Eddie Turtle

Eddie was a Level 2 Horticulture Apprentice at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, who graduated in 2022

Eddie Turtle

I first started working in horticulture while travelling in New Zealand. I had been working in purchasing for a food manufacturer based in London for two years, which was a high pressured and stressful job. I felt I needed time away, and my plan while in New Zealand was to spend as much time outdoors as I could.

After working on a fruit orchard for two months, I fell into a job working at a plant nursery on the south coast in a small town called Tuatapere. The nursery sold only New Zealand native plants, and I spent most of my time propagating from cuttings, alongside other work around the property. This experience inspired me to seek out a career in something I enjoy. I also appreciated the physical and mental health benefits that I experienced from working a practical job outdoors.

As someone with a keen interest in health, I realised how beneficial working in this industry could be for me, and after doing some research, I found the RHS Apprenticeships programme. I wanted to gain work experience and study horticulture, and felt the RHS as the best place for me to do this. The apprenticeship is practical based, with the majority of my time spent working in the garden at RHS Garden Harlow Carr. Alongside this, I studied at Plumpton College, Brighton, where we learnt more about the theory, as well as some of the practical elements.

The RHS is a brilliant place to work and really cares about its employees. One of the best parts of the job is working with, and learning from, some fantastic people. All the gardeners are highly knowledgeable and always willing to share information and answer any questions. We have had constant support from the garden managers and team leaders, as well as from our teachers at college, answering questions, supporting our learning, and settling us into the job.

Throughout the apprenticeship, we were on a rotation through different departments of the garden, and got to experience a range of jobs and learn different aspects of horticulture. These included the Woodland team, Floral, Alpines, Nursery and Productive. Working in the nursery involved propagating plants from cuttings, such as Pelargonium, Plectranthu and Salvia, as well as plants from seed, such as Dahlia, Begonia and Astilbe. I was particularly intrigued in productive – growing fruit, vegetables, and herbs, as I studied exercise, nutrition and health at university.

I am interested in not only what affect food has on our bodies but also where our food comes from and how our current way of producing food affects its quality and our environment. It is fantastic that we have such easily accessible food from supermarkets, but the nutritional value of our fruit and vegetables has significantly decreased and eating blueberries shipped from Peru or apples from New Zealand is far less beneficial than eating fresh and locally grown produce.

There are some exciting developments in food production, and with a rapidly growing population and a need to give the land back to wildlife, I would like to learn more about growing food, whether that be on a small scale, such as a kitchen garden, or on a larger scale. I would also like to explore conservation and potentially work in this area. As gardeners, I believe we play an important role in improving the habitat for wildlife. We can garden and restore land to increase biodiversity and prevent many endangered species from going extinct.

I feel I have many career options to choose from thanks to the apprenticeship. It is a fantastic opportunity to learn and gain experience in the many areas of horticulture. I don’t know what my future plans are, but I am excited about the opportunities the apprenticeship will lead to.

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