Soil Management - Horticulture BHT105

Soil is our life blood!

  • Learn the foundation of all good horticulture. Without a sound understanding of soils, you simply cannot realise your full potential as a horticulturist or gardener.
  • Develop your abilities to apply knowledge of soil properties at a management level.
  • A course for gardeners, horticulturists, farmers, market gardeners, landscapers, orchardists, students or anyone else seeking to better understand how to grow plants better.
Without a sound understanding of soils, you simply cannot realise your full potential as a horticulturist or gardener.
Develop your abilities to apply knowledge of soil properties at a management level.



There are eight lessons in this module as follows:

Lesson 1   Physical & Chemical Properties Of Soils

Lesson 2   Soil Testing Methods

Lesson 3   Sustainable Soil Management

Lesson 4   Soils & Managing Earthworks

Lesson 5   Land Degradation & Other Soil Problems

Lesson 6   Container Growing

Lesson 7   Soil Science & Health

Lesson 8   Soil Management

Duration:   100 hours


  • Identify and describe soil physical and chemical properties
  • Explain processes, including forms of soil nitrogen and nitrogen cycles in soil, soil humus, texture, soil water, and pH.
  • Understand the principles and procedures of soil testing in domestic and professional situations
  • Understand principles of sustainable soil management
  • Understand soil fertility and the practical development of natural soil fertility
  • Explain earthworks management
  • Explain land and soil degradation processes; and the prevention or amelioration of land degradation
  • Describe soil management for container growing

What is covered by each of the lessons?

Lesson 1.   Physical and Chemical Properties of Soils

  • How soils develop
  • The main rock forming minerals: silicates, carbonates, oxides and sulphates
  • Types of rock: igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic
    Denitrification, immobilisation, mineralisation and ammonium fixation
    Understanding soil function: plant nutrition, support, water and air supply
  • Naming a soil
  • Improving soils for plant culture
  • Organic matter
  • Plant nutrition
  • Nutrient availability and pH
  • Cation exchange capacity
  • Conductivity
  • Salinity build up
  • The nutrient elements
  • Major elements and minor elements
  • Total salts
  • Diagnosing nutrient problems
  • Fertilisers
  • Composting

Lesson 2.   Soil and Plant Tissue Test Methods

  • Soil sampling
  • Common soil tests: pH, texture, structure, etc
  • Tissue analysis
  • Different methods of measuring pH
  • Water content of soil
  • Fertiliser solubility
  • Testing the effect of lime
  • Laboratory testing of soils
  • Measuring salinity
  • Colorimeters
  • Bulk density
  • Understanding soil analysis
  • Deciding when and how to test

Lesson 3.   Soil Science and Health

  • Organic carbon
  • Available phosphorus
  • Soil colour
  • Texture and its affect on plant growth
  • Structure and its affect on plant growth
  • Consistence: affect on plant growth
  • Depth of profile, pH, porosity and other things affecting plant growth
  • Soil classification and description: different horizons
  • Factors affecting soil formation: parent material, climate, ecosystem, etc
    Weathering processes in soil formation: physical, chemical, geochemical
  • Pedochemical weathering

Lesson 4.   Container Growing 

  • Introduction
  • What to grow
  • Problems with containers
  • Care of containers
  • Comparing materials: plastics, terracotta, fibreglass, etc
  • Aesthetics of containers
  • Potting up
  • Potting mixes
  • Ideas for container gardens
  • History of potting mixes
  • UC mixes
  • Soilless mixes
  • Testing for toxins in potting media
  • Propagating media
    Problems with Organic materials in media
  • Coir
  • Rockwool
  • Components of potting media
  • Cleanliness with soils and potting media
  • Hydroponics

Lesson 5.    Land Degradation and Other Soil Problems

  • Chemical damage to soil
  • Builders rubbish in soils
  • Salinity
  • Dogs or cats urinating
  • Growing plants in dry areas
  • Soil degradation
  • Erosion
  • Salinity
  • Acidification
  • Compaction
  • Chemical residues

Lesson 6.   Soil Management Applications

  • Aims of soil management
  • Soil management in orchards
  • Fertilizer application
  • Soil covers
  • Soil management for Vegetables

Lesson 7.   Organic Techniques and Soil Management

  • What is organic growing
  • Organic principles for overcoming soil problems
  • Natural plant nutrition
  • Trace elements
  • Earthworms
  • Types of mulch and its use
  • Nutrition management in a plant nursery
  • Applying liquid fertilizers
  • Organic fertilizers
  • Natural fertilizers
  • Mineral rock fertilizers and soil conditioners
  • Apatite phosphate rock
  • Dolamite
  • Gypsum
  • Soil management in market gardens
  • Crop rotation
  • Determining kind and quantity of fertilizer to use
  • Cover crops

Lesson 8.   Soils and Managing Earthworks

  • Earth forming
  • Machinery
  • Creating mounds
  • Sources of "fill"
  • Drainage
  • Improving drainage
  • Improving surface drainage after construction
    Designing a drainage system
  • Improving permeability during construction
  • Layout of drains
  • Types of drains


  • Identify evaluate soil structural problems in the field
  • Build a compost heap and monitor its decomposition process
  • Perform simple experiments to evaluate fertilisation rates and methods
  • Define and describe soil properties and processes
  • Perform simple tests and field analyses on soil
  • Identify nutrient deficiencies
  • Evaluate the attributes of various mulches
  • Analyse the impacts of earthworks and earth working machinery on soil and landscape
  • Analyse the effects of different soil management methods.
  • Identify soil and land degradation
  • Propagate and grow plants in containers with different soil/potting mixers
  • Identify and evaluate soil degradation minimisation programs and methods

Tips for Buying Soils and Potting Mixes

“Soils ain’t Soils”! Quality and price can vary greatly!
A good soil from a garden supply company will satisfy some of the following quick checks:

  • It should NOT have an overbearing pungent smell – this can indicate toxic chemicals (eg. from pine bark or excessively fresh manure in the mix).
  • The texture should be even - lumps, or occasional chunks of stone, clay or bark indicates it has not been screened and mixed properly, and drainage may be uneven.
  • It should not be excessively sticky when wet (moisten a small handful and roll it into a cylinder….if the cylinder sticks together solidly, particularly if it has a consistency like plasticine, the mix may not drain well).
  • If it is dry, and you add water, the water should soak in easily. If it runs over the surface, and is very slow to infiltrate, then the mix may repel water and remain dry.
  • Look closely for any signs of weeds (e.g. germinating seeds, roots, etc), and if possible check the soil yard where it comes from too. Don’t buy soil that has weeds in it, or weeds flowering and dropping seeds nearby.
  • Test the garden soil for pH. Ideally is should be slightly acid to neutral (6.0-7.5). Some plants may want a specific pH level – if you want to grow these plants then consider their requirements.
  • Some countries have quality standards for soils and potting mixes. Look for soils and potting mixes that comply with standards, they will have quality standards logos in the packaging. This will help ensure you get a quality mix. Check with your local supplier to see if their soils do – it’s worth paying a bit more to ensure you get the right soil for your needs.


Who Benefits from This Course?

hen understanding soills you not only need to know the properties of soil (chemical and physical) and the modifications (if any) needed. This knowledge helps you to grow healthy plants. At completion sStudents will have a thorough knowledge of which soils suit which types of plants, they will understand how to observe and test soils and from that analyse what the options are for altering soils to effect healthy plant growth.

The course will appeal to those working in, or aspiring to work in, the following areas:

General horticulture

Nursery work

Crops - fruit & vegetables


Garden maintenance

Parks & gardens

Learn More, Enrol Today


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Fee Information (S2)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $781.66  1 x $710.60
B 2 x $416.96  2 x $379.05

Note: Australian prices include GST. 

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from anywhere in the world!

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