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Gardeners and groundskeepers.

Attractively designed, healthy, and well-maintained lawns, gardens, trees, and shrubbery can help create a positive first impression, establish a peaceful mood, and increase property values. A growing number of individuals and organizations rely on gardeners and groundskeepers to do this work for them.

Nature of the Work

All gardeners plant and care for trees, plants, and lawns, but their duties vary noticeably by specialty, with some jobs encompassing a much wider array of responsibilities than others. Gardeners employed by landscape contractors create the landscape the client has chosen. A large commercial project might entail landscaping the interior and exterior of a new shopping mall. Following the plans drawn up by the landscape architect, gardeners plant trees, hedges, and flowering plants and apply mulch for protection. For a residential customer, the job might be more involved.

In order to create a more desirable backyard environment, for example, gardeners might terrace a hillside, build retaining walls, and install a patio, as well as plant trees and shrubs. They may also care for the landscape after it's completed.

Gardeners working exclusively for homeowners, estates, and public gardens are responsible for the overall care of the property, ranging from feeding, watering, and pruning the flowering plants and trees to mowing and watering the lawn. Some landscape gardeners, called lawn service workers, specialize in maintaining lawns and shrubs for a fee. A growing number of residential and commercial clients, such as managers of office buildings, shopping malls, multiunit residential buildings, hotels, and motels, favor this full-service landscape maintenance. These workers perform a full range of duties, including mowing, edging, trimming, fertilizing, dethatching, and mulching. Technicians working for chemical lawn service firms routinely inspect lawns for problems and apply fertilizers, weed killers, and other chemicals to lawns.

Groundskeepers have even more varied duties than do gardeners, frequently combining the work of a gardener with that of a maintenance mechanic. They may work on athletic fields, golf courses, cemeteries, or parks.

Groundskeepers who care for athletic fields are responsible for keeping playing surfaces-both natural and artificial-in top condition as well as marking the boundaries and painting team logos and names on the playing fields before each athletic event. In order to keep natural turf fields in good playing condition, groundskeepers must make sure the underlying soil has the proper consistency to sustain new sod. They generally resod the entire field once a year in order to provide the best possible footing for the athletes. Their duties regularly include mowing, watering, fertilizing, and aerating the fields. They must control insects with chemicals and apply fungicides to prevent diseases. Weeds and crabgrass must also be removed. Synthetic turf requires special care, although it doesn't have to be mowed, watered, or fertilized. Groundskeepers must vacuum and disinfect the field after use in order to prevent growth of harmful bacteria. They also must periodically remove the turf and replace the cushioning pad.

Greenskeepers maintain golf courses. They have to do many of the same things athletic field groundskeepers do. In order to keep the putting greens in good condition, greenskeepers periodically relocate the hole, usually after 250 or more rounds of golf. Changing the pin placement eliminates uneven wear of the turf and adds interest and challenge to the game. The greenskeeper must also keep canopies, benches, ball washers, and tee markers repaired and freshly painted, as well as perform other tasks required in order to keep the course neat and attractive at all times.

Cemetery workers prepare graves and maintain cemetery grounds. They dig graves to a specified depth, generally using a backhoe. They may place concrete slabs on the bottom and around the sides of the grave to line it for greater support. When readying a site for the burial ceremony, they will position the casket-lowering device over the grave, cover the immediate area with an artificial grass carpet, erect a canopy, and arrange folding chairs to accommodate the mourners. They regularly mow grass, prune shrubs, plant flowers, and remove debris from graves. They also must periodically build the ground up around new gravesites to compensate for settling.

By far the most varied job duties belong to groundskeepers who are responsible for parks and recreation facilities. Their responsibilities encompass just about everything necessary to keep these facilities ready for the many people who use them. Basic duties include caring for lawns, trees, and shrubs; maintaining athletic fields and playgrounds; and keeping parking lots, picnic areas, and other public spaces free of litter. Depending on the type and location of the facility, their duties also may include removing snow and ice from roads and walkways, erecting and dismantling snow fences, and maintaining swimming pools. These workers regularly inspect and clean all buildings, make needed repairs, and keep everything freshly painted. They inspect playground equipment and keep it in safe working condition.

Many different kinds of equipment and tools are used in landscaping and grounds maintenance. Although more and more gardeners and groundskeepers are using power tools to make their jobs easier, they still use handtools when working in confined spaces where large or automated equipment is difficult and dangerous to use. The most commonly used handtools include pruning saws, regular handsaws, hedge and brush trimmers, and axes. Many workers use power lawnmowers, chainsaws, snowblowers, and electric clippers. Some workers who care for estates, commercial and industrial grounds, and golf courses use large mechanized equipment, such as tractors and twin-axle vehicles. Cemetery workers often use tractor-pulled flail mowers that enable safe mowing over grave markers. Park, school, cemetery, and golf course groundskeepers may use sod cutters to harvest sod that will be replanted elsewhere. Athletic turf groundskeepers use magnetic sweepers and vacuums and other devices to remove water from athletic fields. In addition, some workers in large operations use spraying and dusting equipment.

Working Conditions and Earnings

Gardeners and groundskeepers work outdoors in all kinds of weather. They frequently are under pressure to get the job completed, especially when they are preparing for public events, such as athletic competitions or burials.

They are exposed to dangerous pesticides, insecticides, and other chemicals and must exercise safety precautions to prevent risk. They are also exposed to dangerous equipment and tools, such as power lawnmowers, chainsaws, and electric clippers.

Median hourly camings of gardeners and groundskeepers were $5.70 in 1987; the middle 50 percent earned between $4.65 and $8.20. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $3.65, and the top 10 percent earned more than $10.95 an hour.

According to a survey conducted by Lawn Care Industry Magazine, the average salary for those who worked for chemical lawn care firms was $7 an hour in 1987. Those who worked for landscape maintenance firms eamed an average of $7.50 an hour.

Qualifications and Advancement

Entrance requirements for gardeners and groundskeepers are modest. Generally, a high school education or its equivalent, or related experience is sufficient. Some people gain experience as a home gardener or by working in a nursery, a sod production operation, or for a tree service. Most entrants are recent high school graduates.

There are no national standards for gardeners and groundskeepers, but some States require certification for workers who use chemicals extensively, such as some workers employed by chemical lawn services. Certification requirements vary, but usually include passing a test on the proper and safe use of insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.

Employers prefer applicants with a good driving record and some experience driving a truck, because many gardeners and groundskeepers, especially those with lawn services, must transport equipment to and from job sites.

Gardeners often deal directly with customers, so they must get along well with people. Employers also look for responsible, self-motivated individuals, because many gardeners and groundskeepers work with little supervision.

Generally, a gardener or groundsworker can advance to supervisor after several years of progressively responsible experience, including the demonstrated ability to deal effectively with both coworkers and customers. Courses taken in agronomy, horticulture, and botany are helpful for advancement.

Supervisors can advance to manager with further experience combined with appropriate education, Many managers have completed postsecondary training in fields such as agronomy, horticulture, or botany, and some eam bachelor's degrees in these disciplines.

The Professional Grounds Management Society offers in-house certification to those managers who have a combination of 8 years' experience and formal education beyond high school.

Employment and Outlook

In 1986, gardeners and groundskeepers held 768,000 jobs. About 3 of every 10 worked for lawn and garden services, cemeteries, and landscape architects. About 2 of every 10 worked for private households and estates, and 1 in 10 worked for parks and recreational facilities. Others were employed by retail nurseries and garden stores or large institutions, including hospitals, schools, and hotels. Approximately 2 out of 10 were self-employed.

About 1 out of 3 gardeners and groundskeepers works part time. Most of these are probably students working their way through school. Others working part time are older workers who may be cutting back their hours as they approach retirement.

Employment of gardeners and groundskeepers is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2000 in response to increasing demand for gardening and landscaping services. Despite this growth, most job openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the labor force.

The level of new construction is a major determinant of the demand for gardeners and groundskeepers. The expected growth in the construction of commercial and industrial buildings, shopping malls, homes, highways, cemeteries, parks, athletic fields, golf courses, and similar recreational facilities should stimulate demand for these workers. Developers are increasingly using landscaping services, both interior and exterior, to attract prospective buyers and tenants. In addition, a growing number of homeowners are using lawn maintenance and landscaping services to enhance the beauty and value of their property as well as to conserve their leisure time.

Job openings should be plentiful because the occupation is large and turnover is high. This occupation attracts many young people who do not seek careers as gardeners. Some may take a job to earn money for a specific purpose, such as financing a college education; others may only take a job until a better paying one is found. Because wages for beginners are low and the work is physically demanding, many employers have difficulty attracting enough workers to fill available openings.

Related Occupations

Gardeners and groundskeepers perform the bulk of their work outdoors. Other workers whose jobs may be performed outdoors are construction workers, nursery workers, farmers, horticultural workers, tree surgeon helpers, tree trimmers and pruners, and forest conservation workers.

Sources of Additional Information For career and certification information, contact:

Professional Grounds Management

Society 12 Galloway Avenue Suite 1E Cockeysville, MD 21030.

For career information, contact:

Associated Landscape Contractors of

America, Inc. 405 N. Washington Street Suite 104
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Author:Blueford, Verada
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Sep 22, 1988
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