Turf - Private Gardens
Most private gardens have lawns. The private turf industry provides substantial services establishing new lawns, mowing existing lawns, and to a lesser extent, renovating old lawns.
Scope of Work
The private garden turf industry is dominated by mowing contractors, cutting and edging lawns in home gardens, but also other private gardens, sports clubs and business premises. The best contractors may offer additional services as well, such as lawn repair and renovation, pest management, rubbish removal, and other garden services.
Related businesses in the private turf industry include lawn consultants, mower and turf equipment supplies, seed and/or sod supply.
What You Need to Learn
- Turf science - Structure of the turf plant, physiology, anatomy, ecology, nutrition
- Soils - Soil structure, chemistry, management techniques e.g. improving soils, aeration, etc.
- Drainage - Surface, sub surface, flood mitigation
- Irrigation - Equipment selection, installation, use
- Taxonomy - Turf species & cultivars, identification & cultural characteristics of many different varieties, identification of weed species
- Health management - Turf 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 - Cutting heights, watering frequency and duration, how to repair & renovate
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 mowing contractor, 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, damaging turf, and restricting 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 turf 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 turf 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 mowing contractor, or mower shop)
- Starting your own lawn mowing 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 turf should become active in a turf or 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 lawn care into public turf management, or even into broader parks or gardens management.
The many sectors of horticulture can go through cycles of high and low demand for experts. The horticulturist 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 parks management when there is a high demand and good remuneration offered in the parks sector; and move from that into private nursery production when demand and opportunity in nursery becomes stronger than parks. Enlightened horticulturists may begin in a narrow sector such as private turf management, but through study and experience, fashion a career path over decades that winds across many different sectors of horticulture.