The landscaping industry is booming.
Landscaping companies in the United States employ more than one million people each year. In 2020 alone, professional landscapers brought in $99 billion in total annual revenue.
If you have a penchant for horticulture and design, it makes sense that a career in landscaping might be calling your name.
Before you jump feet-first into this industry, though, it’s important to understand the physical toll that a career in landscaping could have on your body.
Landscaping can be quite hard, especially if you’re not in great physical shape.
Do you think you have what it takes?
How Hard Is Landscaping?
The answer to that question depends on what type of landscaping you’re asking about.
Most able-bodied people can keep up with residential landscaping around their homes.
While big projects might come up from time-to-time, most landscape maintenance requires minimal physical labor.
When it comes to landscaping as a career, however, things get a bit tougher.
Regularly performing landscaping tasks for 40 hours a week (or even part-time) can cause major wear on your body.
It’s important for professional landscapers to take care of their bodies by eating enough calories and drinking enough water.
Unfortunately, it’s also common for professional landscapers to experience injuries related to their work. These can include pulled muscles, sprained joints, and more.
Proper lifting techniques and safety equipment can minimize the risk of injury for both home and professional landscapers.
Which Aspects of the Job Make Landscaping Hard?
Perhaps the hardest part of landscaping, at least in terms of physical labor, is heavy lifting.
Mulch, compost, soil, and potted plants are all common items that need to be carried.
Mobility can also play a role in how hard landscaping is for one person versus another.
For example, many landscaping tasks require kneeling or bending down. Those with arthritis or other joint-related medical issues might find these tasks extremely difficult.
You also need to consider how the weather affects your physical state.
Landscaping might be easy when the temperatures are cool and the sky is overcast. But the midday sun can quickly lead to heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sunburn.
Are All Types of Landscaping Hard?
Landscaping includes many different tasks. Some of these tasks require a great deal of endurance and physical strength. Others have hardly any impact on the body at all.
Before jumping into a personal garden project (or applying for a job in the landscaping industry), it’s important to know which tasks require the most physical work.
4 of the Hardest Types of Landscaping
Hardscapes are any landscaping elements that involve non-organic materials. Common examples include patio slabs, stepping stones, retaining walls, and fencing.
Hardscaping is one of the most physically demanding types of landscaping because the materials used are quite heavy.
During hardscaping projects, you might find yourself lifting concrete blocks, hauling gravel, or hammering support posts.
Keep in mind that not all landscaping companies offer hardscaping services. Often, these projects are completed by subcontractors.
While mulching small areas isn’t extremely strenuous, most mulching jobs require covering lots of ground.
Mulch is heavy, and spreading mulch evenly over a garden bed can be very physically taxing.
Spreading mulch by hand can take a toll on the lower back, especially if you use improper form.
Like mulching, digging requires a lot of heavy lifting and bending over. If you want to work quickly and efficiently, you’ll also need to be quite strong.
According to the Henry Ford Health System, digging engages multiple muscle groups at one time.
While this is great for anyone looking for an intense workout, it also makes digging one of the hardest landscaping tasks.
4. Snow Removal
You might not think of snow removal as a landscaping task. But in areas where heavy snowfall is common, snow removal is a big part of the professional landscaping business.
Plowing snow isn’t physically demanding. However, shoveling snow by hand can be just as or even more strenuous than digging.
6 of the Easiest Activities in Landscaping
Many landscaping companies offer irrigation services. Whether you water by hand or perform maintenance on an in-ground irrigation system, this task requires little physical effort.
The hardest part of planting is the act of kneeling down. As long as you have healthy joints, the physical stress from planting will be minimal.
Planting young trees or shrubs can be more physically demanding because of their size and weight. Flowers and vegetables are, comparatively, very easy to plant.
Again, the most demanding part of weeding is kneeling or bending down to reach the offending plants.
Weeds with strong root systems might require physical strength to remove. In general, though, weeding is not very physically taxing.
Landscapers use pruning to maintain the health or shape of certain plants. While some pruning shears are heavy, this activity doesn’t require much physical labor.
Raking leaves or other plant matter for hours at a time can be physically exhausting. But most raking jobs can be completed in just a few minutes.
Professional landscapers frequently work with commercial and residential property owners to plan out garden beds and other design features.
Most design work is done on paper or using computer software.
Do I Need to Be in Good Shape for Landscaping?
Yes, you should be in relatively good shape.
While you can build up strength and endurance on the job, it’s better to be in decent shape before you start working.
Jumping into landscaping when you’re not physically fit enough can increase your risk of injury.
Does Landscaping Require Exercise?
If you’re considering landscaping as a career or part-time job, it’s a good idea to get a realistic idea of the day-to-day physical requirements before applying.
Most companies will provide detailed physical requirements when hiring new employees.
These requirements may include the ability to lift a certain weight or perform specific tasks like lifting a bag of mulch overhead.
If you have a medical condition that interferes with your ability to exercise (e.g., asthma, some heart conditions, or arthritis), consult with a doctor before pursuing this career.
Is Landscaping a Good Workout?
Not everyone enjoys working out at the gym or going for a run.
Landscaping can be a great way to burn some calories and break a sweat while also checking some things off your to-do list.
Any type of physical activity is good for you. But just how good of a workout you get from landscaping will depend on your base fitness level.
Here are the average number of calories you can burn by performing different landscaping tasks:
- Mowing the lawn — On average, a 155-pound adult will burn 410 calories per hour using a push-operated mower. That number drops to 334 calories when using a gas- or electric-powered mower.
- Raking leaves — On average, a 125-pound person will burn 240 calories per hour raking leaves. Someone weighing 185 pounds will burn 356 calories per hour.
- Mulching — On average, a 175-pound person will burn up to 437 calories per hour of heavy mulching.
Of course, landscaping doesn’t just burn calories.
Many landscaping tasks, like hauling compost, can also build muscle. Muscle tissue is key to supporting a healthy metabolism and mobility as we age.
Landscaping is great for building strength because it works the entire body.
To get the most out of your landscaping workout, make sure to use proper lifting form and rest as needed to prevent injury.
6 Tips to Make Landscaping Easier
Landscaping will always be hard to some extent. But with the right techniques, you can lessen the physical strain put on your muscles and joints.
Whether you’re a professional landscaper or home gardener, these tips will help make landscaping easier:
1. Use the Right Tools
The tools you use will determine the difficulty of any given landscaping task.
Take mowing for example:
Operating a push-powered mower consumes a great deal of energy.
Using a gas- or electric-powered push mower is still physically taxing but to a much lesser extent. Riding lawn mowers require very little effort at all.
2. Work Smart
By working in the morning or late afternoon, you can avoid the day’s hottest temperatures. You’ll also have much less exposure to the sun.
As a professional landscaper, you might not always have the option to choose when you work.
But if you do, it can be an excellent way to make landscaping easier on your body.
3. Recruit Help
The best way to tackle a particularly difficult landscaping task is with a partner.
Heavy lifting is made much easier with an extra pair of hands. Likewise for time-consuming tasks like digging or mulching.
4. Know Your Limits
Whether you’re landscaping professionally or just around your own backyard, the last thing you want is an injury.
Some landscaping tasks might be too physically demanding for your body. If you’re tired or dehydrated, your normal capabilities might be noticeably limited.
While it’s tempting to push through moments of physical stress, it’s best to take a break or ask for help.
Experiencing an injury could impact your ability to landscape in the foreseeable future. If landscaping is your career, this could also impact your income.
5. Stay Hydrated
Drinking water is incredibly important for good health. The more active you are (and the more you sweat), the more water your body needs.
Losing more than 2% of your body weight in fluids without replenishment will negatively affect your performance.
If you can’t work to your full potential, routine landscaping tasks will take much longer.
Prepare for a day of landscaping by drinking 20 ounces of water first thing in the morning.
Continue drinking between 7 and 10 ounces every 20 minutes while you engage in intense physical labor.
6. Use Sun Protection
You might not notice the effects of the sun’s rays in the moment.
But spending too much unprotected time in the sun could impact how you feel in the not-so-distant future.
Sun exposure can amplify the effects of dehydration. Take advantage of any available shade when you’re outside.
Wear protective clothing and a brimmed hat to limit your skin’s exposure to UV rays.
Use sunscreen to minimize the long-term health consequences of working in the sun.
Is landscaping a hard job? For the average person, yes.
But it’s also an incredibly financially and emotionally rewarding career for many.
If you dream of being a professional landscaper, then don’t let the prospect of physical labor scare you away.
With patience and a bit of hard work, your body will quickly adapt to the task.
Even if you’re unable to keep up with the physical demands of day-to-day landscaping, you could still carve out a career for yourself as an engineer or designer.
The landscaping industry is vast, and there truly is a role out there for everyone!