Blackford Centre for Gardening
Diploma in Gardening
Turn your love of gardening into a career
This information is just a taster for what's in our booklet, 'How to Earn a Living in Horticulture'.
The booklet is free with our home-study course in horticulture. And it's your to keep even if you return the course.
Many people would love to swap their nine-to-five desk job for a life in the fresh air. On this page we look at how you can achieve that ambition.
We've also included some comments from people who are working in horticulture.
But first we start by considering the advantages and drawbacks of gardening as a career.
There are many benefits to working in gardening. Here are some of them.
- You get to work outside, and create beautiful gardens.
- Many of these jobs can be fitted in with your other commitments (for example, if you have children).
- Many of the jobs are self-employed, so you get to be your own boss.
But there are also disadvantages. Think carefully about them before committing yourself to a career change.
- It's seasonal. If you're self-employed, your earnings can drop in the winter if you don't find complementary ways to boost your income.
- Some vacancies in gardening are for the cashier at the local gardening center. Many people won't get much satisfaction from this.
- You might have to look on your work as a lifestyle or downshifting decision. There isn't much of a career development path in gardening. But the quality of life more than compensates for that.
- Gardening is hard physical work, and as you get older you may want to switch into related areas such as garden design.
What work can you do? Here are some of them.
- Garden or landscape design
- Garden maintenance and planting
- Working in a nursery: growing, selling, and management
- Floral design
- Turf Management
- Integrated Pest Management
- Amenity Management
- Garden sitting service (i.e. maintaining gardens while the owners are on holiday)
- Teach adult classes on gardening and garden design, or herbal gardens etc.
- Providing garden therapy in nursing homes
- Growing and selling container plants or house plants.
How do you get these jobs?
There are two ways to get into gardening:
1. Getting work - as a paid employee
- Look for job advertisements in the local newspaper
- Ask at garden centers, and nurseries etc.
- Check out vacancies at government Job Centers etc.
- Check out vacancies in staff agencies
2. Getting work - self-employment
Decide what service(s) you will offer. Basic maintenance, plus planting, and design is the starting point for many people. Customers often start by asking you to do garden maintenance. Later they will ask you to do planting and maintenance as well.
"Maintenance is a great field to get into, because it's a niche that hasn't really been filled by anyone else [where I live]. I'm talking about being a personal gardener who can advise their clients as they work for them. We specialize in perennials and are always taking classes to learn more. I know there aren't enough landscapers around here to keep up with the demand either. The money in this area is good too. We have mostly well-off two-income families who want a nice yard and garden, but don't have the time to tend it themselves."
Think about finding a niche. What about caring for the gardens of people who are elderly, disabled or in a wheelchair?
Decide on your hourly rate. Some people charge $13 to $20 an hour (In the UK, £5 to £10).
Advertise in your local newspaper or in postcards in shop windows.
Get some experience by offering your services as a volunteer to your local elementary or primary school. "I also have been the volunteer gardening teacher at my daughter's school, where gardening is an important part of the curriculum. Now they have created funding for this to be a paid position for the next school year."
Push leaflets through letter boxes in the right (rich?) kind of neighborhood
Encourage word of mouth from satisfied customers.
Find other professionals, such as builders who can lay paths or build sheds.
As you get busier, find people who can do some of the work for you. "The only thing I regret is not having enough help. Good help is hard to find, and my body is wearing out. So we need younger people to do the heavier work like mulching and digging, but they don't the experience to tend to the perennials. We could train them but they move on. We think we'll try Master Gardeners, but most of them we know are 40ish and the ones we have had work for us can't really take the work."
Think about ways to earn money in complementary ways during the winter. "Through the winters, I rely on the skills my previous career, doing office temp work."
Getting a qualification
A qualification will impress an employer or a potential client. It's also a good way to learn more about the subject. Consider getting a good horticulture certificate diploma or degree. Here are some thoughts:
- Enquire at your local community college, to see what courses are available.
- Check out university courses or specialist technical colleges
- In the USA, check out your local co-operative extension office, and become a Master Gardener. There is an office in every county in the US.
But full-time and day courses are a disadvantage for people who have work or family commitments. So:
Check out correspondence courses. Click here for one from the Blackford Centre for Gardening.
You don't have to commit yourself to one field or another. Be flexible, and go with whatever your local clients seem to need.
Your climatic zone will have an impact on your choice of career. Sub-tropical places have needs that are different from colder regions.
Register today. Delaying only increases the length of time you have to wait - time you could be putting towards your new career as a horticulturalist.
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