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

Current course opportunities

General information about our Level 1 and Level 2 horticulture courses

Level 1 Horticulture Courses

We run three 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.

Level 1 Practical Horticulture Skills 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 a longer period of time. Over 18 sessions (completed in 11 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. Spaces are prioritised for those who are unemployed/economically inactive and eligible for funding.

Level 1 Work Based Award (City and Guilds)

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.

Level 1 Practical Horticulture Skills Award (City and Guilds)

This course is for those who want to gain basic horticulture skills. 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 and basic sowing techniques to support successful propagation.

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 each summer. 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 as part of your application.

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: – September – June, 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.