Nursery Hands Course

Course CodeVHT102
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment
  • Learn to work in a Production Plant Nursery
  • Understand  the skills for day to day work in a production nursery.
  • Improve the operation of a nursery business you own or manage

Lesson Structure

There are 11 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to the Nursery Industry: production systems, transport regulations, PVR
  2. Plant Identification and Taxonomy: systematic botany, plant families, leaf and flower parts
  3. Nursery Structures and Buildings: greenhouse management, structures for nurseries
  4. Potting Mixes: U.C. soil mixes, understanding soils, growing media
  5. Seed Propagation: quality, sources, storage, germination treatments
  6. Cutting Propagation: stock plants, hormones
  7. Other Propagation Techniques: tissue culture, division, separation, layering, grafting
  8. Plant Nutrition in the Nursery: nutrition management,
  9. Pests and Diseases Control: hygiene
  10. Other Nursery Tasks: nursery irrigation, modifying plant growth
  11. Marketing and Sales: sales methods


  • Understand plant propagation techniques and efficiency and quality control measures for the nursery.
  • Understand means of identifying and naming plants through International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.
  • Describe pros and cons of different nursery structures and understand effective management techniques.
  • Describe different types of potting mix, their uses and pros and cons.
  • Discuss different sources, maintenance of genetic identity, hybridisation techniques, storage and germination; of seeds.
  • Understand different means of propagating cuttings.
  • Understand alternative methods of propagation and their appropriate uses.
  • Discuss the importance of major and minor elements to plant health and the effect of their deficiencies upon plant nutrition.
  • Understand the effects of pests and diseases on the livelihood of the nursery and the importance of good hygiene standards in their control.
  • Understand different methods of controlling plant growth.

What You Will Do

  • Speak with a nurseryman who sells plants to research shipping plants to other localities.
  • Collect, dissect and observe flowers and leaves from six different plant species belonging to two plant families.
  • Speak to some of the nurserymen you have contacted throughout the course to date. Find out what you can about their preferences for different types of greenhouses and different shade houses.
  • Prepare two different types of propagating media; a soil-less potting media for general use in container growing of plants and a general potting mix containing some soil.
  • Contact and collect catalogues from at least six different seed suppliers.
  • Collect seed from at least three different plants growing in gardens or bushland and sow this seed
  • Contact (by phone) at least six different nurseries to research seed sourcing.
  • Prepare a pot of cuttings and estimate the cost of production for each cutting produced.
  • Obtain some pieces of wood and practice preparation of grafts and buds. Prepare three other grafts on a living plant.
  • Visit or contact a nursery or stock agent who supplies fertilisers. Research the various types of fertilisers available and their appropriate applications.
  • Obtain a soil-less growing medium (such as vermiculite, perlite, sand and so on or a mixture), which has had no fertilizers added to it at all. Fill 4 pots with this medium and plant 4 seedling plants into the pot. Obtain some different types of fertilizers and feed three of the pots, each with a different fertilizer...do not feed the fourth pot at all. Grow for 2‑3 weeks and then observe the differences in growth between each pot.
  • Identify as many pest or disease problems as you are able to for a given set of plants.
  • Contact three irrigation companies to find out what types of irrigation equipment are available for nursery irrigation. Try to get a comparison on prices between the cheaper systems and the more expensive systems which are available.
  • Visit two different nurseries to research the techniques which are used in modifying plant growth.

What's involved with Working in a Nursery?

There are many different ways of producing plants though most plants are produced commercially by either seed or cutting propagation. ‘Tissue culture’ or ‘micropropagation’ techniques carried out in a laboratory are sometimes used where very large numbers of one plant variety are required quickly, or where limited propagation stock is available. Other plants (eg. roses, deciduous fruit and ornamental trees) are traditionally produced by budding and grafting onto seed or cutting grown rootstocks. Division and separation are commonly used for the propagation of bulbs and herbaceous perennials.

Other propagation techniques (eg. layering or marcotting) may be important in the propagation of some specific types of plants; however they are relatively insignificant when taking a broad view of the nursery industry.

The nursery production system traditionally consists of four stages:
1. Propagation
2. Transplanting
3. Growing on
4. Marketing the fully grown plant

To better understand the procedures involved in propagation it is valuable to produce an operational flow chart which outlines the steps undertaken in each of the above four stages. An example flow chart for propagation of a eucalypt from seed is presented below:


Operational flow chart for Eucalyptus Seed Propagation

Propagation Stage
Obtain seed.
Mix propagating media.
Sterilise propagating media (if applicable).
Fill seed tray.
Water tray.
Sow seed.
Cover seed.
Water seed trays.
Place trays in propagation area (eg. glasshouse)
Germination takes place.

Transplanting Stage
Mix growing media (soil mix) or purchase soil mix.
Sterilise media.
Bring seedlings and soil mix to potting area.
Transplant seedlings into pots or tubes.
Move potted plants to protected or semi-protected position for growing on (eg. shaded position).

Growing-on Stage

Mix and sterilise/or buy potting soil.
Bring soil and plants together in potting area.
Pot up into container which plant will be sold in.
Allow growth to full size (apply fertiliser and water, prune, etc. as needed).

Marketing Stage
Prepare and label for sales.
Load onto van.
Call on retail nurseries canvassing sales.
Unload plants as they sell.

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