Seamus McDonagh is really reaping the benefits of a horticulture course he recently completed with Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service. The green-fingered Dungloe man is the proud owner of his own business – McDonagh Home and Garden Care – and loving every day of his work.
Things were a lot different just over a year ago, when Seamus had a busy job as a bar manager. He decided to make a change, so he left and decided to train up on something he truly enjoyed – gardening.
Seamus enrolled in a Level 5 Horticulture course with Donegal ETB in January 2018. He dug into the world of gardening over the next 11 months for full-time training at the ETB’s Letterkenny Training Centre.
“It was excellent, we started in January so you begin in the polytunnel with seedlings and see them right through the growing season. We grew everything – flowers, vegetables, trees and hedges,” Seamus said.
“You weren’t just growing. In the classroom we learned about soil technology and all the things that you never knew would come in handy when you’re growing.
“Once you get started into it you want to keep learning more.”
Seamus enjoyed how varied the course was, as they branched out into sowing, caring for plants raising beds, cuttings, grafting, soil technology, propagation, cross-breeding, and plant history.
Another aspect of the programme which was a great advantage to Seamus was the business training. He learned how to create a business plan and run his own enterprise, which was his ultimate goal from returning to education.
Well-known Donegal gardener Gareth Austin was the course tutor, who Seamus said is full of expert knowledge and infectious enthusiasm.
Seamus enjoyed the emphasis placed on organic and natural gardening methods, while the work placement he completed at Glenveagh National Park opened his eyes to an exciting plethora of new species.
“The work experience was very hands-on. There’s so much going on in Glenveagh and I got to work with so many different plans and unusual plants,” he said.
Once he completed the course and gained his Level 5 QQI award, Seamus worked on setting up his own business, which was launched in January 2019. Now, he combines his horticulture qualification with his previous experience in the building trade to work on a variety of home and garden projects.
“I take care of everything around the home and garden. I do lawn care and lawn maintenance, so I won’t just cut the grass but I’ll show people how to look after it afterwards. I design and plant gardens and I’m growing some unusual plants myself that you wouldn’t find in a garden centre. If anyone needs a greenhouse built, I can do that or any odd jobs around the house.”
Seamus loves the new career path that has grown from his new green-fingered skills.
“It’s a pleasure, you enjoy what you are doing and you’re seeing the results of your work,” he said.
He added that he would 100% recommend the course to others. “If you have an interest in gardening it will help you learn so much more. It’s not just for business people either. If you like working in your own garden or want to get into vegetable growing it’s very worthwhile. I would tell people to just go for it.”
You can contact Seamus through his Facebook page McDonagh Home and Garden Care or call him on 087 267 2762.
If you would like more information on the Further Educational and Training (FET) courses provided by Donegal ETB, check out their course finder on their website https://www.donegaletb.ie/further-education-training/course-finder/
The Specific Skills Training course that Seamus completed is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014-2020.