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Gardener and Groundskeeper

Gardener and Groundskeeper

Education and Training: None

Salary: Median—$25,881 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Gardeners and groundskeepers take care of lawns and gardens. They are sometimes called landscape gardeners or grounds custodians. Those who specialize in caring for lawns and have technical training are called turfgrass management technicians. Gardeners and groundskeepers work wherever lawns, trees, shrubs, and flowers need professional care. Many work at cemeteries, parks, golf courses, and other sports fields. Others work for arboretums, botanical gardens, and conservatories where different types of plants and trees are grown and displayed. Some schools, zoos, and museums have extensive grounds and employ gardeners and groundskeepers.

In addition, gardeners and groundskeepers maintain the grounds of factories, office buildings, shopping centers, housing developments, apartment complexes, highways, and resort hotels. Some workers take care of the lawns and gardens of individual families. Groundskeepers also work on farms that grow, harvest, and sell sod. The sod is grown as a lawn and is delivered to the buyer in pieces that are laid down as ground cover.

Some gardeners and groundskeepers work for landscaping services that are under contract to care for the grounds of several different firms, agencies, or homeowners. Many gardeners and groundskeepers have their own businesses.

The duties of gardeners and groundskeepers vary with the seasons and with their employers. They are usually responsible for keeping the soil in good condition. They often plant bulbs, flowers, shrubs, or trees. They may water, feed, transplant, and prune them. They often use chemicals to control insects, disease, and weeds. They may put down mulch, such as wood chips or peat moss, to control weeds and maintain soil moisture. Groundskeepers cut, fertilize, water, and renovate lawns.

Gardeners and groundskeepers often have other duties as well. For example, they may have to remove snow, leaves, and dead or diseased trees. They may paint or refinish outdoor furniture. They sometimes move benches and picnic tables, and they may be responsible for picking up litter and emptying trash cans.

Gardeners and groundskeepers use tools such as hoes, rakes, and spades. They also use power tools, such as gas-powered mowers and tillers and electric clippers and edgers. Sometimes they take care of underground watering systems. Gardeners and groundskeepers often maintain and repair their tools and equipment. They may sharpen lawn mower blades and oil hedge clippers.

Greenskeepers, sometimes called golf course superintendents, supervise the workers who care for golf courses. They decide what work needs to be done to keep the greens healthy and attractive. They make up schedules and assign duties. They sometimes help to take care of the greens themselves. In addition, greenskeepers often notify the public about the rules that must be followed on the golf course.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no specific educational requirements for gardeners and groundskeepers. However, many employers prefer to hire high school graduates. Interested individuals can take high school, vocational school, or college courses in gardening and related subjects, such as biology, botany, and horticulture. Business subjects are useful for those who want to start their own landscaping service.

Most gardeners and groundskeepers get their training on the job. Some colleges have two-year programs in landscaping, horticulture, and lawn or turfgrass management. A few enter formal apprenticeship programs that combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Part-time and summer jobs caring for lawns and gardens or working in a greenhouse or on a farm are good ways to start training.

Getting the Job

Candidates can apply directly for a job at government agencies, business firms, landscape services, or private estates that employ gardeners and groundskeepers. Check newspaper classifieds and job banks on the Internet for openings listed in this field. If attending a vocational school, candidates can ask the placement office to help find a job. Prospective gardeners and groundskeepers may be able to get job information from professional associations and unions that include gardeners and groundskeepers in their membership.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experienced gardeners and groundskeepers sometimes become head gardeners or supervisors. These workers can then get additional training or experience and become greenskeepers. Some go into business for themselves as landscape contractors. Other gardeners and groundskeepers advance by improving their skills in a special field through experience or further training. For example, gardeners can become tree surgeons, and groundskeepers can become turfgrass specialists.

The employment outlook for gardeners and groundskeepers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. There will be many job openings to replace workers who leave the field. Good gardeners and groundskeepers are always in demand. Growth in the construction of commercial and industrial buildings, shopping malls, homes, and highways should contribute to the demand for gardeners and groundskeepers.

Working Conditions

Gardeners and groundskeepers usually work alone or in small crews. They need to be able to work well with their hands and with tools and machinery. They must also be strong and healthy, because their work requires much reaching, bending, lifting, and walking. The work is generally safe, although tools and chemicals can be dangerous if not used properly. Gardeners and groundskeepers spend most of their working hours outdoors. Sometimes they also work in greenhouses, indoor gardens, or shops where equipment is kept. The hours are often irregular and depend on the climate, the season, and the type of job. There may be long workweeks of forty-four to forty-eight hours in the spring and summer with shorter hours or even layoffs in the winter. Some gardeners and groundskeepers belong to unions.

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary widely depending on experience, location, and employer. The median yearly earnings of full-time gardeners and groundskeepers is $25,881. Those who start their own businesses often earn higher incomes. The hourly wage is usually $9.82 to $16.99.

Where to Go for More Information

Professional Grounds Management Society
720 Light St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
(800) 609-7467
http://www.pgms.org

Professional Landcare Network
950 Herndon Pkwy., Ste. 450
Herndon, VA 20170
(800) 395-2522
http://www.landcarenetwork.org

Benefits also vary. Gardeners and groundskeepers who work for private estates may receive free housing in addition to their wages. Small landscape contracting services may provide few benefits. Self-employed workers must provide their own benefits. Workers employed by government agencies or business firms often receive benefits that include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

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