Anyone earn a living as a Gardener?

(59 Posts)
BetteDavis01 Fri 17-May-13 12:09:33

If so, can you tell me what qualifications you have? Do you make a good living from it? Thank you smile

Bonsoir Fri 17-May-13 12:11:01

My father pays his gardener £100 per day - he comes with a van, lots of equipment and does big jobs up ladders that require muscles!

burberryqueen Fri 17-May-13 12:14:20

no but I have a friend who does, although i would call it more garden maintenance that gardening as such. The older people love her and she has to turn work away in season, her diary is so full. ~There are however a couple of months a year in the winter where she has nothing to do, but still gets some odd jobs in.
she doesn't have any qualifications, just a van with tools, petrol mower, strimmer etc.

burberryqueen Fri 17-May-13 12:15:04

oh and yes she makes a good living out of it...as long as she saves money in the summer to cover the lean winter months...

Marking place. I would like to do this.

Mirage Fri 17-May-13 13:39:37

Yes,I took the RHS general course which lasted 2 years and qualified in 2001.I started working for myself the same year and nearly always have a waiting list.However I do have to set aside money to tide me over the winter,this winter was a long one,no proper work for almost 6 months,and after the rotten summer,it really hit me hard.I do love my job though,and wouldn't change it.

QueenBoudicea Thu 23-May-13 06:33:13

Ooh I'm considering retraining in gardening and also getting some basic plumbing/carpentry skills so I can do odd jobs as well. What's your hourly rate and how did you build up your client base? Leaflets? Word of mouth?

Mirage Thu 23-May-13 11:26:23

I charge £15 an hour and only advertised to start off with,put a few notices on village notice boards ect.All my work since has been word of mouth.A lot of my customers are elderly and I think they find having a female around is less intimidating and more reassuring than a man.

Good luck,and let me know how you get on.

Rhubarbgarden Thu 23-May-13 22:28:27

I did the City and Guilds National Certificate in Horticulture and charged £15 an hour for garden maintenance, several years ago. Then when I had babies I moved across to garden design, thinking it was more family friendly. There is no money in garden design in my experience, but maybe I'm just not business-minded enough. I've given up now until the kids are at school, then I intend to either go back to self employed garden maintenance or get a job in a historic garden (where my passion really lies). Work in historic gardens is appallingly paid unfortunately, unless you get a Kew Diploma and a Head Gardener position.

QueenBoudicea Fri 24-May-13 12:34:10

Thanks mirage - I was thinking that I'd target older people as a client base purely for those reasons - hence the adding some basic plumbing to my skills as and attractive add on.

Mirage Fri 24-May-13 12:37:10

Rhubarbgarden I did garden design too,you are right,there isn't much money in it and I really didn't enjoy it.I'd love a job in an historic garden,but there is a distinct lack of them around here.

CuttedUpPear Mon 27-May-13 08:28:54

I also am a professional gardener and garden designer. I've been earning a living at it for 12 years.

I have:
NVQ in horticulture (a bit too easy but good for absolute beginners)
RHS General Certificate
HNC in Garden Design

It all took 4 yrs part time when Dcs were 6- 12yo. I wouldn't call it a good living but it puts the food on the table - I've always been a single mum. I do love it (mostly) but have injured my back and am looking at having to stop gardening professionally. sad

Kernowgal Mon 27-May-13 08:40:57

Professional gardener here too, and a career changer to boot. I started the RHS level 2 (as it was then) but didn't complete it, then later did a foundation degree in horticulture (FdSc) which was "full time" but actually more like three days a week. I would always recommend doing a taught qualification rather than distance learning unless you are very very disciplined.

Since retraining I've worked in various heritage and public gardens and the pay is seriously crap but the job is great. Maintenance gardening is something I could fall back on if needed but I wouldn't charge less than £15 an hour (I'd bring most of my own tools). Ditto working for older people though you will have to deal with many older people's perception that gardening is a man's job and they won't expect you to be able to do the grunt work ;)

Depending where you are you maybe could look at maintaining holiday home gardens and the like - this was something I was considering when back in Cornwall.

funnyperson Mon 27-May-13 08:48:25

rhubarbgarden could you not get a Kew Diploma? Its probably quite a family friendly thing to do and would keep you going till the DC are older.

big jobs up ladders that require muscles This is the thing that has put me off going for it. I am pathetically feeble and have to get someone in myself for those jobs.

Kernowgal Mon 27-May-13 15:37:33

secretscwirrels you'd be surprised - I am weak and feeble and have no upper body strength at all but even I can hammer in posts and do a lot of the heavy work. It definitely keeps you fit too - I've been amazed at how much my stamina has improved since starting this job.

CuttedUpPear Mon 27-May-13 18:22:59

By the way I never mow any lawns. My clients have people in to do that. I just do the artistic stuff.
It's amazing what you can achieve with well sharpened tools and long handled loppers.

Weeding is also very satisfying if you like squeezing spots, which I do, I'm sure there is a link there somewhere.

Kernowgal Mon 27-May-13 18:42:46

I love weeding. I went into work yesterday specifically to do some dandelion weeding. That's pretty tragic, especially as it was rather satisfying.

Mirage Mon 27-May-13 20:27:32

I don't do lawns either,but will happily weed for hours,and do enjoy a bit of lopping,it is very theraputic.

CuttedUpPear Mon 27-May-13 21:57:48

I LOVE digging up bindweed. DP has a patch in his garden that I won't let him grass over because I know I can get more out of it, even though if was grassed over and they mowed it that would keep it down.
Weed sporn anyone?

CuttedUpPear you give me bindweed and I'll raise you hairy bittercress. The satisfaction of catching it just before it shoots up all those seeds.
It seems to pop up all year round, probably because I miss it 90% of the time.

cantspel Thu 30-May-13 12:26:22

I used to love weeding but being on my 3rd week of the battle against the ground elder i am getting a bit sick of it.

I quite like mowing the lawn even though it takes a couple of hours to get a good cut as you get instant results and the garden looks 100% better afterwards.

One of my favorite jobs is putting the pruning through the shredder and watching the little chipped bits pop out the other end.

Rhubarbgarden Thu 30-May-13 18:52:07

I'd love to do the Kew diploma but I live too far away from Kew now. It's also massively intensive and three years in duration; I couldn't afford or justify the childcare. The sad thing is that horticulture was my back up plan for if I'd failed my A-levels. Unfortunately I passed them and had to go off and do what my parents/teachers regarded as a 'proper' degree instead, followed by a 'proper' career, which made me unhappy. Took 15 years for me to wake up to myself and say 'sod this' and go and retrain. And now I'm at the point in life where following my professional dreams must take a back seat to family demands, so there have to be compromises. Such is life.

Hairy bittercress - oh YES I bloody love pulling it up. I also have a love/hate relationship with oxalis - it's such a swine to dig out without its root nodule thingies exploding, but when I do get it out in its entirety I want to cackle "mwah hah haah" - so satisfying.

Rhubarbgarden Thu 30-May-13 18:56:39

Oh and much as I keep saying I won't do garden design again, it just won't leave me alone. I had another request today for me to do a garden for someone and I found myself agreeing to take it on in the autumn. Gah.

Kernowgal Thu 30-May-13 19:40:55

Rhubarbgarden are you me (apart from the family)?? I too wanted to go into horticulture but my careers advisor sneered at it and said I was too bright, that I should go to university instead (parents agreed). So I did, and now 15 years later I'm doing it.

I had a place on the Kew Dip but turned it down because I didn't see how I could have possibly made ends meet on the salary offered. Friends who are doing it said they do part-time work outside but I think I would have found it all too stressful trying to work full time, study at degree level and do part-time gardening too, plus a commute from whatever area I could have afforded to live in on that salary.

A real shame but the trainees at my current employer earn £2k more than the Kew trainees and they get free accommodation.

funnyperson Sat 01-Jun-13 17:05:15

Study these days is the privilege of the wealthy. Sharks profiteer from student accommodation and grants and loans are not easily available or are too expensive. If I were not a pacifist I would cheerfully wish those who mutter about the 'knowledge economy' on the one hand and pass laws to bring in fees on the other, out of existence.

CuttedUpPear Sat 01-Jun-13 19:16:40

I studied for four years part time whilst bringing up two DCs on my own and working every other hour I could gardening.

The very fact that I needed to do a job that I could take DS along with was the reason I got into gardening. I started when he could just walk and would take along a box of toys, a packed lunch, and work until he got bored (or until I couldn't stand the whinging any longer). It got easier when he started school - DD was already there.

So it's not just the privilege of the wealthy, but attainable if you are insane can juggle a trowel and a tricycle, and are happy to give LOTS of rides in a wheelbarrow. None of my clients ever complained that Ds was there. not that I gave them the option. They may have been a bit surprised but there you go.

Mirage Sat 01-Jun-13 22:10:22

I'm not wealthy.I took day release from my full time job [manager was scared I'd leave if he refused my request] and studied for 2 years.After that I worked 6 or 7 days a week,running working as a gardener with my office job,to see if I could hack it and if there was enough business out there.There was,so I jacked in the office job 11 years ago and have been self employed ever since.

Rhubarbgarden Sun 02-Jun-13 21:17:13

Kernowgal that must have been devastating to have to turn down the place at Kew.

I take my hat off to CuttedUpPear and anyone who combines study with small children. I know that many do it and that they make it work, but I'm just too knackered at the end of a day of childcare that I can barely string a sentence together, let alone sit down and write essays. Maybe if I was younger...

CuttedUpPear Sun 02-Jun-13 23:18:10

I had to do it through necessity really. And I do like being outside.
But we were very poor and I didn't have enough money for food. I had to find something to do that didn't involve paying for childcare.

Conversely, it was being single that helped me do my studies. The DCs were in bed by 8.30 every night and I just worked after that. Other people on my courses marvelled at how I managed but it was all down to not having some bloke around the place expecting food or conversation.

Kernowgal Sun 09-Jun-13 15:21:57

It felt like the right decision RhubarbGarden. When I turned it down I asked if it would preclude me from applying again in the future and they said no, absolutely not, they'd welcome a future application. Doing the interview was really exciting and a great experience. And it was a great confidence boost after a crappy year in a crappy job thinking I wasn't very good at it.

I've thought about doing this in the future, I'm 19 weeks pg so can't make the leap yet. I work as a gardener for the local council, so have learned a lot on the job, have thought about it a lot in the past year. I'm the only female and have noticed that a lot of the public are happier talking to me and asking me questions rather than the guys I work with.
I am trained but in countryside management, there is a cross over of skills so hoping that will help.

For those who have done this what are the start up costs?

CuttedUpPear Sun 09-Jun-13 23:21:25

Start up costs = zero.
I guess you probably have all your own handtools already. As I and some others have said on this thread, we don't do the heavy jobs, just the skilled ones!

My only running cost (apart from the car) is gardening gloves, of which I get through about five pairs a year.

Mirage Mon 10-Jun-13 19:45:23

Did your Countryside Management course cover hedgelaying Fanjo? That is always in demand out our way.I wanted my uncle to train me,but he said it is a horrible job and will rip your hands to bits.I'm still tempted though and I think the local rate is £15 a metre.

mirage I have done a bit of hedge laying, but not enough to be any good, I'm better at dry stone walling.

RetroHippy Tue 18-Jun-13 19:24:53

Sneaking in here. I'm a supply teacher so don't get paid during the summer holidays (or any holidays for that matter). I also don't exactly love it to the point of finding a full-time position.

I've got a friend to design me some flyers to pop through doors in the local area offering basic garden maintenance, pond clearance, pressure washing driveways, pruning,weeding, mowing, that sort of thing. Maybe some big jobs up ladders that require muscles! I'll be providing all my own tools and charging £15 an hour with OAP discount for maintenance gardening (so I'm not doing a total overhaul at £10 an hour).

Does that sound reasonable? I'm in Yorkshire, so don't want to overcharge.

I'm hoping to get enough work from this that I can be outside from spring to autumn, then when the gardening drops off, supplement it with supply teaching in the winter when all the teachers have flu.

I've got no qualifications, more an enthusiastic amateur, but I do know my stuff my mother has drummed it into me since I was able to say flower

hinkyhonk Wed 19-Jun-13 22:05:19

I love to do my own garden and whenever asked what my dream job is its gardening but I never thought I could make a career out of it. But sounds suspiciously like I should do some more research into this... Would bloody love to garden for a living. Apart from lean winter months any other major down sides?

RetroHippy Thu 20-Jun-13 21:05:50

Ruined hands I would imagine!

hinkyhonk Fri 21-Jun-13 08:40:20

True! Collateral damage I guess. Hmm there is kit to get together as well. Many things to consider.

my current job could be seasonal (if I took a downward and sideways step) with busy times over the winter months which might work well. Right off to do lots of research

Mirage Fri 21-Jun-13 19:36:48

No sick pay,holiday pay,wet/bad weather means no money,ruined hands and nails,dodgy knees and backs.But I wouldn't swap it.It does make you hardy and you really appreciate the changing seasons.I think I've had 1 week off sick in 14 years.

Rhubarbgarden Sat 22-Jun-13 00:28:32

Pokes in the eye from sharp branches whilst pruning are surprisingly common too. <vision never been the same since that incident with the Ruscus>

Kernowgal Sun 23-Jun-13 17:43:22

If you can pick and choose your jobs then it's the best job in the world. I'm a full time permanent employee of a big organisation and so we do all the grunt work as well as the nice stuff. For instance last week I spent several days banging in fence posts in high humidity and bright sunshine - not pleasant. But then this week I will be planting lots of lovely things.

I second what Mirage says about it making you hardy - the only time I've taken off since retraining has been for the norovirus. I very very very rarely get colds and even then they last a day at most.

I love it because you never stop learning - there's always a new skill to work on, a new plant to discover.

hinkyhonk Tue 25-Jun-13 15:54:19

might need to remain a pipe dream until the children are at school as would otherwise have to fund childcare but definitely one for the second career.

i've been looking into the rhs qualifications and does anyone know if you can go straight into Level 2 or do you need to do level 1 first. am a keen but very amateur gardener so know little about the proper way of doing things but know one end of a spade from the other

Kernowgal Tue 25-Jun-13 17:48:43

Level 2 is the lowest level they offer (I think it's equivalent to a GCSE), then once you've got that you can progress to Level 3 and do the practical qualification too. So yes, you can go straight in. I started it at evening classes with only very basic hortic knowledge so you'll be fine. They've changed the format slightly from when I did it (for various reasons I didn't finish the course) but you should be able to fit it around the kids without any problems.

It is also possible to do it by distance learning through the Horticultural Correspondence College but I would say that you need to be very very disciplined to do this - something I am definitely not! It is also nice to meet other students doing the same thing and support each other during the course.

daisydee43 Tue 25-Jun-13 21:34:25

Hi just took my RHS level 2 finals today and hoping to start a career henceforth. Already work part time at garden centre so would do it alongside that and then prob reduce my hours at work. I worry about the heavy lifting and digging but I have to be quite macho at work. I know few people who always seem to be doing well but the winter months are killer. I've developed a business website and hope to launch as soon as get my car. Start up will be zero cost as have all professional tools etc and have a trade card for wholesaler. I can't wait to get jobs have 1 so far but dh feels I won't be able to do it physically but I will see. My current job is not v diverse or challenging so can only see one way forward

Kernowgal Wed 26-Jun-13 17:09:10

Daisy don't let the physical side put you off - it will be knackering for the first couple of months but you will soon see your fitness improve. I am much stronger than I was and can now keep up with the blokes on my team. The winter months can be miserable but my advice on that front is to invest in good thermals and waterproofs as they make such a difference. Oh, and the best and cosiest socks you can find. I tend to buy a pair of those 2.5-tog socks each winter as steel toecaps give me chilblains.

Kernowgal Wed 26-Jun-13 17:09:30

PS Hope the exams went well!

Mirage Wed 26-Jun-13 20:17:11

Don't let your DH put you off.My dad said to me that no one would ever employ a woman as a gardener [thanks dad!hmm] and I was brought up on a farm and was expected to chuck bales about as a child,so he should have known better! I have happily proved him wrong for the past 14 years.grin

mrscog Wed 26-Jun-13 23:25:50

This is so interesting. However, I would need to get over my fear of spiders before I could realistically think about gardening - I can't even go in my own shed!

SillyTilly123 Sat 29-Jun-13 20:44:40

My dp and I started our own gardening business last year. He does the gardening and I do all the admin/appointments and the driving (he doesnt drive) . He still has a part time (16 hours) job in a shop as its only seasonal but its really taking off so hes thinking of reducing his shop hours to 10 or 12, hoping they will allow him to pick them back up over xmas. He makes around £90 a week on the regular gardens now plus any one off jobs. He loves working for himself and its good for me as the kids can come with us in the holidays, then I drop dp off at the job and take them to the nearest park. So it gets us out of the house and new places.

daisydee43 Wed 16-Oct-13 15:41:27

Hi I am a female gardener and I feel that there's such a niche market for me as most people want big jobs carried out and more landscaping. I'm just testing the market starting out as a qualified horticulturalist but power tools are a struggle - I can use them it's getting them to work lol. I have a friend who just does the weeding and planting etc and she just posted some leaflets - any ideas?

onefewernow Thu 17-Oct-13 22:04:18

Re Rhubarbgarden and pokes in the eye- do be careful. I had a cataract early, and garden pokes in the eye were initially considered the most likely cause. They were not the cause, in fact, but it is a very common reason for one cataract earlier in life, according to the eye hospital.

Rhubarbgarden Fri 18-Oct-13 13:27:02

Gosh, I didn't know that. Thanks for pointing that out.

lisylisylou Mon 28-Oct-13 07:21:38

I did a national diploma in horticulture which was a 2 year course. I started my business 6 years ago and ive seen things since then whih have been inbelivable!! I'm on £14 an hour which is still too low and I would suggest getting your pricing right when you first start out. I do garden maintenance, I found garden design too difficult and took me away from my regular customers. In my experience you can't do both even in winter! There are aspects of the job that I don't like and surprisingly it's not the paperwork. Customers do appreciate you and understand the work but I've found relatives don't! I've taken on customers which I've known haven't been right (far too rich and superior in their minds so they are always right!!) and has always ended badly. However, keep it simple and the job is good and you will enjoy yourself. I've found gardening on a Friday afternoon in the sunshine with radio 2 on my iPod is the best feeling in the world!!

bumperella Fri 01-Nov-13 22:36:08

I sat RHS Level 2 in June this year, passed with commendation, did it from the reading list (ie not via distance learning college, sat as an external candidate). It's definitely an entry-level qualification only.
I do some voluntary work at a good local garden, where I can take the littlie. I'm looking at a career change, intend to sit part of RHS Level 3 in Feb and start job hunting in earnest in the spring. I don't want to be self-employed initially as I think would be better to learn from working with others first (I do some consultancy work from previous career anyway).

peggyundercrackers Thu 07-Nov-13 00:21:02

wow I cant believe people are charging £15 an hour for gardening work... that sounds a lot to me. we have a gardener who comes in 6 hours a week and charges £7 an hour. I cut the grass so he only does the borders and looks after fruit trees for us but its too much for us to do on our own as we have quite a big garden. I know a couple of other people who do gardening work too and at most charge £10 an hour - both of them have been in the game for 20 years and have 4 or 5 people working for each of them.

QuintesKabooom Thu 07-Nov-13 00:43:50

Oh, I am marking my place on this thread. I will come back tomorrow with a picture of something that suddenly started growing from my rock garden. My friend thought it was sweetcorn, but it looks like it isnt. But odd, oh yeah.

Flappingandflying Sat 09-Nov-13 21:28:37

If anyone who works as a gardener would like some muscles for poorly paid or even voluntary work, can I offer Flyingboy who is doing gardening at college. He is very willing and brill at mowing, digging, clearing, strimming, hacking, general garden maintenance. Local jobs are few and far between and as an aspie he's not got the confidence to knock on doors. We sre in the SE. Pm me if you could use him even if tempirarily.

bumperella Sun 10-Nov-13 22:39:57

Peggypants, I was surprised by £15 too, I guess though that repeat/regular work will be cheaper than one offs, esp if you're a nice person to work for!
Though round our way (rural Scotland) cleaners charge about £12 an hr and gardeners have higher overheads and a more seasonal business, so really £15 would be comparable to that.

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