All horticulturists need equipment and materials to do their work, from fertilisers and seeds to machinery and tools. Supplying and servicing these products may be referred to as the "allied trades" sector.
Scope of Work
Anyone who works in private or public gardening needs equipment and materials to do their work, from fertilisers and seeds to machinery and tools. They may also require services to help maintain equipment. Enterprises that provide these products and services vary in size and scope of work. Many are small family businesses that are catering to a small and perhaps local or specialist market. Others can be very large with dozens, and perhaps hundreds of employees. Some may employ thousands.
The products or services offered must cater to market needs which are constantly changing; hence the products offered need to be constantly changing. Whether small or large, any sustainable enterprise in this sector will be actively involved in research and development, manufacturing and delivery of the product (or service) and marketing. In a small family business, the same person or people may need to fulfill all these work roles; but in most medium or larger enterprises, different staff will specialise in research and development, manufacturing, delivery and marketing.
Examples of products may include: tree, shrub, flower and lawn seed, fertilisers, plant pots, potting media (soil mixes, soil substitutes), irrigation equipment, garden tools, garden machinery, machine servicing and repair, horticultural fabrics, greenhouses and other garden buildings, landscaping materials.
This sector covers not only manufacture and wholesale supply and servicing, but also includes retail garden centres, plant nurseries, hiring specialist equipment, providing consulting services, professional associations, garden clubs and even government departments conducting research or providing trade representation. This industry sector is sometimes referred to as “allied trades”
What You Need to Learn
Plant culture - How plants are grown, materials, tools and equipment used to grow them, and how these are used
Plant knowledge - Cultivars, identification and appreciation of subtle differences between the thousands of different plant species, how equipment, materials and services need to be tailored to different cultivars
Product knowledge - Knowledge of a range of products relevant to the business
Industry awareness - Familiarisation with allied trades industry
Horticultural science and technology - Relevant to the sector(s) worked in
Marketing - Consumer psychology, awareness of marketing trends and cycles, advertising
Sales skills - How to interact with customers, sell products or services, earn repeat business, network with wholesalers & retailers, keep inventories
Health & safety - Assessment of risks & hazards, use of personal protective equipment, fire alarms & drills, location of first aid kits, basic first aid procedures
Starting a Career
People may start out working in horticulture products and services through choice or indirectly by seeking a job in sales or retail. Individuals who don’t begin by choosing horticulture products or services as a career route may begin as an assistant but when opportunities arise, and they develop the ability to communicate well, they naturally progress into roles with greater responsibility.
Others who start out with the intention of working in the horticulture products and services often do so through studying sales, marketing, or horticulture-based subjects to give them a solid grounding in this field. Due to an interest in gardening or gardens, they are able to carve out a career in this sector. Some may have grown up in a family business specialising in this area or they may have had part time or voluntary work in this field when at school or at some other stage in their life and enjoyed the experience.
Some will intentionally plan and steer their career development toward the horticultural products and services, perhaps with a view to one day running their own enterprise producing a product or service of particular interest to them.
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 things 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 horticulture products and services should become active in an appropriate trade or professional association.
Professional development is also important. Science, products, equipment and techniques are constantly changing and improving in this 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 providing products to providing services, into management, or even into broader horticultural roles.
The many sectors of horticulture can go through cycles of high and low demand for particular products or services. Those with a broader range of knowledge and skills may be able to cross over from one sector to another, taking advantage of these cycles or easily transition to selling a new product or service. For example, a person working in a nursery selling citrus tress may be well positioned to transfer into one specialising in another types of fruit tree should the demand for citrus wane. Or they may seek work in a retail garden centre and be the resident expert on citrus and fruit trees. It is possible to begin in a narrow sector such as citrus tree production but through study and experience, fashion a career path over decades that winds across many different sectors of horticulture product and services industry, or other related industries.