Gardeners plant and maintain lawns, trees, shrubs and flowers in public or private gardens and parks.
Gardeners usually earn
$16-$30 per hour
Source: Trade Me Jobs and University of Canterbury, 2017.
Pay for gardeners varies depending on experience.
- Trainee gardeners and gardener's assistants usually start on minimum wage of $16 an hour.
- Experienced gardeners can earn up to $30 an hour.
Pay for self-employed gardeners depends on the success of their business.
Source: Trade Me Jobs 'Salary Guide', 2017; University of Canterbury 'Collective Agreement 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2018', 2017.
- PAYE.net.nz website – use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Gardeners may do some or all of the following:
- maintain gardens and outdoor areas by planting, pruning, fertilising, weeding
- grow plants from seeds and cuttings
- select and buy plants
- control plant pests and diseases
- discuss gardening requirements with clients
- do landscaping and basic construction work
- maintain gardening tools.
Skills and knowledge
Gardeners need to have:
- knowledge of planting, pruning, spraying, fertilising
- the ability to identify plants and pests
- knowledge of plant pest and weed control
- practical skills such as the ability to operate power tools.
- work regular business hours and sometimes weekends
- usually work outside in parks and gardens, but they may also spend time working in glasshouses and nurseries
- work in most weather conditions.
What's the job really like?
Lindsay Hyde admits he didn't start his gardening career with much plant knowledge. "As part of my horticulture apprenticeship there was a plant ID thing we had to attend. They were all deciduous trees and I just put 'oak, oak, oak' and that was my 10 guesses, I just didn't know."
Gardening skills learnt on the job
Lindsay has clearly picked up a thing or two since then because he's now the grounds manager for a large city park. "Over a period of time you build up knowledge. When you first start out just be prepared to learn. It's as simple as that. There's a fair bit of stuff you can learn just by getting out and doing it. There's a whole heap of knowledge out there and usually people are quite willing to offer it."
Stick with it and get rewards
He advises anyone interested in gardening as a career to "stick at it. A course can definitely be the start of a fulfilling and successful career. I started out by doing a trial for one week and I can honestly say I haven't looked back."
"More often than not people come past and say, 'that looks nice' or 'that looks spot on!' When you take pride in your work you feel good about what you do and nine times out of ten that's all we want from a job."
Attiene finds out what it's like to be a gardener - 5.44 mins. (Video courtesy of Horticulture Industry Organisation).
Clinton: Attiene is going to try amenity horticulture. That’s the care and maintenance of public parks, gardens and reserves that make our towns and cities a pleasant environment in which to live. It’s gardening on a grand scale. Her mentor will be David Millward.
Attiene: Hello! I’m Attiene.
David: Hi Attiene, David. How are you?
Attiene: I’m good thank you.
David: I believe you’re interested in horticulture?
Attiene: Yes I am.
David: Alright, OK, well if you want to come over here we’ve got some tasks set up for you so we can start loading up the ute and get straight into it.
David: Alright, come this way.
David: What I enjoy about me job? Probably the variety. Creating some already historically beautiful places and maintaining them and keeping them up to scratch. Seeing the enjoyment on people's faces when they come through parks and gardens – it can be quite a rewarding job.
Clinton: David is happy to show Attiene how to apply mulch under the trees by the pond.
David: So Attiene, we’re going to start on our first task for the day, have you done much horticulture at all yet?
Attiene: I’ve done a bit at home but not very much really.
David: Right OK, we’ll give you a little bit of a grounding in it today.
David: Well this will be our first one – it’s a bit of physical one. Basically what we’re just going to do here is we’re just going to be mulching around these Aspleniums, which is a type of fern, and basically the reason we do the mulching is so that it doesn’t dry out too much – especially now is a good time to do mulch, around springtime, and it’s also really good for weed suppression, which if you can save yourself a bit of work later on, it’s always a good thing to do!
David: It’s a good balance of physical work, which a lot of people pay a huge balance to go to the gym, paying gym fees to keep fit. In this job you can do it on the job.
David: Well done.
Attiene: Thank you, good job!
Attiene: I didn’t realise that gardening was such hard work, in that you actually have to get in there and do it, and that you actually use mulch to keep away weeds – and they do keep them away!
Clinton: Another seasonal task is the preparation of the flower beds for spring planting.
David: Alright, now as you look around here, most parts have annual beds – that’s what these ones are. Annuals are young plants that only have a limited lifespan generally. They’re there for a quick show and display and then they get removed and generally in the park, most places will have two changeovers of annuals in a year, which is the same case here. So what we’re basically going to be using is this rotary hoe, and go through and break up all the soil.
David: Well done! It will get easier!
Clinton: After the soil preparation comes the planting. All of the thousands of bedding plants are raised from seed on the on-site nurseries.
David: The smaller plants that are brought into this area that are then grown on into large plants and they’ve hardened off a little bit, we’ve got the plastic framing up there, that filters out a little bit of the light so they’re basically gradually gotten used to the outside environment before they’re taken out to the big wide world of the winter gardens.
David: So this is one of the components of the apprenticeship in amenity horticulture, is basically plant design for display purposes, and you can’t get a better display area than the winter gardens, so this is the sort of thing you can design.
Clinton: Another of Auckland’s historic public gardens is Albert Park. Attiene is going there to meet Erin who is in the second year of her apprenticeship.
Attiene: So what are you going to do when you finish your apprenticeship.
Erin: There’s lots of things I could do. There’s plenty of opportunities within the company to stay and it just really depends what you’re interested in at the end.
Erin: Do you enjoy it?
Erin: Oh yeah definitely! It’s good fun.
David: The rewards are just seeing the people enjoy the open spaces. At the end of a bad day you can sit back and go for a walk in the park and it takes two minutes to realise that – wow, I’m actually really lucky and I have a fantastic work environment and there’s not many places in the world that people can go outside and enjoy it like we do.
Attiene: I think horticulture is really good. It’s lots of fun, you get to be out all day in nature and even though it’s quite tiring it’s really rewarding.
David: Attiene went really well today. She was keen, motivated, got a really good personality so she will get on with the public and I think she’d be fantastic. Willing to get her hands dirty – great.
Clinton: This is a great job for people who have a passion for gardening and love being outdoors. Right now there is a shortage of skilled workers in this field. There are no specific entry requirements but a reasonable level of fitness and a driver’s licence are preferred. You can do the three-year National Certificate in Amenity Horticulture (Level 4), which covers both theory and practice. And you’ll be earning while you’re earning.
There are no specific requirements to become a gardener. However, experience or a National Certificate in Horticulture (Level 4) may be useful.
Gardeners may study towards a National Certificate in Horticulture (Levels 1-3), National Certificate in Horticulture – Amenity Horticulture (Level 4) or a National Certificate in Horticulture – Landscaping (Level 4).
- Primary Industry Training Organisation website - information on horticulture qualifications
- Primary Industry Training Organisation website - information on amenity horticulture qualifications
- Primary Industry Training Organisation website - information on landscaping qualifications
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a gardener. However, agricultural and horticultural science, biology and maths are useful.
For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain industry experience.
Gardeners need to be:
- able to follow instructions
- creative, with an eye for detail
- adaptable, as weather can change plans at the last minute.
You could be weed-eating, mowing, going along with the edger – so fitness definitely comes into it. But I guarantee that fitness can be built up and improved, and sometimes your shape improves as well!
Useful experience for gardeners includes:
- horticultural or conservation work
- gardening experience
- heavy vehicle and tractor-driving experience.
Gardeners need to be reasonably fit, healthy and strong, and have a good level of stamina, as they may spend a lot of time bending and lifting. They should not have any allergies to pollens, sprays or plants.
Find out more about training
- Primary Industry Training Organisation
- (04) 801 9616 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.primaryito.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of finding work as a gardener are average as it is a popular job that requires no entry level training, so there is high competition for available jobs.
Types of employers vary
Gardeners may work for:
- themselves – either on their own or as part of a small franchise
- private landowners
- regional and local councils
- businesses that work on contract for local councils.
- City Care website, accessed April 2017, (www.citycare.co.nz).
- Green, R, training advisor, Primary Industry Training Organisation, Careers New Zealand interview, May 2017.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Annual Percentage Change in Advertised Job Vacancies, March 2016 to March 2017 Quarters', March 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Short Term Employment Forecasts 2016-2019', March 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Ministry for Primary Industries, 'Future Capability Needs for the Primary Industries in New Zealand', April 2014, (www.mpi.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Gardeners may progress to setting up their own business, or move into team leader or management roles.
Last updated 8 November 2017