Volunteer at a Hertfordshire garden

PUBLISHED: 14:16 12 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:16 12 March 2018

Topiary skills evident in the hedges surrounding the West Garden at Hatfield House (photo: Philippa Pearson)

Topiary skills evident in the hedges surrounding the West Garden at Hatfield House (photo: Philippa Pearson)


Volunteering in a renowned garden is a great way to gain knowledge, enjoy fresh challenges, and meet new friends. So where in Herts can you roll up your sleeves and get involved?

Would you relish the chance to work in a well-established and unique garden on a scale or project that might not be achievable in your own garden? Then becoming a garden volunteer is the thing to do! You could be involved with planting, pruning, sowing, propagation and many other aspects of gardening, picking up ideas for your own plot as you go. You may also be approached by visitors with questions about the garden or who are looking for gardening tips, so it’s also a great way to share your love of horticulture.

Knebworth House

There are many opportunities available for volunteers to get involved in the gardens at Knebworth House. With 28 acres of formal gardens and just four full-time gardeners, there’s plenty to do even in the winter months. There are a wide range of activities for volunteers depending on interests, capabilities and experience, these include propagation, bulb planting in containers or beds, pruning, harvesting in the walled garden, watering, weeding, potting plants on, planting beds out, helping with leaf clearing... the list goes on. 
‘Enthusiasm and being happy to be outside even when the weather is not perfect goes a long way,’ explains head gardener Martin Day. ‘And we can teach some horticultural skills on the job. Volunteering with us offers a great opportunity for expanding practical skills and can help with progressing a horticultural career – most prospective employers like to see some work experience alongside theoretical qualifications.’

Tuesday is usually the main volunteer day from 10am-4pm, but there is flexibility around this. ‘We’re hoping to hold a volunteers’ taster day in March or April, so get in contact if you’d like to be part of that,’ Martin says.

Contact: Martin Day, Knebworth House Head Gardener: mday@knebworthhouse.com

Volunteers can undertake a wide range of gardening activities (photo: RHS / Carol Sheppard)Volunteers can undertake a wide range of gardening activities (photo: RHS / Carol Sheppard)

Hatfield House

The gardening team at Hatfield House is delighted to offer volunteers the opportunity to join them throughout the year. ‘We ask for people to commit to a regular time period from Monday to Thursday,’ says head gardener Andrew Turvey.

Keen gardeners are welcome and the team ensures volunteers are well supported to enable them to expand their gardening knowledge and interest. You’ll get involved with a varied and interesting range of tasks working alongside horticulturists in a beautiful, peaceful and historic location.

Contact: Andrew Turvey, Hatfield House Head Gardener: a.turvey@hatfield-house.co.uk

National Garden Scheme

With nearly 50 gardens open in Hertfordshire each year for the National Garden Scheme, there’s plenty of varied work and projects to get involved in as a volunteer. The history of the scheme is steeped in the importance of volunteers and the organisation makes sure everyone is given the opportunity to succeed in their roles. Volunteers are welcome to help with garden openings throughout the year, with spring and summer the busiest seasons. You don’t necessarily need horticultural skills, although some knowledge of plants is helpful, if you enjoy meeting people and working with others then there’s plenty you can do. Roles include helping the garden owner on their open day with refreshments, handing out tickets on the gate, car park duty, putting up posters and helping to sell plants. Some NGS team members fulfil specific roles, among them treasurer, publicity officer, and social media coordinator, while assistant county organisers give more generalised support to garden owners and the county organiser.

Wildflowers at Knebworth House (photo: Philippa Pearson)Wildflowers at Knebworth House (photo: Philippa Pearson)

County volunteers are the face of the National Garden Scheme for garden owners, acting as a first point of contact.

‘While the garden owners plan and oversee their own open days,’ explains county organiser, Julie Knight, ‘county team members offer support and advice, as well as distribute posters, tickets and other open garden stationery. The team are also variously responsible for distributing up to 35,000 NGS booklets throughout Hertfordshire each year, visiting potential open gardens, coordinating group bookings for private visits, assisting online registration of gardens and preparing and checking printed materials. Our open garden programme spans February to November, though the commitment varies throughout the year.’

As a volunteer, you will be helping to raise vital funds for nursing charities and you should enjoy dealing with a wide variety of people, and be an effective communicator. Good IT skills are increasingly important, and as NGS gardens are spread across the county, access to transport is necessary.

Contact: Hertfordshire NGS County Organiser Julie Knight: julie.knight@ngs.org.uk or 01727 752375.

Have a garden of quality, character and interest and would like to find out about opening for the NGS? Contact Julie Wise: juliewise@f2s.com or 
01438 821509.

More volunteering opportunities

Borders at Knebworth House. You could gain experience with the four-strong garden team on the estateBorders at Knebworth House. You could gain experience with the four-strong garden team on the estate

If you’d like to help in a garden near you, start by contacting the garden direct to see what opportunities are available or visit and ask. There are also organisations that may have schemes in local gardens.

Work and Retrain as a Gardener (WRAGs), provides hands-on practical horticultural training for 14 hours a week for a year. It takes place in a carefully sourced garden, under the instruction of a garden owner or head gardener. Visit wfga.org.uk/wrags.html

If you fancy helping on an organic farm and learning more about growing your own food, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, a UK charity, has hands-on opportunities on organic farms, gardens and smallholdings. They all offer food, accommodation and teaching in exchange for practical help on the land. Go to wwoof.org.uk

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