how to become a horticulturist

Do you love the outdoors, and spending time in green spaces? Perhaps you know the names of all the plants in your garden? Are you a bit of a science buff on the side?

As a horticulturist, you combine science and your interest in plants to plan, cultivate and maintain green spaces. You might work on public or private gardens, in rainforests, in natural environments, or in urban areas. Sometimes you may even work on farms. You use your science skills to test the soil for quality and composition. Then, you consider other factors like rainfall, climate, and exposure. Using this information to choose plants which will thrive at the site you are working on. You might make suggestions for a crop which will thrive on a farm, or be a part of a reforestation project. Using your knowledge you help farms to improve their yield or to create beautiful landscaped green spaces. Horticulture is a hands-on job with a twist of academia. This makes the profession perfect for people who want to have a balance between physical and mental demands at work.

If plants are your passion then why not consider becoming a horticulturist? Enjoy the outdoors and apply scientific knowledge to create beautiful flourishing green spaces. Keep reading to discover the steps you need to take to realise your dream job. 

Step one: Choose a Horticulture course

Horticulturists rely on specialised plant knowledge and a science-based practice to inform their work. Training is important because this is the best way to learn the essentials before getting started. You can take an online course in horticulture, which is a great way to learn without a massive investment of time and money. Strong growth is expected in horticulture over the next five years, so now is the perfect time to get started.

Step three: Consider a specialisation

The environment is a varied place, and so too is the work of the horticulturist. You can work on private projects, initiatives to reintroduce native plants to the environment, or with crops and the farming sector. Whatever you fancy, consider the path you would like to take before you seek and apply for work. Here are some specialisations to consider.

Landscape Gardener

Landscapers hear the dreams of their clients and mould those dreams into reality, in the form of green space. You work for private clients who want to build a garden. You work according to their brief, and translate those wishes into practical gardens with a “wow” factor. This specialisation requires creativity, people skills, and technical know-how.

Nursery Worker

Every plant starts somewhere, and this is where you will come in. Nursery workers grow plants from seeds or cuttings for commercial sale. Your customers might be large plant stores, landscapers or private clients buying directly from you. You provide the right environment and grow a wide range of desirable plants. You also advise buyers about plant choice, and how to care for the plants you sell them.

Greenskeeper

Grass is your speciality. Grass comes in all shapes, sizes, and species. All grasses have different levels of hardiness and qualities. You work with the sports industry to maintain sports fields and golf courses understanding the different needs of each sport. You know how to encourage healthy growth and how to maintain the turf. You may also work for domestic clients, or for corporations if they have large grassed areas in need of your attention.

Step three: Register with a professional body

Once you qualify and have in mind the direction you would like to take with your work, you can apply for your first job as a horticulturist. Remember to tailor your resume to highlight your qualifications, strengths, and any relevant experience.

Step four: Look for your first job

Once you are qualified and have in mind the direction you would like to take with your work, you can begin to apply for your first job as a horticulturist. Remember to tailor your resume to highlight your qualifications, strengths, and any relevant experience. If you have been putting your passion into practice in your own garden then why not include images and some background information of what you have achieved in the space.

What do Horticulturists Do?

Your work can take you to a wide range of different environments. You may find yourself working in a private garden, on a preservation project, or even on a large-scale crop farm. Horticulturists have very valuable skills which help plan and maintain green spaces successfully. Your duties usually consist of identifying plants and choosing which species will do well in the particular location. Before making decisions you test the soil to help determine which plants will do well there. You may participate in native landscape preservation initiatives. Or focusing on pests and diseases to protect and improve the health of existing planting. Getting your hands dirty is part of your day to day work. You take part in planting activities, transporting plants, and helping with maintenance tasks like weeding and pruning.

Tasks

  • Identifying plants in different environments
  • Providing expert advice on plant selection
  • Testing soil to inform plant choices, or for contaminants
  • Transporting plants 
  • Implementing irrigation systems

Skills for Success

The life of a horticulturist is for the most part in the outdoors. You get stuck into your work from a practical and intellectual perspective. Plants are your passion and you have a good knowledge of different species. It is important to understand the needs of different species so you can place them appropriately. There is no use putting a cactus in a swamp! You also need to know about pruning and how to maintain different plant species to maximise their health. As well as working on practical tasks you conduct scientific experiments so you are making informed decisions. You may test the soil, track data, measure rainfall and plant growth. Keeping meticulous records of any experiments you conduct is very important.

There are a lot of different career paths in horticulture, so there is really a place, or “calling” for every individual. Some people will focus on initiatives to do with the environment. For example, rejuvenating native bush. Others will work closely with the farming community helping to improve farming in Australia

Skills and attributes

  • A passion for plants and the environment
  • Understand environmental preservation methods
  • Thorough knowledge of plant species
  • Attention to detail
  • An interest in scientific methods – enjoy making experiments
  • Good health
  • Can maintain records accurately

What do Horticulturists earn in Australia?

In Australia, horticulturists earn a median wage of $46,846 per year. This varies according to a number of factors and is intended as a reference only, from Payscale 05/’18.

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