Develop Your Skills and Knowledge of Green Keeping
This is an extremely comprehensive course which covers all the necessary skills to become adept in turf care for a range of different industry roles.
Find out everything you need to know about turf establishment, different types of grasses, repairing damaged lawns, underground drainage and irrigation.
Apply what you learn to be a professional green keeper, work at sports grounds, in turf care and repair, or start your own lawn mowing or garden maintenance business.
Become a Turf Industry Professional.
Discover things about turf that you hadn't even thought about!
Learn the science, management and horticulture that underpins modern turf management for a better job in such positions as a superintendent, curator, greens manager, sales or marketing representative, turf/horticulture technician etc.
Scope for Employment
This is a huge course, that lays a foundation well beyond a tradesman level.
Our students will more often than not, find employment in the turf industry before completing this course; and sometimes before even starting.
Anywhere that you find a lawn or sports turf; will be a potential employer for a graduate of this course. This includes home gardens, golf courses, municipal parks, bowling greens, sports grounds, race courses and sporting stadia. There are lots more as well.
Larger facilities will often employ curators, superintendents or managers; and this course will greatly advance your capacity to perform jobs at that level.
Some graduates move into self employment. This may involve anything from being a lawn mowing contractor, to being a technical consultant, or operating a turf equipment or turf supply company.
STARTING A LAWN CARE BUSINESS
Lawn care and grass cutting businesses are very popular small businesses. Almost everyone knows how to safely and efficiently use a lawn mower, either through having a 'mowing route' as a youngster or through care of their own lawn. The start-up costs are also quite low as only a mower, trailer, fuel and transport are necessary to get started.
As with all other gardening services, you need to be careful to specify what services are included for the cost quoted. For instance, you may quote to mow a lawn, intending to provide trimming around trees once a month, whilst the homeowner may expect that service weekly. A lawn mowing service does not have to include garden maintenance, and again any additional services such as that should be specified in your original agreement.
In areas where continual lawn mowing is a seasonal need, a lawn mowing service might make a great combination with another cool season service, such as pruning.
A lawn mower is usually the first piece of garden machinery a person buys. There are many different types of grass cutting machines - man-powered or machine-powered, ones you ride on and others you walk behind.
Mowers cut grass one of four different ways:
- Scissor Cut cuts by the action of two blades moving across each other like a pair of scissors. It is sometimes used by councils for slashing very long grass, but rarely used in the home garden.
- Rotary Cut cuts with a sharpened blade rotating horizontally and hitting the grass at a 90 degree angle. This can damage grass, isn't as good on quality lawns, and doesn't cut well in the wet.
- Cylinder Mounted Blades cuts by a rotating cylinder containing blades which hit the grass at a 45 degree angle. This provides a much better quality cut, doesn't tear the grass and will cut better when the grass is wet.
- Gangs several mowers (usually rotary or cylinder) mounted side by side to give a wider cut.
When purchasing a mower consider the size of the land, the slope and undulations of the land, quality of the land (stones, clay soil), quality of cut, will mowing be carried out while wet, etc. Not all mowers will do the same job, so it is important that you purchase the right one for your situation.
The power source is worth noting as it can indicate the amount of human energy needed to work the mower. Mowers can be powered by:
- Man power (push type)
- 2-stroke motor
- 4-stroke motor
- Power take off (PTO) from a tractor or similar machine an advantage is that the PTO can be used to power other things also (e.g. rotary hoe).
The cheapest mowers available are push-type cylinder mowers. For a small lawn they can give an excellent cut if you don't mind exercising a bit of muscle occasionally.
Electric mowers are also cheaper than petrol mowers but it can be dangerous if you run over the power lead. Also, repairs are not usually so straightforward if you develop problems with the engine. Two-stroke petrol mowers are generally cheaper than four-stroke mowers.
Grass can be either left to lie on the ground, or picked up after cutting. The advantages of collecting lawn clippings are:
- Grass is not walked inside the house.
- It does not blow about and make a mess.
- Can be taken away and composted.
It is important to note that the removal process actually removes nutrients from the turf. These need to be replaced periodically with extra feeding or topdressing.
Leaving the clippings on the lawn has the advantages of:
- Will compost back into the soil.
- More beneficial on very poor soils (sandy or heavy clay and low in organic content).
Unfortunately, if clippings are always left an oversupply of 'thatch' may occur which can lead to the deterioration and possible death of the lawn.
Width and Speed of Cut
These determine how much ground can be covered. This is important if you have large areas of grass. For ride-on mowers which have a wider cutting area and are fast, you will need to consider the turning circle and maneuverability around trees, posts etc. If the ground is uneven, a wide cutting mower's blades may shave the grass resulting in an unsightly lawn. For gang or wide-cutting mowers, a series of 'floating' cylinders are better than one wide slasher.
Every Turf Cultivar is Different
Every different turf cultivar has a different level of tolerance to adverse environmental effects:
- There are certain environmental conditions which are preferred. Many warm climate turf plants, for example, prefer a temperature between 20 and 28 degrees Celsius, a soil which is neither waterlogged nor bone dry, and plenty of light but not so much that it burns the foliage. These plants generally grow best within such a range.
- There are however a broader range of environmental conditions which most turf cultivars will tolerate.
Wind, frost, pollution and all other environmental conditions affect all plants in the same way as the examples above. In other words, each species has its preferred, tolerated and intolerable environmental conditions for growth.
This is why good plant selection plays an important role in sports turf management. By choosing varieties that tolerate or prefer the growing conditions that are present, you will greatly reduce the likelihood of plant problems occurring. Alternatively, if you wish to grow other turf species that may not grow as readily in your area for some reason, then you need to modify the growing conditions in some way to better suit those plants.
A key part of being a good turf manager is knowing your environmental conditions, soils, and variations throughout the year; and being able to match the best cultivars with the situation you are in. This "plant knowledge" underpins much of the other work a turf manager does.
There is certainly more to being a good turf manager than just this underpinning plant knowledge though.
You do need to know how to care for the turf, manage resources (staff, equipment, materials, money), and communicate with employers and the people who use the turf.
Overuse Can Be a Problem Everywhere
Even the best constructed and cared for sports turf can have serious problems if the turf is overused. Turf is a living thing, and too much traffic damages the health, and eventually kills the living plants that make up the turf. Keeping it well fertilised, watered, aerated and free of disease can help counteract over use; but there will always come a point at which even the best care, will not save turf from deterioration.
Most sports turf areas are used on a seasonal basis, often placing stress on the playing surface during periods of extreme weather. Managers have to allocate the use of the playing surface to distribute wear as much as possible. In the case of a racing track, this is a straight forward procedure. After each period of use, the rail is moved to a different area of the track. In the case of bowling greens, the direction of play can be alternated regularly. For specialised playing areas such as cricket wickets and golf tees, where user demand cannot be easily redirected, the turf has to be managed more closely.
Wherever possible, rotate demand for playing areas between different areas. Regularly check the playing area and alternate mowing and rolling patterns to spread the wear. If possible, encourage users to avoid damaged areas. For example, where a golfing green has become worn around a particular hole, reposition the hole into an undamaged part of the green. Barriers can also be used to direct pedestrian traffic around areas that are under repair.
HOW WILL THIS COURSE GET ME A JOB?
This is a professional qualification and well beyond most certificates that are completed through vocational training. However it is not just a qualification that will get you a job - there are more other considerations including:
Your attitude - if you are passionate about your chosen field you are likely to show that in your day to day dealings with people in the industry, potential employers or your current employer when they are looking to promote from within.
Your learning - learning is more than just a piece of paper, it extends well beyond that - if you have taken the right course. A course should not narrow your opportunities. Your education should be broad, so that you can take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Your qualification should (like ACS qualifications) have encouraged your problem solving skills - employers are always on the look out for people that can think for themselves, recognise a potential problem and deal with it effectively and quickly.
Your efficiency - being efficient isn't about being fast at doing things, it is about knowing how to approach problems and then attack them in the most logical manner to produce the best possible results. Problem solving skills enable you to develop efficiency.
Your communication skills - being able to speak with people in a considered manner, having good written communication skills, having a good phone manner are all part of good communication; develop these skills and employers will look upon you far more favourably.
Your ability to use technology - computers are a way of life now, we use them for communication, data collection and storage, research and even in a lot of the machinery we use in the horticulture industry - every employee needs to have reasonable computer skills to get ahead in today's tech driven world.
Your industry knowledge - know what is going on in your industry: the latest machines, the latest approaches, the latest technology, new cultivars, new irrigation methods and so on. You can do this by belonging to an industry association, by reading industry magazines, by attending trade shows and just spending a bit of time each week on the net! Attending shows and other industry events also puts your face out in the market place --- you never know where that next great opportunity might come from.