Newbie 49 year old seeking advice!

Good evening all!

I have for the past 15 years worked as a Specialist Paramedic in the south west, and during the past few years enjoyed some general garden maintenance and low level landscaping work for a few clients built up over this time. I found I enjoyed this work immensely because of the de - stressing effects it had on me and  helped me re charge my batteries for the next set of shifts. Being able to create something has always given me a buzz and was sometimes a stark contrast from my full time job. A few months ago I decided to have a career  change, follow my creative nose and start doing it full time. Not the best time of year to start, I hear you all say, but at least it gives me time to find my feet. With this in mind I wondered whether I could ask for some advice.

I am practical, have reasonable carpentry skills,  can, and have turned my hands to most things in this environment but still have a great deal to learn! So with this mind my questions are these:

  • I really need to vastly improve my plant/shrub/weed knowledge and wondered whether there are any recommendations for books on these subjects. I am considering doing the RHS level 2 to help me gain more knowledge- although I know there,s no substitute for experience. I am also considering trying to get a one day  week job in a nursery.
  • I also have an interest in hard landscaping/garden design & planning. would I benefit from some short courses to improve my skills - any ideas or recommendations?
  • Are there any generic garden maintenance books that you could recommend?

If only they did apprenticeships for people like me lol

Apologies for all the questions. I have done some research in all these areas but am mindful of the fact that there are a lot of experienced peeps on here an would welcome your advice.

Finally just wanted to say what a friendly site this is! I find myself spending hours in the evening browsing all the forums. I hope one day I may be able to give some advice of my own!!

Thanks to all and I hope you are all keeping busy!


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  • PRO

    I can say this because I'm older - You absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks :)

    I'll comment on one of your last points; Many Agri colleges provide part time courses from short duration to 2-3 year part time NVQ level 2-4 courses where you need to commit one day a week term time with addtional course work also being set.

    One of my guys did it years ago. Cost can be a problem because there are vey few funding support opportunities.

    Look primarily @ NVQ based courses as they are more practical, where as the RHS courses are more theoretical (albeit great courses).

    Possibly look to offer 1 day a week subbing for an existing business as an addtional resource / holiday or sick cover.

    I'm sure a few others will be along with additional views and suggestions, in the meantime I'll take a look thru my 'library' and make a few suggestions......

    [edit] One of the best courses I can remember came from City & Guilds - Practical Gardening

  • Hi Gary - Thanks so much for the advice! I have looked at a number of courses but the college near to me only offers the RHS Levels. Will have to do some more searching. Great idea for offering some stand in hours. I will see which companies I have in my area. Wouldn't want to tread on any toes!!

    Would welcome any advice on books. I know its better to gain experience but at least it helps me lay the foundations.

    Thankyou from one old dog to another!!:)

    • PRO

      One book rated by many is Paul Power's book,

      It came out many years after I started but I did read an old version and found a lot of the guidance still relevant. At under a £10 2nd hand, I'd make a beeline for that for starters.

      Experience suggests that there is no shortage of work if you approach it formally and professionally.

      Dont compete purely on price or try to take on the black/grey market rates seen in some areas.

      Keep (re)searching LJN - there's a wealth of hidden gems awaiting discovery....

  • I have read both Paul Power books - Extremely helpful! Need to get my head around pricing, its a minefield. Will probable do hourly rates for some jobs to start until I get experience in working out how long it takes to do a job. looking forward working outside again. Enjoy all weather!

    • PRO

      There a very few books that cover business & pricing in our industry.

      If not already to hand, this one is also a "must have".......... although it appears to have doubled in price since last reprinted. As well as pricing help, it has some good business-sense chapters.

      Other than that, the best ones (like music ;) date from the 80's & 90's and mainly cover commercial pricing methodologies. Out of print, but often pop up in book warehouses. With those, the principles hold true but the cost bases etc makes you want to die for :)

      Most of my books are now mainly reference books to look up and clarify aspects....

      • PRO

        Maybe you should write a book Gary :)

        • Agreed 80's & 90's - books and especially music!!:) oh to reminisce. I was in the Army then.

          Thanks again Gary!

  • This reply was deleted.
    • PRO

      + 1 for Doc Hessa books. Keep them in the vans at all times for reference

      • Thanks Brian and Duncan both. Just had a look, just what I'm looking for - Good advice about keeping them in the van. Be good if they did them all in kindle!


      • PRO

        If lawn care is a real interest or future direction, search on here for details about David Hedges-Gower's new book. He's also a LJN  member and occasionally runs Saturday Lawn Care courses up nr Oxford over weekends

This reply was deleted.

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