A workers' cooperative growing food on London's edge in the Lea Valley

Current course opportunities

New Year learning

Are you interested in gardening or growing your own food? If you are unemployed and have the right to take paid employment, you could be eligible for a funded place on a course this Spring. Contact us on courses@organiclea.org.uk to join a taster/enrolment session in January. More details here.

We are pleased to let you know that we have three Level 1 City and Guilds horticulture courses starting in January and February 2022. Our courses have funded places for people who meet certain criteria including unemployed and receiving a state benefit such as Universal Credit, ESA or JSA.

For those of you wishing to pay for a course, the standard fee is £350. If you cannot afford that, you could request a discounted fee of £175. We also offer a solidarity fee of £525 if you can afford to pay that. Further details will be sent out when you apply.

More courses will be running in March, April and May, including an online course where you use your own horticultural space for the practical aspects of the course. Please contact courses@organiclea.org.uk if you want us to notify you when we start recruiting to courses in the spring/summer.


Our address is Hawkwood Plant Nursery, 115 Hawkwood Crescent, North Chingford, E4 7UH. You can travel by train, bus, bicycle, on foot or by car. The telephone number at the Nursery is 020 8524 4994.


We are following Covid-19 guidance and further details will be provided if you ask to attend a session or register on a course.

Level 1 City and Guilds Horticulture Courses

We have three courses we are currently recruiting to. Get in touch on courses@organiclea.org.uk to express your interest or explore with us which would suit you best.

Tuesday Work-based Horticulture Level 1 Award (City and Guilds)

This is a course option with more supported group work and structured learning time. It is designed around school pick-up requirements – if the exact times don’t work for you, please talk to us. It is particularly planned to support those who would be eligible for a funded place but there are also some places for fee payers.

Dates: Starts Tuesday 25 January 2022, ends Tuesday 29 March 2022 (no class 15 February which is half term). Tuesdays 9.45am – 2.45 pm (9 sessions), plus two Wednesday slots (10.30am – 1.30pm) during the course. Exact Wednesday dates to be agreed when the course starts.

This Level 1 Award is aimed at those who learn best when doing something in practice, with the opportunity for consistency of support. Over 9 sessions, it is designed to gradually build confidence and independence in the working horticultural environment – underpinned by theory behind the practice. Small groups allow learners to progress at their own pace and can cater for specific learning needs. Working towards a 2 day a week commitment, allows increased achievement and pace of work linked to horticultural practice. This course is designed to support those developing work-ready confidence in horticulture and other areas.

Learners will cover core units for organic horticulture activity at this time. Each session will involve some background information shared in a small group tutorial, an opportunity to develop skills and then carry out practical work to improve skills and repeat learning. As well as practical gardening skills, it builds work-related abilities linked to commitment and timekeeping, decision making and team working.

Wednesday Work based Horticulture Level 1 Award (City and Guilds)

Dates: Starts Wednesday 16 February, ends 13 April 2022, 9 sessions, 10am – 4.30pm

This course is suitable for those who require a funded place and fee payers. This course option has fast track tutor learning at the beginning and end of each day and increasingly paced practice time with the larger working team in our organic gardens. This Level 1 Award involves minimal classroom time with 9 weeks of guided horticultural practice rooted in organic market gardening theory. During this time you will practise food growing techniques and experience the realities of a productive horticultural work place. You will develop a work-book portfolio with reflective worksheets. This is suitable for people who already have some experience or just a growing interest in organic food growing!

Saturday Practical Horticulture Skills Level 1 Award (City and Guilds)

Dates: Starts Saturday 19 February, ends Saturday 9 April 2022, 10.30am – 4.30pm

This course is for those who want to gain basic horticulture skills. We run it on a Saturday for learners who work during the week. Our Saturday courses are usually for fee payers, rather than those eligible for funded places. It is designed to build basic and technical skills for anyone who is thinking about working as a gardener or who wants to enhance food production knowledge for the home environment. You will be studying in our community market garden environment with a blend of classroom guided learning and practical tasks to practice techniques and seek guidance when needed. Topics covered include understanding the basics of soil science –soil types, structure, pH and nutrients, organic matter and using it to improve soil, making compost and other fertility products, getting the best out of your soil, basic cultivation techniques; and planting considerations including the needs of different food crops, sowing seeds all year round, basic sowing techniques to support successful propagation, introduction to composts for containers.


Level 2 City and Guilds Horticulture Courses

We run three different Level 2 horticulture courses. If you are interested please contact courses@organiclea.org.uk to register your interest. We will be in touch when recruitment begins. All three start in the autumn each year, and one is repeated in the spring. A City & Guilds Level 1 horticulture qualification or equivalent experience is considered an essential entry requirement for a Level 2 course. Volunteering at OrganicLea will provide you with relevant experience to lead into one of these courses. Our Level 2 courses are often oversubscribed so do consider volunteering whilst you wait for recruitment to begin. An Initial Assessment is required before enrolment can take place.

Work Based Horticulture Skills, Level 2 Certificate (City and Guilds)

This course has four places, which are for those who are eligible for funded places, so if you have completed a Level 1 horticulture course or have relevant experience, and are unemployed and receiving a state benefit such as Universal Credit, ESA or JSA get in touch with courses@organiclea.org.uk to register your interest. When we start recruiting you will be invited to attend an Initial Assessment session.

Dates: Wednesday 16 March, ends Wednesday 27 July 2022. Tuesday dates to be confirmed

This course runs twice a year from September– March and March – July, one day a week, 9am – 5pm (usually Wednesdays, with a month of Tuesdays when you join our Harvest Team).

The aim of this course is to provide a work-related, competence-based qualification in Work Based Horticulture. It is aimed at people who are eligible for funded places as this course will allow you to develop, understand and practise the skills required for employment and/or career progression in the horticulture sector. The course covers monitoring and maintaining health and safety, establish and maintain effective working relationships with others, preparing ground for seeding and planting, carry out harvesting operations, propagate plants from seed and establishing crops or plants in growing medium. For each unit, there will be a tutorial, plus additional portfolio support and practical assessment from the tutor, and workplace supervision and guidance from the tutor and other members of the Hawkwood Production team.

Practical Horticulture Skills, Level 2 Certificate (City and Guilds)

Dates: October– May, one morning a week, 10.30am – 1.30pm

This course is delivered in 26 sessions over 37 weeks. This ‘practice’ based course equips the production horticulturalist with the essential know-how and techniques to assess, prepare and maintain gardens at a range of scales. Study units include: prepare for planting; techniques for plant care; training and pruning in fruit production; stem cutting propagation; pedestrian controlled rotary cultivation; and identifying plants by botanical names. You will be assessed at the Hawkwood site during course hours and this includes practical assessment gardening tasks and accompanying written worksheets. Home study will support your gardening practice and works

Horticulture Level 2: Extended Certificate (City and Guilds)

Dates: October– July, one day a week, 10.30am – 4.30pm

This 31 week intensive course is for those who are already gardening and who want a more theoretical base to develop their gardening practice. It interests those keen to commit more time to gardening work at a personal and (potential) employment level. Learning includes units on understanding soil science, plant science, techniques in organic horticulture and fruit and vegetable production by organic methods. This course demands commitment to both learning and self-study; and delivers a lot in terms of academic learning and confidence in the detail of gardening practice. The theory learnt in the classroom and in the 3-6 hours of home-study/research/essay writing per week, is backed up by practical tasks and assessments in the Hawkwood vegetable and fruit gardens.

Note: A City & Guilds Level 1 horticulture qualification or equivalent experience are considered essential entry requirements for this Level 2 course. An Initial Assessment will required before enrollment can take place.