Foundation Certificate in Residential Garden Planning and Care Level 2

Course CodeVHT039
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)150 hours


  • Study Online or using USB
  • 150 hours study where and when you want, from anywhere in the world, and complete the course as fast or slow as best suits you
  • This course provides a route to employment in professional horticulture by assessing knowledge of the scientific principles and underpinning horticultural practices, and supports career development for those already working in the profession. It also provides a foundation for further learning or training in the field of horticulture.


The course consists of 4 units:

  • Unit 1 – Garden features, plant selection and planning.
  • Unit 2 – The choice, establishment and maintenance of garden plants and lawns.
  • Unit 3 – The production of outdoor vegetables and fruit.
  • Unit 4 – Protected environments and their use in plant cultivation.
There are 10 lessons in this course:
  1. Principles of Garden Design
    • Introduction
    • Landscape Principles (Unity, Balance, Proportion, Harmony, Contrast, Rhythm)
    • Design Elements (Line, Form, Mass, Space, Texture, Colour, Tone)
    • Landscape Effects
    • Colour in Garden Design
    • Formal Gardens
    • Informal Gardens
    • Cottage Gardens
    • Minimalist Gardens
    • Natural Landscapes
    • Oriental Gardens
    • Mediterranean Gardens
    • Tropical Gardens
    • Plant Identification, Culture and Use -Reviewing a range of plants
  2. Conducting Garden Surveys and Planning
    • Appraising a Site and Collecting Data for Planning
    • Components of the Pre-Planning Phase
    • Use of Hard Garden Features and Hard Surfaces
    • Scale for Landscape Plans
    • Triangulation
    • Surveying Slope
    • Direct Contouring
    • The Grid System
    • Leveling Terminology and Procedure
    • The site Plan
    • Concept Plan
    • Final Plan
    • Other Plans
    • Design Procedure
    • Landscape Graphics
    • Putting Pen to Paper
    • Lettering and Graphics
  3. Use of Hard Landscaping Features
    • Hard and Soft Landscaping
    • Surfaces in the Garden
    • Paving
    • Using Pebbles
    • Rockeries
    • Mulching and Erosion Matting
    • Barriers and Walls
    • Trellis
    • Types of Fencing
    • Patios
    • Seating
    • Garden Structures
    • Garden Art, Features and Furnishings
    • Pools, Ponds and Water Gardens
    • Environmental Sustainability
  4. Use of Soft Garden Features
    • Choosing Plants
    • Purchasing Plants
    • Trees in the Landscape (Deciduous, Semi Deciduous, Evergreen)
    • Shrubs
    • Perennials and Herbs
    • Types of Herb Gardens
    • Wildflower Meadows
    • Perennial Displays
    • Annuals
    • Flower Bed Design
    • Cottage Gardens
    • Scented Plants
    • Climbers and Growing plants on Trellis
    • Lawns and Turf varieties
  5. Plant Establishment and Maintenance
    • Plants in the Landscape
    • Plant Selection
    • Environmental Factors
    • Improving Environmental Conditions
    • Selecting the Right Plant
    • Which Plant to Buy
    • Understanding Soils and Fertility
    • Plant Nutrition
    • Preparing a Garden
    • Transplanting Techniques
    • Fertilising and Staking
    • Planting Bare Rooted Plants
    • Time of Planting
    • Planting Mistakes to Avoid
    • Gardening in Dry Areas
    • Colourful Year Round Foliage
    • Establishing Annual and Herbaceous Plants
    • Seed
    • Selecting Herbaceous Plants and Bulbs
    • Dividing and Separating Perennials
    • Herbaceous Borders
    • Maximising Flower Displays
    • Selecting Woody Plants
    • Trees and Tree Health
    • Selecting Flowering Shrubs
    • Hedges
    • Climbers
    • Water Plants and Pond Management
    • Plant Health
    • Weed Management
  6. Pruning
    • What, Where and Why Prune
    • Removing Dead and Diseased Wood
    • Controlling Type of Growth
    • Distinguishing between Bud Types
    • Controlling Shape and Size
    • Pruning to Rejuvenate a Plant
    • Winter Pruning
    • How to Prune
    • Pruning Different Specific Plant Genera
    • Espaliers
    • Dead Heading
    • Tree Pruning
    • Stopping, Dis-budding, Root Pruning, Dead heading etc.
  7. Lawns; Establishment and Maintenance
    • Turf Establishment
    • Soil Preparation
    • Seeding, Stolonising, Sodding, Sprigging, Plugging
    • Mowers and Mowing Turf
    • Fertilising Turf
    • Renovation: aeration, scarification, top dressing etc
  8. Outdoor Food Production; Vegetables
    • Introduction to Growing Outdoor Food Crops
    • Growing Techniques for Vegetables
    • Planning a Crop
    • Starting a Vegetable Garden
    • Managing the Crop (Weed Control, Pests, Water etc)
    • Special Techniques: No Dig, Green Manure, Cover Crops, Compost etc)
    • Sustainable Cultivation Techniques
    • Planting Techniques
    • Review of major Vegetable Crops
    • Managing Water and Irrigation
  9. Outdoor Food Production; Fruit
    • Choosing a Site and Establishing an Orchard
    • Location, Climate, Rainfall and other Site Considerations
    • Deciding what to Grow
    • Scope of Fruit Growing
    • Pest and Disease Management on Fruit -Chemical and Non Chemical
    • Environmental Problems and their Management
    • Pruning Fruit Trees
    • Pollination
    • Review of Significant types of Fruits, Berries and Citrus
    • Developing a Production Plan
  10. Protected Cultivation
    • Introduction to Protected Growing
    • Types of Growing Structures
    • Factors Affecting Light Transmission in Growing Structures
    • Management of Greenhouses: Benches, Hygiene, Watering, Temperature Control etc
    • Shade Houses
    • Computerised Environmental Control
    • Heating Systems
    • Controlling Light
    • Irrigation & Nutrition Control
    • Feeding Plants
    • Pest and Disease Control in Greenhouses
    • Containers for Growing in
    • Potting Media
    • Indoor Plants and their Management

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Develop an understanding of: design principles and how to apply them; basic surveying; garden features, plant selection; garden planning.
  • Develop an understanding of plant selection, establishment and maintenance of a range of ornamental plants and lawns.
  • Develop an understanding of basic cultural operations and production methods for outdoor vegetable and fruit crops.
  • Develop an understanding of: environmental controls, uses and appropriate applications of greenhouses and other protected plant growing structures; the production of a range of plants in protected structures and the care of plants in the house and conservatory.

How To Plan A Garden
The first stage in planning a garden is to gather the information that will underpin your design. This process is called the pre planning phase

The Pre-planning Phase at a Glance
You need to collate the following information:

Property Information

  • topographic details - contours (slopes and site features)
  •  boundary lines
  • slope analysis – percentage and orientation (Nth/Sth/East/West) of slopes
  • hydrology – sources of water on site (natural and artificial)
  • drainage
  • climate i.e. the exposure of the site -  temperature, rainfall, wind, humidity, frost etc. microclimates 
  • soils - surface and subsurface
  • existing plant populations - trees, weeds, other
  • pests, diseases, animal populations
  • constructions - existing buildings, fences, roadways etc.

Utility information

  • availability - water, electricity, construction materials etc.
  • location of utilities
  • size and capacity of facilities – for now and the future

Historical Information

  • records, including titles and land data that may have a bearing on future use of the site
  • easements
  • other data, such as flood records, past and present usage, zoning changes, preservation requirements etc.
At this point you should determine any limitations on the planting design.
Developing a Concept Plan is Phase 2
The Concept Plan involves you doing the following
1. Determine the functional requirements of the plant materials.
  • Establish the spatial shape of the planned environment.
  • Work out where the "walls", "ceilings" and "floors" are to be, where you need canopies, baffles, screens and ground covers etc.

2. Develop basic concepts.

  • Determine the features you want to achieve in terms of colour, form, texture, harmony, contrast etc.
  • Where do you want to create each type of effect?

3. Select the plant varieties to be used.

4. Develop the preliminary plan.

Steps in Producing the Final Plan

  1. Review the concept plan and make notes of changes. Be critical about how well the concept plan achieves the functional requirements and basic concepts set down in the previous step.
  2. Draw a final plan.
  3. Write support information to accompany the plan.
The Final Phase is to Produce a Final Plan
By studying this course, you will be developing your ability to do all of these things!

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