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

Current course opportunities

Adult learning – horticulture courses – register now for places


We will soon be recruiting for L1 horticulture courses starting in the autumn term. If you want to join a course contact courses@organiclea.org.uk – more details are below.

Location: 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.

Covid-19: We are still being careful and our Covid-19 guidance will be provided if you ask to attend a session or register on a course.

General information about our different horticulture courses

We run a range of Level 1 and Level 2 City and Guilds horticulture courses throughout the year from our site in Chingford. Courses have funded places for people who meet certain criteria including being unemployed and receiving a state benefit such as Universal Credit, ESA or JSA, or being economically inactive and looking for work. All courses have places for fee payers and we run a scheme whereby you can pay the standard course fee, or you might be eligible for a discounted fee, or you might be willing to pay a solidarity fee. Further details will be sent when you apply.

Level 1 Horticulture Courses

We run four different Level 1 horticulture courses. If you are interested please contact courses@organiclea.org.uk to register your interest. We will be in touch when recruitment begins. We run these courses throughout the year with new courses starting each term. When we have dates for the next courses we post them on this page.

Work-based Horticulture Level 1 Certificate (City and Guilds)

This course (Level 1 Certificate) is longer than the Level 1 Award and is aimed at those who learn best when doing something in practice, over and over again. Over 18 sessions (completed in 12 weeks) the main focus is guided gardening activity where basic skills can be learnt and practiced. It is designed to build confidence and independence in the working horticultural environment – and covers a broad range of gardening skill areas. Small groups allow learners to progress at own pace. The 2 day a week commitment for half of the course allows increased understanding of the organic garden with inputs from horticultural supervisors on site. This course is designed to support those developing work-ready confidence in horticulture and other areas.

Learners will cover core units for organic food growing including understanding the importance of soil in the food garden, identifying different types of organic matter and knowledge about creating them, e.g. compost, weed management and plant identification skills. Each session will involve some background information shared in small group tutorial, an opportunity to develop skills and then carry out extensive practical work to improve skills and repeat learning. As well as practical gardening skills, it specifically builds work-related abilities linked to commitment and timekeeping, decision making and team working. This course is mostly suitable for those who require a funded place alongside a few fee payers.

Work based Horticulture Level 1 Award (City and Guilds)

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!

Practical Horticulture Skills Level 1 Award (City and Guilds)

This course is for those who want to gain basic horticulture skills. This course is suitable for those who require a funded place and fee payers. 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.

Remote Classroom Food Growing Level 1 Award (National Open College Network)

This 10-week course is suitable for those who require a funded place and fee payers. It provides an opportunity to achieve a gardening qualification in a remote classroom setting with other learners, with a focus on practical learning from a distance. The course is delivered by an experienced OrganicLea tutor and combines classroom learning and tutorials to help build basic and technical skills and confidence for your own food-growing situation. This will be accompanied by video and handout resources from tutors and growers at Hawkwood Plant Nursery.

An example session is a two hour online tutorial delivered by course tutor in the morning, including group work, research, worksheets and comfort breaks. Practical tasks will then be carried out and evidenced in your own growing space. This will be followed by a 1 hour online session in the afternoon for catch ups, check-ins, shared group reflections and tutor suggestions for resources to watch or read as homework.

You will need access to an outdoor food growing space to carry out the practical work required for the course, this could be an allotment, a small garden space or planters on a balcony. Unfortunately we cannot support windowsill growing with this course. You will also need to have access to and be familiar with Zoom, have a Gmail email address to access Google Classroom and a smartphone or camera capable of taking photographs and / or video and an understanding of how to transfer these to email / web.


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 to register your interest. When we start recruiting you will be invited to attend an Initial Assessment session.

Dates: 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.