Orna Gilchrist



1.0 Introduction


    1. Aims and Objectives

    1. Practical skills, and professional development.

    1. Time Efficient

    1. Labour saving

    1. Long term control

    1. Integrated control

    1. Proper certification

    1. Conclusion


1.0 Introduction

I applied to the Professional Gardener’s Guild Trust, in March 2012, for funding to complete my Pa1 and Pa6 spraying certificate course.

I requested the sum of £174, and was awarded the full amount. This covered the second half of the course fees, which were £374. The remaining £200 was covered by my ILA fund.

I am currently completing my ‘Historical and Botanical Bursary Scheme’ placement at Cambo Gardens, in Fife. It was highly recommended by the head gardener, and mentor within the scheme, Elliott Forsythe, that I acquire my spraying certificate to increase my employability and professional development.

I completed my training, and testing at Elmwood College, in Cupar, Fife, from the 28th to the 31st of May.


1.1Aims and Objectives



My aim was to gain my spraying qualifications to further enhance my practical skills, and improve my chances of employment.



  • Completion of the Pa1 and Pa6 training.

Completed at Elmwood college: Pesticide three-day training package, plus tests.


1.2 Practical skills and Professional development

I am hoping to work within the amenity or heritage sector, ideally in a small to medium sized garden, with the emphasis on ornamental plantings.

Having my spraying certificate will help me to reach this goal, as it allows me to spray legally within the workplace, to control weed problems (herbicides being the most commonly used chemical in this sector), quickly and easily within the borders, as well as keeping on top of path and drive maintenance.

Weeds are one of the biggest problems within ornamental plantings, and weeding is one of the biggest and most time-consuming tasks in a garden.

Having worked in several different working environments within horticulture the benefits of spraying has become very clear. Below I have bullet pointed the main ones:

  • Time efficient

  • Labour saving

  • Long term control


1.3 Time Efficient

While it would be brilliant if the majority of gardens had the number of staff required to keep on top of weeds by hand, this is unfortunately rarely the case.

Hand weeding is a time consuming task, and in my experience makes up a lot of a gardener’s workload. This is fine in itself, but when you are trying to take care of other tasks at the same time- for example, pricking out seedlings in preparation for annual displays etc- a task, which just can’t wait, then the time it takes to thoroughly weed a bed can seem out of proportion. The time taken to spray a bed however, is minimal.

It can also save time later on in the season. By spraying in spring, and getting on top of perennial weeds before they have had a chance to set seed, means you are greatly reducing your weedbank in the soil, making hand weeding less time consuming in the future.

1.4 Labour saving

As I have said above, weeding is a time consuming job, and one way of getting round this is by putting more bodies on the task. Again this does speed things up, but if it is using the majority of available staff, then there are other jobs going undone.

Spraying takes out the need for manpower, and frees up other staff.

1.5 Long term control

One great advantage of using chemical controls on perennial weeds in particular is that it can completely kill the plant, reducing the risk of it growing back.

This is particularly useful with hard to dig weeds such as couch grass, and bindweed- which, if even a tiny fragment is left in the soil, will re-grow.

1.6 Integrated Control

While spraying is an extremely useful aspect of all pest control, it should be a component of an integrated approach.

A holistic programme of pest control will ensure that biodiversity within the garden is maintained and there should be, therefore, only minimal need for the use of pesticides.

Needless spraying, even of weeds, can harm other life forms, such as beneficial insects that may predate on other garden problems like aphids, and slugs.


1.7 Proper Certification

While many spray operators may still be un-certified, it is now a requirement by law that all spray operators born after 1964, be certified- or under the supervision of someone who is.

While I have sprayed under supervision in previous jobs, it was important to me to get the proper training, such as is provided on the three day training course that I attended.

These courses deal with the legal aspects of spraying, as well as giving you a thorough practical knowledge of spraying itself, and the equipment you will, and should be using and of course, the hugely important health and safety aspects.

1.8 Conclusion

I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to complete my Pa1 and Pa6 training.

Having completed the course, I feel far more confident in both my abilities as a spray operator, and of my grasp of the legal, and practical aspects of this job.

To me, one of the main assets of completing this training was the in depth discussion of the health and safety issues surrounding the activity and how to minimise the potential risks, and spot the potential hazards that are frequently encountered, before, during and after spraying.

I now feel, not only legally qualified to do the task, but also mentally prepared and knowledgeable about, what is, a potentially hazardous job.






Grant for the Pesticide spraying course PA1 and PA6AW

I applied for funding for this short course because I knew that certification to spray was a barrier to progressing my career in horticulture.  Many recruiters are after candidates that can start immediately without having to be put through further training. There are limited opportunities for gardeners without the certification but any position that requires working on your own will require you to be able to spray pesticides legally.

A cursory glance at the Horticulturejobs website (04.04.12) shows just a couple of gardener positions that require or preference candidates with the PA1 and PA6 certificates.

“Maintaining current, relevant, certificates for handling pesticides, fungicides and herbicides and potentially dangerous substances.”- Whitgift School

“You will need to be a driver to be able to reach the site, and PA1 and 6 would be desirable.”- gardener Saffron Walden.

Unfortunately English Heritage was unable to offer me this course and the £500 cost of the course was more that I could afford on my wages. I had heard that the Professional Gardener’s Trust were offering grants for training courses and wondered if they would be able to help me.

When I received the good news about the funding, I adjusted my CV to explain that I was going to be put through my PA1 and PA6 courses. This resulted in my getting a job interview for the Salutation Gardens in Sandwich. Although this is only a summer position, it ties in well with my interest base which is Arts and Crafts style gardens and particularly herbaceous borders. Because this job is a summer job, they are unable to offer training and require somebody with all the relevant certificates. Although this is a summer position, it is an excellent step in the right direction and a chance to work a garden maintained to an extremely high standard. There is a possibility of the role becoming permanent for the right candidate.

Through participating in the short course, I was also able to network and learn about new organisations such as the National Amenity Sprayer Operators Register which will be more relevant to horticulture than the NRSO. I found out where to purchase chemicals locally in Kent and talked to people working in different sectors; including golf courses and commercial orchards. This helped increase my awareness of current trends in the industry and how issues such as the dry weather were being dealt with by other sectors.

The course tutor was able to impart advice about different brands of equipment and the pros and cons of different types of sprayer. They also offered practical advice based on experience rather than manufacturers’ recommendations.

Not only was I enrolled on the PA1 and PA6, but they also offered the ‘W’ element to allow me to spray near water, which is not offered at all training institutions. I was able to pass all elements of these assessments and the assessor’s comments included “very positive”.

In an economic environment that is becoming increasingly competitive, I am more hopefully about my prospects and believe that my certification will be the extra incentive to employers when they are looking at my CV. I am very grateful to the Professional Gardeners Guild Trust for providing me with the funding to achieve this.

Natasha Ransom

Tim Stretton 2005

“I attended the NPTC pesticide spraying course and passed the test. I am very happy to have achieved this with the aid of the bursary from the PG Trust. I have now completed what I refer to as the basic set of horticultural qualifications; RHS General Certificate, NVQ level2, Basic chainsaw certificate and the above pesticide certificate. I have now built a good CV over the past few years and these qualifications will stand me in good stead for the future.

The course was informative and very intensive. The first day was devoted to health and safety and legislation and the second was spent learning how to use the knapsack sprayer. I was quite nervous about the test but managed to successfully complete it. I was very relieved to run out of ‘pesticide’ just as I reached the end of the run. The examiner said it was as close to perfection as I’m likely to get – I called it good luck!

Thank you for your assistance and pass on my thanks to all those involved within the PG Trust.”

PG Trust Bursary – Spray Certificate

First of all I would like to thank you very much for partially funding my training in the application of pesticides. I am pleased to let you know that I have now completed my training in the Safe use of Pesticides, Environmental Factors and Legislation (Foundation Module PA1) and in the Application of Pesticides using Handheld Applicators including Application in or near Water (Module PA6AW). I have passed the assessment in all modules and am now the proud holder of these spray certificates.

I would like to let you know, that the training I received from Les Cook at Otley College has been outstanding. The training of the foundation module was delivered in a relaxed fashion. However, the importance of using and handling pesticides in a safe and conscientious manner was emphasised at every opportunity. The instructor expertly used the diverse skill sets of the course participants, ensuring every single one had a thorough understanding of the syllabus and passed the assessment.

I was lucky to receive an intensive training in the application of pesticides using handheld applicators as there were only two of us booked onto this module. Again, the instructor made the training enjoyable and ensured that both participants felt comfortable using the equipment to the highest standard. The success rate in the assessment again was 100%.

I believe that holding the PA1 and PA6AW spray certificates will help me in securing a permanent job in horticulture in the future. The majority of employers request job applicants to be in the possession these spray certificates. Without the financial aid from the PG Trust I would not have been able to pay for the training and assessment at this moment in time and am grateful that the PG Trust has supported me in my horticultural training.

Svenja Burckhardt 2011

Kathryn Braithwaite- April 2012
Professional Gardeners’ Guild Trust
Report on the Benefits of Funding

Click to view PDF



PG Trust Report, James Miller

Firstly, I would like to thank the PG Trust for awarding me a bursary of £177.50. The money paid for half of a PA1 and PA6 Certificate. The other half was funded by my employer, the National Trust.  The course was attended at Askam Bryan College, York. The training was informative, intensive, but also rewarding, because of its practical application.

I am currently on a one year, Historic and Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme Placement at Beningbrough Hall and Gardens. Here, spraying (Roundup Pro-Biactive) is mainly used for suppressing weeds on our gravel paths.  My new qualification has already proved to be exceptionally useful whilst on my placement. Weed control is an important part of any professional garden. Therefore this certification is undoubtedly, a crucial skill for my future gardening career.  

A knapsack sprayer can be used to tackle some of the most pernicious weed species we come across in our gardens. However, thankfully at Beningbrough I won’t be tackling the likes of Japanese knot weed (Fallopia japonica), an extremely invasive alien species. However, I will be attempting to keep some native weeds, which readily colonize our paths, in cheque. These include the attractive but troublesome pineapple mayweed (Matricaria discoidea), annual meadow grass (Poa annua), and various fescues. Ivey leaf toad flax (Cymbalaria muralis), which was originally introduced to Britain as an ornamental, will also be dispatched from between any flag stone, which it lurks.

Once again many thanks to the PGG Trust who made this training possible.  



I received a grant of £200 from the PGG Trust in January 2011. The grant was a contribution towards fees for the PA1 and PA6 NPTC pesticide training. I undertook the two-day training at Shuttleworth College, Bedfordshire in late January and on 3 February 2011 took and passed the test.

The test consisted of 3 elements. The PA1 foundation module covers the theory of pesticide use and application including labelling, legislation, safety, storage, disposal, record-keeping and environmental factors. This module was tested using  a computer based multiple choice. The PA6 module covers hand held applicators with hydraulic nozzle and rotary atomiser including preparation, calibration, application, cleaning and storage. This module was tested with a thorough practical examination in the field. In addition I took the PA6Aw module which covers application to water and specific issues, in particular environmental, which need to be taken into account when applying to water.

Passing the test means I am now qualified to use pesticides and apply them with hand held applicators. This is invaluable in a horticultural situation where we frequently use pesticides and it is vital to know how to prepare correct dosage and apply such products safely. In addition the PA1 and PA6 certificate is often a requirement in horticulture job descriptions and so the training is extremely useful in my future carer as I apply for jobs following the CUBG traineeship.

I am extremely grateful to the PGG Trust for the grant which allowed me to undertake this training.

Bridget Ibbs 

February 2011

Professional Gardeners Guild Award for Pesticide Application Qualification

I applied to the Professional Gardeners Guild (PGG) Trust and was fortunate enough to be awarded the full amount of £450 for PA1/ PA6A course. The money awarded to me meant a great deal as it has enabled me to undertake the sought after pesticide qualification. The absence of the qualification I felt was hindering my CV as many Horticultural jobs request it.  I could not afford to undertake this qualification at the time as I was working on a temp basis as a Horticulturalist in London and about to undertake the Leonardo da Vinci Graduate Scheme in a Gran Canaria Botanic Garden for three months.

Pesticide Application Course Practical

Whilst on the course it was advised we also take the NPTC Pesticide Application in or near water PA6AW at the same time for an extra £20 which was not advertised on their website when applying for the award. However I knew this would be give the PA6A more weight and use so I undertook it.

I would like to thank the PGG for their award as it has benefited me tremendously, paying for the necessary qualification in Horticulture continuing my professional development. I hope to one day be able to pay back the Trust in gaining a successful and well earned career in Horticulture. Eventually I would like to contribute to the good work of the Trust by helping to continue achieving their aims in giving the opportunity for Horticulturalist to build on their current skills and gain qualifications.

Katie Sarll 31/08/2012

Alex McCann 2006

I would like to thank you for this money which will help greatly in covering the cost of my ten week Tree Surgery course. The course was extremely fun and informative. I gained vast amounts of knowledge in both the practical and non-practical aspects of tree surgery. I passed all the nptc felling and climbing tickets.”