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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Distance Learning Studies in the Care of Trees

Learn the Skills Behind Tree Maintenance

Trees are an integral part of our environment. We need them to be healthy to support our ecosystems.

  • Take this comprehensive course and study tree physiology and disorders.
  • Learn about diagnosis and treatment of tree problems, as well as standard tree surgery practices.
  • Find out how to control pests and diseases, and how to deal with nutritional or water problems as well as other environmental conditions that affect tree health.
  • Understand how to prune and train young and established trees.

Increasingly, tree care is recognised as an advanced science. We now understand the importance of regular attention being given to trees and, in studying this subject, you have a responsibility to monitor the trees you are seeing and let people know of their condition.

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Learn About Tree Physiology and Disorders

Add tree maintenance to your landscaping repertoire

Arboriculture is the science of how trees grow and respond to their environment as well as how to nurture them.

The only real way to avoid a catastrophe with a tree is to closely monitor the plant. It should probably be checked (on average) once every six to twelve months. If any problems are found, they should be treated immediately.

This course covers techniques and practices used to cultivate trees so as to maintain them in good health.  This includes things like selecting appropriate trees for the conditions, planting and staking, watering and how to fertilise different trees, types of pruning, cabling and bracing damaged tree limbs,  diagnosing problems such as nutritional disorders, controlling pests and diseases, transplanting and tree removal.

  • Study tree physiology and disorders
  • Self paced, 100 hour course for a career in tree management
  • This is a solid foundation course - start here, then build your knowledge through experience or further study while you work


There are eight lessons in this course, as follows:

Lesson 1. Introduction to Arboriculture

Trees in the garden, Planting in the right position, Choosing the right variety, Choosing the right specimen, How to plant different types of trees, Transplanting, Tree Guards, Using a Tree Report Form

Lesson 2. Tree Biology

Tree growth, Photosynthesis, Respiration, Transpiration, Vernilisation, What makes foliage change colour, Tree physiology, Roots, Stems, Leaves, Bud types, How a tree grows, Vascular tissue, Cambium, Xylem, Phloem, Secondary growth, Growth rings, Heartwood, Sapwood, Compartmentalisation, Water and plant growth, Growth rate factors, Arboricultural terminology

Lesson 3. Soils In Relation to Trees

Fertilising, Compacted soils, Tree health and drainage, Treating soil over winter, Changed soil levels around trees, Measuring pH, Measuring soil organic content, Measuring water content, Determining fertiliser solubility, Testing affect of lime on soil, Laboratory testing of soils, Soil texture, Measuring salinity, Soil horizons, Soil Naming, Soil nutrition, Fertilisers, etc

Lesson 4. Diagnosing Tree Problems

Tree health disorders, Frost protection, Minimising frost and wind damage, Mulch and frost, Missletoe, Diagnosing problems, Conducting a Tree inspection

Lesson 5. Tree Surgery

Tree surgery-do you need it, Review of techniques, Tree surgery safety, Safety and the worker, Public safety, Safety regulations, Cavity treatments, Bracing, Cabling, Propping, Bark wounds, Tree climbing techniques, Knots, Anchoring points, etc.

Lesson 6. Pruning of Trees

Pruning objectives, Removing branches, Crown cleaning, Crown thinning, Crown reduction, Crown lifting, Crown renewal, Fruit tree pruning, Felling a whole tree, Felling sections of a tree, terminology.

Lesson 7. Arboriculture Equipment

Secateurs, Hand saws, Power tools, Safety with electricity, Engine and tool maintenance, Chain saws, Hedge trimmers, Ladders, Harnesses, Ropes, Pole belt, Spurs, etc

Lesson 8. Workplace Health and Safety

Duty of Care, Lifting & manual handling, Protective equipment, Handling tools and machinery, Auditing tools and equipment


  • Describe measures to provide healthy trees in different situations, including appropriate plant selection.
  • Explain tree biology, including morphology, anatomy and physiology, as it relates to arboriculture.
  • Develop procedures to manage soils for improved tree growth.
  • Develop procedures for managing health disorders with trees, including environmental, pest and disease problems.
  • Determine surgical techniques commonly used in arboriculture to repair damage to plants
  • Explain tree surgery techniques commonly used in arboriculture to prune growth.
  • Determine appropriate equipment for arboricultural practice.
  • Determine appropriate workplace health and safety practices for an arboricultural workplace


  • Distinguish between plants in order to identify different trees.
  • Develop a standard tree report form customised for surveying the condition and use of trees in your locality.
  • Prepare plant reviews, naming and describing many different trees.
  • Explain how to treat three specified soil related problems that can effect trees.
  • Investigate a specific horticultural workplace (e.g. a park or tree plantation) and determine the requirements for a tree survey program.
  • Using diagrams, show the difference between the way phloem and xylem function.
  • Explain the physiological processes which cause a tree to increase in size.
  • Describe soil-related problems that have a significant impact upon  tree health. 
  • Develop a twelve month soil management program for a tree identified by you as suffering a soil-related problem.
  • Develop a twelve month program, for managing a health problem detected by you in an established tree.
  • Explain the effects of gas damage on different tree species (of your choice).
  • Demonstrate bridge grafting across a bark wound.
  • Distinguish between different methods of pruning including: -Canopy reduction  -Cleaning out  -Topiary  -Espaliering
  • Determine the minimum equipment required to commence business as a tree surgeon.
  • Compare different chainsaws, to determine appropriate applications for each.
  • Describe the use of ropes when pruning a specific large tree (your choice of tree). You should provide a written explanation accompanied by drawings or diagrams.
  • Evaluate Workplace Health & Safety practices in different workplaces where arboricultural activities are carried out.
  • Develop safety guidelines for arborists working in a workplace investigated by you
  • Determine legislation which is relevant to a specific arborist in a workplace which you visit.

Tree Care Tips

  • One of the biggest problems with trees in gardens is planting in the wrong position. 
  • People are misinformed of the spread and height of a tree when they plant it. They might plant small seedlings under power lines which then grow into 20 m trees. At best, the tree becomes an eyesore when the electricity company cuts (or more usually ‘hacks’) away the offending branches. At worst, the tree is a significant safety problem, potentially bringing down live electricity wires during storms. Another common problem is when property owners plant very tall trees up against the wall of the house and branches rub on the roof, dislodging tiles etc.
  • Trees which cause damage to drainage or sewer pipes are planted too close to the pipes. The pipes then become blocked and either the tree has to be removed or regular expense is incurred as the pipes are cleaned out.
  • Trees which have damaging root systems are planted too close to paving or building foundations. Walls can be lifted and cracked, paths or driveways destroyed.
  • Often a tree which is expected to grow to 6m is planted in the front of a window for shade. When it reaches 20m, the room it is shading has become so dark that a light must be turned on, even on bright sunny days.
  • Soils are the single-most important factor responsible for tree growth. Soils provide trees with root anchorage, nutrients and water. Not all soils are equally suited to all trees species and it is important to healthy tree growth to understand the needs of individual tree species. Soils are often modified in urban situations and this can be a disadvantage to tree growth. Soils are often removed or added and building rubble buried, changing the pH as well air spaces beneath tree roots. In order for trees to grow successfully and maintain health and vigour it is necessary to also understand the soil limitations of the environment in which the tree is growing and try to match the tree species to suit these growing conditions.
  • The problem with big trees is that diseases and other problems are out of sight and, therefore all too often, out of mind. We notice things at eye level on shrubs, but a split in a branch, a bad infestation of borers or an area of wood rot which is 10m above our head can go unnoticed for a long time. When problems like this are untreated, they get worse and worse, until when we finally do notice them, they are very serious.  If you neglect a serious tree problem you are running the risk of branches falling and seriously damaging property or people. Even if this doesn't happen, the loss of part or all of a large tree can greatly affect the value of your property.


Arboriculture is a profession which requires skill and knowledge, as well as physical endurance. To outsiders, it may seem quite a narrow field but in reality there is an awful lot to know about tree health, and tree species more generally. This course is the perfect foundation for those who want to get started in tree work. Consider it a springboard to further study or include it as a module in one of our self-designed certificates. This course is ideally suited to those working in the following areas:

  • Tree surgery
  • Arboriculture
  • Tree nursery
  • Garden maintenance
  • Parks and gardens
  • Garden renovations

The course is studied by distance learning - you choose when and where to study; giving you flexibility and the ability to work whilst you learn. Our specialist Horticulture tutors will provide feedback on the assignments you submit to the school and are on hand to provide help whilst you study.

You can enrol on the course at any time. If you have any questions about the course or studying with ACS, please get in touch with our highly knowledgeable Horticulture tutors today - they will be pleased to help you.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

John Mason (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Nurseryman, Landscaper, Garden Writer, Parks Manager and Consultant. Over 45 years experience; working in Australia and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 100 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
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.

Check out our eBooks

Growing ConifersThe great thing about conifers is they look good all year round. Most of them are grown for foliage, and in general, foliage remains the same pretty well all year. Unlike other trees and shrubs, you do not have a month of attractive flowers, followed by an obscure plant the remainder of the year. A brilliant blue of gold foliage conifer will be blue or gold month in, month out.
Trees and ShrubsUseful for students, tradespeople already working in the field, or the home gardener who needs a quick reference when choosing plants for a garden.
Getting Work in HorticultureExplore what it is like to work in horticulture; how diverse this industry is, how to get a start, and how to build a sustainable, long term and diverse career that keeps your options broad, so you can move from sector to sector as demand and fashion changes across your working life.
Trees & Shrubs for Small GardensTurn even the smallest space into a great place. This e-book is an essential guide for any gardener who wants to make the most of a small garden, balcony, verandah or courtyard.