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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Develop your understanding of the practices and processes involved in successful plant cropping.

Gain a clear understanding of environmental control and plant growth in a protective environment.

Learn practical knowledge of plant husbandry techniques.

Study in your own time and at your own pace.

Learn more from our tutors – experts in the field!


 “Successful protective plant cropping requires the practical skills and knowledge you will gain when undertaking this course. A specialized field of growing covering all types of crops and ornamentals – this course with give you broad practical plant husbandry skills.” - Gavin Cole B.Sc., Psych.Cert., Cert.Garden Design, MACA, ACS Tutor


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Growing Protected Plants is a specialised field of horticulture requiring detailed knowledge.

Learn to Get More from a Greenhouse.

“Successful protective plant cropping requires the practical skills and knowledge you will gain when undertaking this course. A specialized field of growing covering all types of crops and ornamentals – this course with give you broad practical plant husbandry skills.” - Gavin Cole B.Sc., Psych.Cert., Cert.Garden Design, MACA, ACS Tutor


There are seven lessons in this module as follows:

Course Aim   

Successful completion of this course/module will develop your broad understanding of practices and processes involved in successful protective plant cropping.

It will develop a clear understanding of environmental control and plant growth within a protective environment, together with a practical knowledge of plant husbandry techniques.


There are seven lessons in this module as follows:

1.         Structures for Protected Cropping

2.         Environmental Control

3.         Cladding Materials and their Properties

4.         Irrigation and Nutrition

5.         Relationship between Production techniques and Horticultural practices

6.         Harvest and Post Harvest Technology

7.         Risk Assessment


  • To Describe and Evaluate the type and shape of modern growing structures
  • To describe and evaluate environmental controls in protected cropping
  • To explain the nature of solar radiation, transmission properties of glass and its substitutes
  • Determine the water requirements of a crop; and methods of irrigation.
  • Relate horticultural principles to the production and harvesting of a range of crops.
  • Evaluate the factors involved in marketing protected crops
  • Evaluate the factors involved in marketing protected crops
  • Undertake risk assessment

This course involves both practical and theoretical tasks which involve you doing a wide variety of things, including:

  • Identify the main types of growing structure
  • Relate use of structures to shape and type of construction
  • Identify the range of environmental factors controlled within a growing structure
  • Describe the use of the equipment used to measure and monitor these factors
  • Name and describe a range of types of environmental controls
  • Evaluate the use of IT facilities for environmental control
  • Describe the meaning of “daylight” and explain the role of sunlight and diffused light
  • Relate time of year to the quantity and quality of available light
  • Evaluate how the shape and orientation of a structure will affect light transmission
  • Assess the effectiveness of glass and cladding alternatives for light transmission
  • Describe the durability and insulation properties of glass and alternative materials
  • Select and describe appropriate systems of irrigation for plants grown in situ
  • Select and describe appropriate systems of irrigation for container grown plants
  • Specify and evaluate systems for incorporating plant nutrients into the irrigation water
  • Explain the effects of environmental control on a range of plants
  • Relate the essential features necessary for successful plant establishment and development to their underlying scientific principles.
  • Describe the production of a range of crops
  • State the optimum stage of growth for harvesting a range of crops
  • Describe the harvesting systems for protected crops
  • Explain how shelf life can be affected by pre and post harvesting treatment of the crop
  • State the factors to be considered when marketing crops
  • Evaluate alternative marketing outlets
  • Relate packaging & presentation to marketing
  • Assess benefits to the grower and customer, of grading a crop before marketing
  • Determine elements of risk in the practical operations associated with protected plant production.
  • Identify safe working practices


Protection Changes Many Things

When you grow a plant inside a greenhouse, or inside any other protected structure, many things change; some obvious and others not so obvious. The temperature is able to be controlled (usually made hotter, but sometimes cooled), and humidity is often higher (which can help plant growth, but may also promote disease). Wind is normally reduced, and light levels are sometimes controlled.

A less obvious effect is that levels of different gases in the air can become quite different to the air outside. In some instances, this may be an advantage; but it can also be a disadvantage. Consider Ethylene levels.

Ethylene is a gas produced by the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. All parts of all flowering plants produce ethylene, with the greatest concentration produced in ripening climacteric fruits. It is a natural growth regulator in plants, and is produced commercially under the trade name Ethrel.

The physiological effects of ethylene include the following:

  • Fruit ripening, especially in climacteric fruits, which includes tomatoes, avocadoes, apples and pears. (By contrast, non-climacteric fruits such as strawberries, grapes and citrus synthesise only very small amounts of ethylene and are not induced to ripen by it.) This effect is very important for post-harvest storage and ripening: tomatoes are picked green and stored in the absence of ethylene then treated with ethylene prior to sale; grapes are also hastened to ripen with ethylene.
  • Abscission (dropping) of flowers, leaves and fruit in a range of plants. Ethylene is used commercially as a fruit thinning agent in commercial prune and peach orchards. It is also used to promote fruit loosening which makes mechanical harvesting easier, in cherries, grapes, blueberries and blackberries.

Auxins (a type of hormone) have the ability to increase ethylene production in some plants. The interactions between the two hormones is responsible for varying physiological effects including inhibition of stem, root and leaf elongation, flower induction in bromeliads and mangoes, increased percentage of female flowers in dioecious plants, and apical dominance.

At high concentrations (5-10%), Carbon Dioxide (CO2) inhibits many ethylene effects. For this reason, CO2 is often used to prevent over ripening of harvested fruits.

Learning to grow plants in a protected structure can be complex; but armed with the knowledge of this course, you will have a foundation to develop skills faster and more thoroughly, to produce fruit, flower, vegetable or other crops, out of season; optimising productivity and profitability of a horticultural enterprise.





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Meet some of our academics

Maggi BrownMaggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Landscaper, Environmentalist. Holds a Diploma in Horticulture, degree in geography, permaculture certificate and various other qualifications. Between 1985 and 94, Diana was a task leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Since 2001 she has been chairperson of the Friends of Mellor Park (with Stockport MDC). From 2005 she has worked exclusively in horticulture as proprietor of her own garden design and consultancy business in and around Derbyshire; and at the same time as part time manager of a small garden centre. Diana has been an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable tutor with ACS since 2008.
Yvonne Sharpe (Horticulturist)Started gardening in 1966, studied a series of horticulture qualifications throughout the 1980's and 90's, culminating in an RHS Master of Horticulture. Between 89 and 1994, she worked teaching in horticultural therapy. Founded the West Herts Garden Association in 1990 and exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show in 1991. In 1994, Yvonne joined the staff at Oaklands College, and between 1996 and 2000 was coordinator for all Amenity Horticulture courses at that college. Since leaving Oakland she has been active as a horticultural consultant, retail garden centre proprietor and sessional lecturer (across many colleges in southern England). In 2000, she also completed a Diploma in Management.

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