Landscaping involves designing and building gardens. It employs a wide variety of trades and professional people including consultants and designers, contractors and project managers, plant operators, pavers, irrigators, carpenters and landscape gardeners. In the private sector, the work projects can be small or very large; from renovating a courtyard to developing a large garden on a grand estate.
Scope of Work
The private landscaping industry involves design and installing a range of garden structures and components including paving, steps, walls, fences, archways, pergolas, gazebos, sheds, ponds and pools. Most work in home gardens, but other private gardens include sports clubs and business premises. Some contractors may be able to offer other services such as tree pruning or removal, lawn installation, planting and other elements of soft landscaping. Others may subcontract other garden services.
Related businesses in the private landscaping industry include garden designers, landscape architects, consultants, landscape equipment supplies, building materials supplies.
What You Need to Learn
- Landscape design
- Building science - understanding stresses and loads, cement & concrete mixes, depth & width of foundations, construction techniques
- Materials - types of materials, characteristics of stone, clay, brick, timber, different paving, fencing & walling materials
- Soils - soil structure, chemistry, management techniques e.g. improving soils, aeration, etc.
- Drainage - surface, sub surface, flood mitigation
- Irrigation - equipment selection, installation, use
- Earthworks and surveying
- Tools and equipment - selection of the right tool for the job, operation & correct use, choosing fixings, maintenance & repair of tools
- Landscape management techniques - how to repair & renovate hard landscape components and features
Starting a Career
Ways to get started may include:
- Moving from a related trade in building or construction, into landscaping
- Buying and learning to operate earth moving equipment; and hiring your services to work on landscape projects
- Volunteering on community development projects
- Getting a job with someone else (e.g. a landscape contractor)
- Starting your own landscaping business
- Learning some or all of the things listed above
Some start with no training or experience, as little more than a labourer, assisting a landscape 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 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.
Initial learning lays a foundation to build further learning on, and gives context to what you learn later through study or experience. This can come from experience, formal study, or both. It is very important that initial training comes from instructors with a strong understanding of the science and techniques that underpin landscape construction.
Any learning you undertake should be given the time for you to learn properly and permanently. Revisit, reinforce and embed the fundamentals of landscaping 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.
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 industry you need to learn, 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 hard landscaping should become active in a horticultural trade or professional association.
Professional development is also important. Products, equipment and techniques are constantly changing and improving in hard landscaping, 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 hard landscaping jobs into public ones, or even into landscaping of parks or cityscapes.
The many sectors of horticulture and its related industries can go through cycles of high and low demand for experts. The hard landscaper 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 landscaping for private businesses when demand and opportunity in that sector becomes stronger. Enlightened hard landscapers may begin in a narrow sector such as home gardens, but through study and experience, fashion a career path over decades that winds across many different sectors of landscaping.