Gardeners plant and care for flowers, shrubs, vegetables, trees and lawns. They could be working on a public park, roadside verge, private house, or preparing plants for sale at a garden centre or plant nursery. Gardeners need to know about different types of plants. This includes knowing where a plant will grow well and how to look after it.
Also known as
- Horticultural Worker, Amenity
- Seasonal Gardener
- Landscape Gardener
Video: - Yvonne: Amenity Horticultural Worker
Gardeners prepare areas for planting by measuring and marking out. You might need to prepare the soil by adding compost or manure. Next, you plant flowers, shrubs and trees according to a design.
Your general duties include:
- spraying plants with chemicals to protect them from pests
- mowing grass
- pruning plants and trimming hedges
- keeping the area free of weeds and litter
Some Gardeners also put up fencing and lay pathways. You might also carry out concrete and brickwork.
Some specialise in nursery and garden centre work which includes growing and looking after new plants, and preparing them for sale. You must be able to deal confidently with the general public and help them with their questions and enquiries. You will need to check the plants for pests.
The plants grown may then need to be harvested and picked by hand, or by using machinery, depending on the crop. For example, in a larger plant nursery or in outdoor vegetable production, you often use machinery to help with tasks such as ploughing, planting and harvesting.
There are also some Gardeners who design, care for and maintain plants and green areas inside buildings, in places like offices and shopping centres. This is known as interior landscaping.
As well as using hand tools, you might drive tractors and use other light machinery such as hedge trimmers, rotavators and mowers.
You have to know how to store, handle and clean equipment. Maintaining the equipment can include doing minor repairs.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Gardener, you will need:
- to enjoy working outside in all types of weather
- adaptability, to do lots of practical tasks
- the ability to do hard, physical work, like digging, lifting and carrying
- teamwork skills
- the ability to follow plans and drawings from Landscape Designers and Architects
- number skills to measure accurately and to work out the quantities of materials you'll need
- a responsible attitude and the ability to follow health and safety procedures, for working with equipment and chemicals
- to be able to deal with the public in a polite and helpful manner
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £17,000 - £18,000
- With experience: £19,000 - £21,000
- Senior Gardeners earn £22,000 - £23,500
Hourly rates usually range from the national minimum wage to around £10 an hour.
Hours of work
Gardeners usually work 39-hours a week. However, working hours might include evening/weekend work and irregular hours, depending on the season and weather (for example, they work longer hours in summer when grass needs cutting).
Where could I work?
- local and national authorities with responsibility for managing public parks, gardens and landscaped areas
- horticultural contractors and landscape gardening companies
- plant nuseries
- garden centres
- fruit farms
Opportunities for Gardeners occur in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK.
There are opportunities for Gardeners to become self-employed, for example, in contract grass cutting or as Gardeners for private gardens.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, at Jobcentre Plus, on the Find a Job website, and on general and horticultural job boards.
GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:
Entry Routes and Training
A level 2 qualification will help you to get into this career.
An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship are a great place to start. Take a look at our information article
You can decide to go to college to take a full-time course in horticulture, before looking for a job.
BTEC offers level 2 and level 3 qualifications in horticulture.
City & Guilds land based services provides:
- level 1 awards, certificates and diplomas in land-based studies
- level 2 certificates, extended certificates and diplomas in horticulture
- level 3 certificates, subsidiary diplomas, diplomas and extended diplomas in horticulture
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) offers its own nationally-recognised qualifications. These include theory-based certificates at levels 2 and 3, and qualifications in practical horticulture at levels 1-3. On the RHS website, you can find a list of colleges that offer these qualifications, including through distance learning.
Students who already have some practical experience can apply for short-term Voluntary Internships with the RHS. You'd get the chance to work in an RHS garden while learning basic gardening skills and techniques. Please see the RHS website for more information.
It can also be possible to find work and study part-time. Some employers enable amenity horticultural workers to go to college on a day-release basis.
You might be able to work towards City & Guilds land based services awards, certificates and diplomas in work-based horticulture (levels 1-3) or practical horticulture skills (level 1).
You could be promoted to a Team Leader or Supervisor post, responsible for a team of Horticultural Workers. With a lot of experience and, usually, further qualifications (such as a foundation degree, HND or degree), you could work your way up to a management position.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
Some posts, for example, that involve working on school grounds or around social care buildings, are exceptions to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.
This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
Previous experience of gardening or other outdoor work, either paid or voluntary would be really useful for this career.
You don't usually need any qualifications to become a Gardener. However, it's useful to have some GCSEs, especially in science subjects, or a relevant equivalent qualification.
To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.
To do a BTEC level 2 qualification, there are no minimum academic requirements.
However, with all the above, requirements can vary, so please check carefully with individual colleges.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some entrants have gained relevant skills and knowledge from experience of gardening or other outdoor work, either paid or unpaid.
Colleges will usually consider applications from adults who don't meet their usual entry requirements. You should check the admissions policy of individual colleges.
You might be able to enter and train through an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship or Advanced Level Apprenticeship in Horticulture.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) website includes a list of organisations that provide distance learning options leading to RHS qualifications.
You can search for relevant courses on the website of Lantra, the sector skills council for the land-based and environmental sector.
Funding for further study is available from the Studley College Trust and the Merlin Trust. Candidates should see the Trusts' websites to check on eligibility.
- 60% of Gardeners are self-employed.
- 5% work part-time.
- 6% have flexible hours.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Local government vacancies
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
myjobscotland: Scottish local government vacancies
Skills for land-based and environmental industries
Address: Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 02476 696996
City & Guilds Land Based Services
Address: Building 500, Abbey Park, Stareton, Warwickshire CV8 2LY
Tel: 02476 857300
Horticultural Correspondence College (HCC)
Address: Fiveways House, Westwells Road, Hawthorn, Corsham SN13 9RG
Tel: 01225 816700
Studley College Trust
Address: The Old Post Office, Lower Boddington, Daventry, Northants NN11 6YB
Institute of Horticulture (IoH)
Tel: 01992 707025
Tel: 0845 7078007
College of Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise (CAFRE)
Tel: 0800 0284291
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)
Address: 15 John Street, London WC1N 2EB
Tel: 020 7831 3110
Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)
Address: 80 Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE
Tel: 0845 2605000
Address: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB
Tel: 020 8332 5585
Institute for Horticultural and Rural Studies (IHRS)
Address: Pethick Park, Looe, Cornwall PL13 1QR
Tel: 01503 240835
National Trust (NT)
Belfast City Council
Northern Ireland Enquiries
Address: General enquiries, Chief Executive's Department, Belfast City Hall, Belfast.
Tel: 028 9032 0202
National Trust for Scotland (NTS)
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844