Develop Your Hard Landscaping Skills

Landscape construction is concerned with what it takes to build gardens and other landscapes. Since many types of construction in the landscape can be achieved in many different ways, this course serves as an introduction to some of the ways that different surfaces, enclosures and structures can be made.  

Take all the guesswork out of landscape work

This course provides a thorough introduction to the world of landscape construction. It includes a range of methods and techniques to help students develop an understanding of which tools to use for different jobs, how to measure sites and set out plans, improving site drainage and earthworks, the setting out of basic garden structures and hard surfaces, and options for installing irrigation systems.  

Start your journey into landscaping

Landscape construction is both a trade and a science. This course provides a fundamental understanding of the materials that are used to construct gardens and the way in which they are best used to create a garden that is solid and will withstand weathering and use over the years. It helps you to better understand the characteristics of different materials and construction methods, and in doing so, heightens your capacity to make informed and appropriate decisions about the construction of a garden.


There are ten lessons as follows:

1. Tools and Machinery

2. Landscape Plans and Setting out a Construction Site

3. Drainage in Landscape Construction

4. Earthworks

5. Surfaces, Paths, Paving and Turf

6. Construction of Garden Structures I

7. Construction of Garden Structures II

8. Irrigation Systems

9. Establishing Hedges and Other Plants

10. Workplace Safety and Management of Landscape Construction Work



On successful completion of the course you should be able to do the following:

  • Manage equipment for landscape construction projects, including tools and machinery.
  • Determine earthworks for a landscape development.
  • Plan the construction of different landscape structures including buildings, fences, and walls.
  • Manage the installation of a simple irrigation system in gardens.
  • Determine construction techniques for different building or installing different garden features; including paving, water gardens, rockeries and furnishings.
  • Determine techniques for creating soft landscaping.
  • Manage work being undertaken on a landscape construction site.

Course Duration:  
100 hours


  • Compare the quality and cost of a range of different tools and machinery used in landscape construction.
  • Identify tools and machinery used in everyday work by landscape contractors.
  • Explain appropriate uses for different tools and machinery on a landscape construction site.
  • Prepare landscape plans for a number of landscape sites
  • Research and report on marking out boundaries in construction sites
  • Describe how to locate contours
  • Determine the fall of existing drains, and identify appropriate falls, spacing and depths of drains
  • Observe and report on earth moving equipment in operation
  • Survey a site and recommend earthworks necessary
  • Examine surfacing materials for paths, gardens, etc and determine the appropriate landscaping function of each.
  • Assess the construction of a range of different existing landscape features
  • Describe preparation of foundations for a specified garden structure, on a specific site.
  • Design a rockery at least 30 square metres in area
  • Contact a range of suppliers of landscape materials and compare the products available in your locality.
  • Identify materials needed to install an irrigation system on a site selected by you.
  • Prepare plans of irrigation systems
  • Research which species of plants are suitable for hedging in your locality
  • Outline how to effectively transplant an existing tree
  • Prepare a detailed risk assessment for a landscape construction site
  • Identify safe working practices for a landscape construction site
  • Determine a list of work tasks to be undertaken on a landscape construction site. Give a time frame for completion of the entire project.

Well Built Gardens will Last
When the hard landscape is constructed properly; it will survive; even if neglected for a long time. There are plenty of examples of gardens that were constructed properly, hundreds of years ago; neglected for decades; and then recovered, and restored back to their original glory. The plants may well have overgrown the walls and paths; but for those gardens that were properly constructed; the hard landscape remained sound and in excellent condition once the weeds were removed and the dust cleared away.

Paving Can Last for Hundreds of Years if constructed properly, on a good foundation and with quality materials.

Paving provides a hard, dry, non-slip surface for either walking or driving on. It also directs traffic within the garden, both people and cars and creates aesthetically pleasing effects. To some people paving means bricks or paving slabs, but broadly speaking it can include anything which creates a hard, dry, non-slip surface. This can include concrete, asphalt, flagstones, bricks, cobblestones, slate, ceramic pavers, cement blocks, timber blocks or slabs and more. When choosing your paving material, consider the following:

1. Cost – What can you afford? The initial cost might be high but maintenance costs might be low.

2. Availability – Can you get the material easily or do you have to pay a lot in cartage costs

3. Durability – Will it last or will it deteriorate quickly. Paving can crack, become loose, or just move as the ground below subsides or tree roots push up. How much regular maintenance is needed to have to looking good?

4. Weathering and Cleaning – Will it retain its colour? Leaves and berries from some plants will stain some types of paving. Contaminated irrigation water or organic material washed out of garden beds can also leave stains.

5. Aesthetics – Consider the texture and colour of materials, not only as you buy them, but also after weathering. Create regular shapes and textures in more formal or finely manicured gardens. Ceramic tiles, wirecut bricks, square cut stone or concrete will all work well in such situations. For natural gardens, irregular shapes and textures in darker or more natural colours will suit; for example asphalt, cobblestones, irregular shaped pieces of slate or tumbled bricks.

6. Safety – In icy or wet weather, some types of paving can become slippery. In shaded, wet places, algae can grow on pavers making them slippery, especially in winter. Unevenness in a surface caused by pavers subsiding or lifting, these can be hazardous. 
Coarser, well drained and properly laid surfaces are important if areas are to be safe.

7. Noise and light reflection – Larger, open areas paved with smooth surfaces will reflect noise, whereas coarser surfaces absorb noise. Light coloured surfaces such as concrete or shiny surfaces such as polished stone, can reflect light and create a glare problem.

8. Soil base and drainage – Paving must be laid on a stable, well-drained base. If water builds up, it can erode the base and lead to safety problems. If there is movement below the paving, then the paving is prone to move. There should be some slope on the paved surface taking water to a point where it can be collected and disposed of properly (e.g to a spoon drain or drainage pits). In small areas, the slope can be 1:100 but over large areas it may need to be greater.

Preparing for paving
Before laying pavers, you should remove any unwanted material. Begin by removing all organic material, such as weeds, grass, wood, mulch and compost from the surface. If the topsoil is rich in organic matter, remove the surface layer. Dispose of any other rubbish which might result in subsidence, such as bottles, tin cans, builders’ rubbish and so on.

Next you will need to establish the levels. Grade the area to obtain the desired levels and slopes and remember this will be below the final level – you need to add on the thickness of the paving and any base material to be laid. Unless the earth is already a very compact clay, it should be compacted with a roller or ramming machine. Pedestrian surfaces need less compacting than surfaces to be driven over with vehicles. A 500-700kg hand roller is sufficient for compacting pathways.

The final step before paving is to lay a base material. In most home situations a 5-10cm layer of fine or packing sand is an adequate base. On less stable soils, driveways might have three layers of base, namely: 75-100mm of coarse stone or clinker, then 30-40cm of coarse sand or gravel over the coarse stone and finally a layer of fine sand or concrete over the sand or gravel. Each layer would be rolled and watered before laying the next.

Reconstituted stone
A new material suitable for a wide range of applications is reconstituted stone. It is made from crushed stone granules mixed with concrete and other additives to form a mixture which can be moulded into the shape required.

The end product has the good looks of stone, but with more uniform composition and is very versatile and cost effective. By adding coarser aggregates to the mixture, a non-slip textured surface is achieved.

Reconstituted stone is suitable for pavers and pool surrounds, and for smaller items such as floors pots, birdbaths, planter boxes, garden seats and table tops. In house building, it can be used for columns, pillars and arches, as well as other architectural features.


Opportunities After Your Studies

This course is of great value to people wishing to work in landscaping. It will not lead to a construction license but should provide basic skills needed to undertake small scale landscaping projects which do not require council approval.  

It is likely to benefit people who wish to add basic construction to their landscaping and gardening skills. It could serve as a platform for further study or be taken in conjunction with other modules to enhance your learning experience.

People who should take this course are those working in, or wishing to work in:

Landscape construction
Landscape design
Garden maintenance
Garden restoration or conservation
Landscape materials supply

It could also add to the skillset of people wanting to start a landscape business, or be of value to people wishing to renovate a home garden.