Certificate Course for Organic Gardening and Farming
- Part 1 involves Core studies in General Horticulture
- Part 2 involves specialist studies in organic Growing
- Start anytime, study from anywhere and at your own pace
The Core Units comprise fifteen modules that are divided into the following sections:
- Introduction to Plants
- Plant Culture
- Soils and Nutrition
- Plant Identification and Use
- Pests, Diseases and Weeds
Students must complete and pass all of these core units.
1. Introduction to Plants (40 hours)
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 how to use prescribed reference books and other resources to gain relevant information.
- Dissect, draw and label two different flowers.
- Collect and identify the shapes of different leaves.
- Demonstrate how to identify between family, genus, species, variety and cultivar.
2. Plant Culture (60 hours)
The purpose of this study area is to demonstrate the ability to care for plants so as 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 competence in selecting an appropriate irrigation system for a garden, explaining why that system would be preferred.
- Define water pressure and flow rate and how to calculate each.
- Explain the need for regular maintenance of garden tools and equipment.
- List factors that should be considered when comparing types of machinery for use in garden maintenance.
3. Soils and Plant Nutrition (50 hours)
The purpose of this study area is to provide students with 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 the 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 the process by which salting occurs and how to minimise its effect.
- Conduct simple inexpensive tests on three different potting mixes and report accordingly.
- Describe suitable soil mixes for container growing of five different types of plants.
- List a range of both natural and artificial fertilizers.
- Describe fertilizer programs to be used in five different situations with ornamental plants.
4. Introductory Propagation (40 hours duration)
The purpose of this study area is to improve the student's understanding of propagation techniques with particular emphasis on cuttings and seeds. Other industry techniques such as grafting and budding are also explained.
- Demonstrate propagation of six (6) different plants by cuttings and three from 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 (60 hours)
The purpose of this study area is to improve the student's range of plant knowledge and the plant use in landscaping and the ornamental garden, and the appreciation of the 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 (50 hours)
The purpose of this study area is develop the student’s ability 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.
- Photograph or prepare specimens, identify and recommend control practices for at least five insect pests of ornamental plants.
- Photograph, sketch or prepare samples, 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 three different weed problems.
- Collect, press, mount and identify a collection of ten different weeds, and recommend 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
The Organic Plant Growing Stream is divided into the following:-
Plus 2 of the Following Modules:
- Commercial Organic Vegetable growing
- Organic Farming
- Permaculture Systems
- Berry Production
- Mushroom Production
- Fruit Production
Fees do not include exam fees
There are two exams for the core and 3 for the stream (one for each stream module)
Organics can help make any farm or garden more sustainable both in the short and long term. It can reduce both establishment and maintenance costs, if practiced properly.
- Organics is a low input way of growing plants. You do not need to invest so much money inexpensive chemicals and fertilisers. Any declines in initial production are balanced against these reduced costs.
- Organics is less likely to result in land degradation than many other production methods; hence the long term cost of sustaining production is less.
- If growing produce to sell; organic produce can command a premium price and may have other marketing advantages.
To be recognised as being an organic producer you need to abide by guidelines that are set by various bodies in your country.
One problem with marketing organic produce, particularly fruit and vegetables, is that people may think that slightly blemished looking produce is a poorer quality. Well grown organic produce however doesn't need to be marked, and in many cases can have a better flavour.
Consumers will often pay a higher price for organic produce, than non-organic produce. Consequently profits can be improved. However, it should be noted that without good cultural knowledge of the crops/animals a farmer is producing, serious losses can occur.
Organic farming is not a 'lazy farmers' technique. A lot of work is involved in utilising integrated pest management and hygiene above and beyond most normal farm enterprises. Once an organic production management system is in place, however, and operating, it tends to stabilise over a period of time, and becomes easier to manage.
Important principles for organic growing, according to industry leaders, include:
- To promoting established biological cycles on a property; encouraging the micro-organisms in the soil, plants and animals already living in that microclimate.
- To maintain environmental resources in a local area, using them with care and sustainably. Any use of resources should be very efficient and materials should be recycled as much as possible.
- To reduce reliance on external resources as much as possible.
- To minimise contamination on site
- To not export pollutants off site
- To maintain genetic diversity on site and beyond.
Typical organic practices include using natural fertilisers,
composting, inter-cropping, rotating crops and non chemical weed and
WILL THIS COURSE GET ME A JOB?
No course will guarantee you a job - but choosing the right one will certainly help!
Not all courses are equal some tend to focus on just getting you to the end, rather than helping you to learn.
The fundamental aim of a 'good education' depends very much on three processes:
- Gathering knowledge - what you learn.
- Retaining knowledge - how you learn and store it.
- Recalling knowledge – recollecting what you have learned, even years later.
Choosing what you learn: Education should be broad as this develops your knowledge and skills. When choosing an industry such as horticulture it is always best to learn the basic fundamentals first i.e. the core skills needed to work in the industry in general, that way you can move across inter-industry sectors if needed. The core units for a Certificate in Horticulture (for example) will give you good basic industry skills that can equally apply to nursery work, crop growing, gardening or other inter-industry sectors. Once you have these skills, your future prospects for employment are far brighter as you are a value to the industry in general, rather than to just a single industry sector e.g. crop growing.
Retaining knowledge: There are keys to retaining knowledge – most of us will only store knowledge in short term memory the ‘if you don’t use it you will lose it scenario’. As educators we have found at ACS that the best system for storing knowledge is to really know your subject. This may sound obvious but many courses just teach the facts. When students are set problems to solve and practical set tasks, like we do at ACS, rather than just reading and regurgitating facts and figures from text books, they are much more likely to gather pertinent knowledge and retain that knowledge.
Recalling what you have learned: there is a difference between retaining what you have learned to short term memory and recalling what you have learned years later. Undertaking problem solving tasks and projects are much more likely way to commit information to long term memory. We consider that, along with a passion for what they are studying, to be the key reason our students do so well in their courses, our courses are based on a Problem Based Learning system. Problem based assignments and practical set tasks mean that students have to work at finding solutions and developing skills. These may come from various sources - in the process they gather knowledge through experiential learning, which ismore likelyto be retained in long term memory.
So although a course and qualification won’t necessarily get you a job – choosing the right course and learning the right things will certainly help.