • Every time you fill up with fuel, and before you first start cutting check your oil levels.
  • Regularly remove the chain bar, wipe it clean with an oiled rag, and remove any debris from around the drive sprocket.


If you work in the horticulture industry and need to expand your knowledge into the selection, safe use and care of the equipment that is part of everyday horticultural operations then this course is for you.

This applies to anyone looking to work or working in a variety of horticultural sectors:

  • Crop farming
  • Flower farming
  • Turf management
  • Horticultural construction
  • Parks and gardens maintenance
  • Roadside management
  • Professional gardeing and grounds management

All these sectors use machinery - large and small - everyday. To get ahead in your field you need to understand the basic operations of the machinery used in your working life. You could also save thousands of dollars by indentifying problems as soon as they arise. Someone with basic engineering knowledge is an asset in this industry.



Course Contributors

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

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

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

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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