WORKING AS A GARDENER
Gardeners work in gardens, maintaining the landscape; undertaking jobs such as controlling weeds, pests and diseases; pruning, mowing, fertilizing, mulching, watering, cleaning sprinkler heads, using machinery, staking, raking or blowing leaf litter, making compost, removing and replacing dead plants, lifting and dividing bulbs, cultivating and aerating soil, and simple handyman jobs such as repairing garden features such as paths, fences and walls or painting. The tasks which a gardener might do can vary greatly from one garden to the next. Tasks can also be seasonal, so the work undertaken can vary from week to week.
Some gardeners may work alone or perhaps with one other person; others can work as part of a small team, headed by a supervisor or foreman.
Small and medium size private gardens will often employ a “contract gardener” to visit weekly or fortnightly to do the required work. This type of gardener is commonly self-employed, and can earn a very good income if they are a productive gardener and adequate business person.
Parks, Commercial Properties (e.g. Industrial estates, shopping centres) and other large properties, may employ permanent full time gardeners. This type of gardener may not have to deal with issues associated with running a small business; such us traveling from job to job, making up for time lost during wet weather, or organising and maintaining tools and equipment. Their work may be more secure, and their lives less complicated; but the wages for this type of job can be minimal unless they rise to a supervisory or management position (in which case, income rises, but so does the complexity and stresses associated with the job).
Knowledgeable and skilled gardeners are often hard to find. There are plenty of people who will prune roses, remove weeds, spray pests and mow lawns; but there can be significant problems associated with doing any of these things the wrong way. Many clients who employ gardeners are oblivious to a gardener doing the wrong thing; but someone who knows how to do a good job will gradually build credibility, attract better jobs (in every respect), and secure a much better long term career.
Risks and challenges
Finding well paid work as a gardener may be difficult; though some self employed contract gardeners can earn extremely well; perhaps better than some university qualified professionals.
- Building up a business of your own may take time and investment.
- When running your own business you will need to develop adequate business skills as well as horticultural skills.
- Gardening can be physically challenging at times.
- You will need to be knowledgeable about plants to avoid making (potentially costly) mistakes.
How to become a gardener
To be a really good gardener, you need:
- To be able to identify at least 500 of the most commonly cultivated plants in your locality
- An understanding of principles plant growth; managing soil, fertiliser, water, light.
- An ability to quickly differentiate weeds from garden plants
- An ability to properly prune common garden plants
- To be able to safely and properly use garden tools and machinery
Some gardeners learn this through a course, others learn it on the job; but most often, the best gardeners learn by studying for at least a couple of years and working for at least a year alongside a highly skilled and experienced gardener.
Other jobs include
- Landscape Gardener
- Nursery Worker