May 15, 2015
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

Happy Spring!  I am writing this month’s article knowing full well that many of you will be too busy to read this. I will try to be brief.  

Definition of Landscape Gardener

A number of members have called asking for clarity about the special rules for Landscape Gardeners within the Labour Standards Act (LSA).

It is difficult to be clear, because Acts are written in a very general way and interpretations differ. I will start with some history. Historically, agriculture, horticulture and a number of other industries (including paving, doctors, lawyers, etc.) have special rules under the LSA. The ministry publishes a special rules tool at this link,  

In the case of horticulture and landscape gardening, the special rules are based on the following industry profile:  
  • Seasonality There is a short season to do the work and therefore hours are compressed. Typically a full-time complement is 2,000 hours per 12-month period. Many people in the agriculture and horticulture businesses, work 2,000 hours in a compressed time frame. This is true of owners and other family members, too. It is the nature of our business.
  • Weather Within the short season, the unpredictability of weather plays havoc on production. Rain days must be made up. It is very difficult to price jobs based on the unpredictable nature of the weather.
  • Biology Agriculture and horticulture deal with living organisms. A plant that needs to be watered does not realize it is 5 p.m., or the weekend. Sometimes it is necessary to work extra hours to ensure that the biological needs of the plant are looked after.
  • Nature’s clock There are certain times of the year that certain practices must be done. Seeding, cutting, grafting, harvesting, etc., all have specific and optimum time periods that must be adhered to. Nature sets the clock — we don’t.   
These are the main reasons for the agricultural, horticulture and landscape gardener special rules.   

In the previous LSA, the special rules pertained to everyone employed in Landscape Gardening. In 2001, the wording in the LSA was amended to say that the special rules applied to everyone employed as “Landscape Gardeners.”  This three-letter change from gardening to gardener has caused confusion.  
“ Landscape Gardener work includes all aspects of hard and soft landscaping,
including segmental paving and irrigation.”
The industry, the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, Service Canada and many other authorities define Landscape Gardener in a very broad way to include all aspects of creating and maintaining landscapes.

The Ministry of Labour sometimes differs. Here is where the ministry and Landscape Ontario agree. Landscape Gardener work includes all aspects of hard and soft landscaping, including segmental paving and irrigation. However, according to the Ministry of Labour interpretation, manual employees engaged in the following activities fall outside the definition:
  • Persons employed by a landscaping company who do not perform landscaping work (administrative employees, landscape architects/designers, and truck drivers)
  • Builders of retaining walls for purely, or substantially, structural purposes
  • Installers of lighting systems
  • Persons involved in weed spraying of roads and industrial sites  
I hope this offers some clarity. Please see, for more information.  

Zoning issues

Another issue that comes up on a regular basis is the correct zoning for landscape businesses. The vast majority of members operate peacefully from residential and rural properties. However, every year a few members find themselves in difficulty because a complaint from a neighbour has placed their operations at risk.

Most of the time remedies can found. Sometimes businesses are forced to relocate.

Landscape Ontario believes that rural properties are ideal for running landscape businesses. The presentation we prepared for City of Hamilton, which is are considering a new zoning bylaw, may be found at  

As a result of many excellent presentations from the public and Landscape Ontario members, the City voted to exempt landscape businesses, located in Ancaster and Flamborough, from the proposed new zoning bylaw. However, those located in other areas of Hamilton are at risk if there is a complaint. For specific details about the Hamilton issue, please see

Most municipalities will not actively pursue a landscape business unless there is a complaint. Please do whatever you can to be good neighbours to reduce the likelihood of complaints.
Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at