Most people want gardens around their properties to look good, even if they don't like doing gardening themselves. In affluent societies, more people today employ gardeners or contract gardening companies to maintain and even develop their gardens to be presentable and attractive. Finding a capable gardener to care for a home garden is all too often a difficult task; because the number of competent gardeners available is often fewer than the number of jobs needing to be filled.
Scope of Work
The private garden decorative industry is concerned with creating and maintaining gardens mainly through soft landscaping and gardening. The scope of work includes planting design and plant selection, planting, pruning, identification and treatment of pests and diseases, feeding, weeding and watering plants. The best contractors may offer additional services as well, such as lawn repair and renovation, installation of components like trellis and garden features, rubbish removal, and perhaps some hard landscaping services.
Related businesses in the private decorative garden industry include garden consultants, garden designers, nurseries, mowing services, equipment supplies, garden centres.
What You Need to Learn
- Turf science - structure of the turf plant, physiology, anatomy, ecology, nutrition
- Soils - potting media & soil structure, chemistry, management techniques e.g. improving soils, aeration, etc.
- Drainage - surface, subsurface, flood mitigation
- Irrigation - equipment selection, installation, use
- Taxonomy - plant and turf species & cultivars, identification and cultural characteristics of many different varieties, indoor plants, flowers and weed species
- Health management - plant pests, diseases and environmental disorders
- Tools and equipment - selection of the right tool for the job, operation & correct use, maintenance & repair of tools
- Cultural management techniques - pruning plants, watering frequency and duration, how to repair & renovate, planting, transplanting, staking
Starting a Career
There are many points of entry into this line of work. Some start with no training or experience, as little more than a labourer, assisting a gardener, learning on the job and progressing as they learn. This path can be slow though, and there may be gaps in knowledge that can lead to mistakes and restrict career progress.
Some formal learning in at least key areas listed above will help a career move faster, and minimise the risk of career or business mistakes.
Because initial training lays a foundation to build further learning on, and gives context to what you learn later through study or experience; it is very important that your initial training is from instructors who have a strong understanding of the science and techniques that underpin garden management - and that the course you study is delivered in a way that does not just present and test you quickly, but takes time to revisit, reinforce and embed the fundamentals of garden management into your long term memory.
People who take shortcuts to getting started can succeed; but people who lay a stronger foundation are likely to be more capable, and that generally tends to lead to higher earnings and more long-term career success.
Common ways to get started are:
- Getting a job with someone else (e.g. a gardener, garden designer or landscaper)
- Starting your own gardening business
Progressing a Career
You will learn through experience as you work in the industry. Every problem or challenge you confront can be a new learning experience.
Challenges sometimes reveal deficiencies in your knowledge. If that happens, you may see something you need to learn, by doing research or studying a course. The person who responds positively to such challenges, and sees them as opportunities for career advancement, will progress.
If there are aspects of the list above (what you need to learn) which are deficient then ongoing study is advised to fill those gaps.
Networking within your industry is critical to not only learning more; but also getting new opportunities. Everyone working in gardening should become active in a horticultural trade or professional association.
Professional development is also important. Science, products, equipment and techniques are constantly changing and improving in turf as well as every other industry. If you are disconnected from industry change, you will not remain competitive with others who are up to date. This is another reason you should remain involved with a professional or trade organisation.
Diversifying your learning and experience is a natural, and often very successful, way of helping your career to progress. This could involve doing additional study in order to broaden the services you can offer; or deepen the quality of service you offer. It may also allow you to cross over into other related career paths; perhaps moving from private gardens into public ones, or even into parks management.
The many sectors of horticulture can go through cycles of high and low demand for experts. The gardener who has a broader range of knowledge and skills may be able to cross over from one sector to another, taking advantage of these cycles. They may, for example, work in home gardens when there is a high demand and good remuneration offered in this sector; and move from that into privately owned public garden spaces when demand and opportunity in this area becomes stronger. Enlightened gardeners may begin in a narrow sector such as private home gardens, but through study and experience, fashion a career path over decades that winds across many different sectors of horticulture.