Gardening Plus One: Taking On a Garden Apprentice

Another day of firsts today: my first day bringing in someone to help me with gardening!

garden apprentice

I had been thinking about how I could expand my team to handle the influx of gardening work that I expect closer towards spring. I decided to approach the garden school where I received my own Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture. My former course supervisor Peter was still there, and I asked him to put out a message to his current Level 2 students about a possible work experience opportunity with me. It worked like a charm! Within two days, I had three work experience requests from Level 2 students. Everyone was different, but all had stumbled into horticulture from other careers that they didn’t find quite as rewarding.

My first apprentice Katie started with me today. It was a trial day, and I wanted to see how it would go. I’ve never had people working for me, although I’ve done plenty of work myself helping out other gardening companies around London. It’s such a different experience to be on the other side of the equation and bring someone on yourself.

garden apprentice

I was quite anxious about today, but what really helped is that I had myself just completed a trial and training period with Francis at Studio Cultivate to become a gardening workshop teacher. So in a way, I’m an “employee” and “employer” at the same time, although actually… let’s just call it “freelancer”.

Morning Project

After a quick chat and a cup of takeaway tea, Katie and I got straight to work. I lined up two quite different jobs for the day — a regular maintenance job in a single-family home that I have been working on for a few months now, and a one-off clearance job in a large Victorian house share.

At the maintenance job, we worked on two different areas of the front garden. I tidied the corner of the border and trimmed some of the hedges.

garden apprentice

Katie pruned back the gnarly branches at the bottom of a spruce tree. I showed her how to make a cut with the handsaw that wouldn’t damage the tree and leave a collar to heal over. I made sure to ask how it was going and check on her progress regularly. It’s all too easy for me to get absorbed in my own work, so I have to really push myself to check on others and keep it positive, while also doing my own part of the job.

Katie asked me why I decided to approach Walworth Garden for people to help me. The question stumped me for a bit — I had never thought of that fully. Certainly, I could have just advertised to fully qualified and experienced gardeners and probably had a good response too. I suppose the reason is that I don’t want to take on board people who are solely laborers. Gardening is about more than labour to me. It’s about developing your own passion for horticulture and making a living doing something you love. So I suppose, without fully knowing it at the time, I wanted to give back to the garden where I studied by creating opportunities to gain work experience for other people who have discovered gardening. I knew that the people who study at Walworth Garden are usually there for the right reasons.

Afternoon Project

After lunch together, we worked on the clearance job. This proved a bit more intensive as we had a fully overgrown garden to weed, but we steamed through it! I think it definitely showed Katie that some jobs can be way more monotonous than others.

garden apprentice

Katie helped me a lot today, and we made great progress. My challenge now, I suppose, is to make the people who work with me confident enough to take on new jobs on their own. I’ve never done this before and never really managed a team, so let’s see how it pans out.

As for this garden, the clearance is only the beginning. If you go on the journey with it as a gardener, you can be part of its transformation over time. You literally become the magician who turns the garden from an overgrown nightmare into a blossoming paradise. And that’s a big part of the joy for me. ?

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