Finding the right gardener for you and your garden can feel a bit of a daunting task, but it needn’t be.
We’ll cover why you might need a gardener and what to look for when finding one, hopefully making it an enjoyable and beneficial process for all involved.
Why you might need a gardener
Prior to jumping online and find the closest option, taking on a gardener is a decision that requires some consideration.
You might need some help with the maintenance, advice, planting up or even redesigning some aspects. A gardener can be a great help not only in the short term, but also the long term.
With the right fit, some gardeners stay with the property’s owners or garden long term, sometimes for decades, so it is worth trying to get it right from the start.
Sometimes you might just need an extra pair of hands or some more manpower in the garden as a one-off. Perhaps you’ve moved into a new home and the garden has been left for a few weeks, or dare I say months and just needs getting back into shape.
You may want to make a new border and the thought of stripping off the turf and digging the ground over is a step too far, or you may just want to outsource certain parts of the garden, for instance the job of hedge cutting to a local company.
Gardeners are often taken on for their skills, knowledge or specialist tools and equipment.
Your garden may have high hedges or topiary that need cutting safely and precisely, have a vegetable patch that needs planting up or you may have rows of espaliered fruit trees that need pruning correctly twice a year.
Either way, these are tasks that may affect your choice of gardener, depending on their skills and training. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) approximately 87,000 gardening and garden DIY related accidents occur each year.
If you don’t have the correct tools or equipment, it is well worth employing a professional gardener or company to do it for you, not only might it save you any potential injury, but leave you with a professional finish.
Save time and money
We live in an age where time is money and you may feel that your time is better off spent doing other things than gardening.
With so many priorities vying for our time, gardening can often get bumped down the to-do list or even become a weekend chore. If this is the case, then taking on a gardener could free you up to focus on other things and leave you to enjoy your garden, even if the actual gardening isn’t your thing.
Employing the right gardener may even end up saving you money. A well-kept and inviting garden is a great asset to a home and can add significant value, especially in the current housing market.
It is all too easy to buy a shrub or climber and plant it where you think it will look good, only to find that it shrivels up and dies several months down the line.
Plants need to be planted where they will not only survive, but flourish. This means planting them where they will receive the correct amount of sunlight, rainfall and temperatures to be endured.
Not to mention what eventual size, soil, drainage and nutrient requirements they may have. The right gardener will know what to plant and where, potentially saving you hundreds of pounds of plants lost to the compost heap.
How to find the right gardener
Where to look
Perhaps the best starting place to find the right gardener is by asking a neighbour or local friend with a garden you admire.
Personal recommendations are key and often a good way into a busy gardener’s books. A good gardener may well be booked up for several months or even have a waiting list, but don’t let this put you off as they may well be worth waiting for.
If you need some one-off help, you may be better off contacting a larger garden maintenance firm, who might have several maintenance teams on the go and potentially more availability.
Other places worth contacting for recommendations are your local plant nurseries, horticulture colleges and garden centers.
Whoever you find, don’t be afraid to ask for a reference, as any good gardener should be able to provide a reference or two for you to follow up.
Research their background and skills and look for any specialisms you may require, such as topiary or fruit and vegetable growing.
Qualifications and experience
To get the best out of your garden and have it looking its best for you to enjoy, make sure you look for a gardener with qualifications and or experience.
It is not just about qualifications though, as some gardeners may have trained with organisations such as the Working For Gardeners Association (WFGA) or under another gardener.
It may be tempting to find a cheaper option, but this may well end up costing you more in the long run. It would be too disheartening, not to mention annoying, to find that your newly planted annuals are mistakenly ‘weeded out’ or a prized shrub is pruned at the wrong time of year by someone unqualified or inexperienced.
If you would like your gardener to use pesticides in your garden, then they should have the appropriate spraying certificates, including the PA1 and PA6 certifications.
If you would like them to do chainsaw work then they will need the appropriate qualification and a license to take away any green waste if required.
Accidents can happen, so make sure anyone you take on has the appropriate public liability insurance to protect against damage to you and your property and potentially professional indemnity insurance if they are designing aspects for your garden as well.
A broken window or patio glass door is not something you want to have to quibble about if a stone is accidentally flicked up by a passing strimmer.
Tools and equipment
Expect your gardener to provide their own tools and equipment.
If not and they use your tools and equipment and work for you regularly on days specified by you, you may end up becoming their employer, rather than their client.
This could lead to you becoming responsible for any employers’ liabilities.
How often do I need a gardener?
This is often dictated by the size of the garden and whether it is extensively planted or is more simply laid out.
If it is just the lawns that need cutting, then a weekly or fortnightly visit may suffice for the length of time it takes to mow. Or if you have a couple of acres that need keeping on top of, then a day a week may be required.
It is important to remember that a professional gardener with the correct equipment may be able to accomplish a lot more in the same time than someone who is not.
Gardeners tend to work all year round, as there are many horticultural tasks that need carrying out during the winter months. So don’t be surprised if your new gardener suggests regular visits throughout the year depending on what needs doing.
How to make the client – gardener relationship work
We often do our best when we enjoy our work and a gardener is no different. When inquiring about a gardener ask them what garden styles they like most, what are their favourite plants and what do they think they could add to your garden.
You’ll get a flavour of what they enjoy doing and whether they might be a good fit for both you and your garden.
Trust and respect are needed on both sides of the relationship and good communication is essential to make sure you as the client are happy with the results and your gardener wants to come back.
Agree everything in writing and enter into a written contract with your new gardener before they start, this way there is much less chance of any confusion and you both know where you stand.
Good gardeners can be hard to come by and often work in every extreme the UK weather can throw at them, so be mindful of this. A warm cup of tea and a shed to hide out the worst shower, or cold drinks and a shaded area to work in during the height of summer goes a long way.
As a horticultural therapist, professional gardener and freelance writer, Ed is passionate about the healing properties and processes of gardening and nature. With a background in occupational therapy, Ed now runs a community garden where he aims to encourage and enable the local community to grow fruit, vegetables and cut flowers and experience the many benefits of gardening. Ed lives in West Sussex with his young family and golden retriever, where they look to live the good life by growing as much of their food as possible. See Ed's website here.