Can an inexperienced gardener earn money from gardening?

OhMyGourdOctober 28, 2013

It's difficult for me to find employment because I have a major anxiety disorder. I rarely leave the house due to my fear of driving. My small online business creates just enough income to pay for my rent and utility bills, but it's not enough to pay for other needs like food and health care. This summer I took up gardening and absolutely fell in love with it. It got me out of the house and it gave my life a renewed sense of purpose. Not to mention it did wonders for calming down my anxiety. That got me to thinking...can I earn a living with a small backyard garden?

My backyard is less than a quarter of an acre and it sits on a steep slope. However, I also have a relatively large patio (6 feet x 9 feet). My knowledge of gardening is still very limited. So far I have successfully grown spinach and unsuccessfully attempted to grow pumpkins.

I want to have something ready to sell by next spring. The first step is to figure out what type of plants to grow. Obviously these plants must be in high demand at farmers markets. They must take up very little space in my garden, and they must be easy for an inexperienced gardener like myself to grow. Ideally these plants would thrive in my climate (zone 7a).

Any suggestions or advice?

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I'm relatively new at this but I think one of the first things you want to do is find a market for your produce. I did NOT do this and was surprised when I found out that many of the farmers' markets in my area were locked up, that current vendors vote on who to let in and won't allow new produce vendors.

If you are unable to drive, do you know someone who can help you transport your goods to the market?

Someone with more experience than me can recommend vegetables to grow in a small space, but I'd say limit things that take up a lot of space like tomatoes, corn, pumpkin, etc. and try to focus more on something like lettuce and greens that you could succession plant for a steady supply of salad mix. It will be hard to compete with bigger farms if you're selling the same thing as everyone else.

Farmers' markets require a lot of interaction with the public which can be taxing to those of us who are a bit more introverted. Some days I feel like my face is going to crack from trying to smile, but people are mostly very nice too, and I've found the whole experience to be very rewarding. Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 8:03AM
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I agree that farmer markets take a more outgoing personality to be really successful. An introvert can do it, but the extrovert seems to do it better.

A beginner can make SOME money, BUT don't count on living on it for several years and lots of experience (you will get that along the way).

From reading your post, it seems like this might be your perfect added hobby that you might make some money off of.

Yes, make sure you have a place to sell from, either farmer markets or from your home (check with local regulations), or even just to friends. Many many people are jumping on the 'band wagon' and the more vendors, the more possible places for those customers to spend money at. Remember that only a certain number of people shop the farmers market and they only spend a certain amount. Some people will only buy from 1 vendor and other may spend a small amount with everyone.

When I first started, I had the experience growing, but not much on the selling part. And you do SELL. Customers don't just come up and beg you to sell. I was so happy when I hit the $100 mark for the season. Even happier when I hit that first $100 day. First season was a total of $1700 sales, but after buying all the seeds, fertilizer, gas for tiller, tiller and other equipment that I didn't have, I lost money. Next year was also a lost, but sales were more like $4000. Finally by the 3rd year I made a profit of less than $100 for 6 months of marketing and about 9-12 months of working and worrying about the market/farm.

Plus I owned the land, so I didn't have to worry about paying rent. I was in an agricultural area, so no zoning either. Just the critters and bugs and then Mother Nature. If Mother Nature decides she wants to be a problem, there is not much you can do about it without spending money.

I know I'm not encouraging you, but I do want you to know that it's not an easy way to make money.

Now for the encouragement, if you LOVE it, grow it. If selling isn't your thing, find friends that like fresh veggies and grow for them. NOT FOR FREE, tell them that you have expenses, but YOUR stuff will be fresher than anything that they buy at the store. Even at the farmers market, if they will only tell you what they want and when they want it. Pick to their order.

Plus this seems to helping you with your anxiety, and that's worth doing it, if only for your own food. Learn how to preserve what you grow and you will find that you will be saving some of those dollars that you are giving to the grocery store.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 11:32AM
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you could start by saving money on food by growing and putting up your own. that way you can eat high quality for little money.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 2:22PM
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If you are so disabled by anxiety that you seldom drive, how will you get the stuff to market? On a 6x9 patio you won't be able to grow enough to make back your market fees and gas. Even if you grew basil.

Some things you could do in your own neighborhood that have low to no startup costs, although they do require leaving the house are:

1- Other people's gardens ... gardensitting, weeding and planting help.
2 - House cleaning
3 - Mending and minor alterations (if you can sew)
4 - Pet Sitting

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 3:37PM
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I forgot to mention, a 6x9 area will not produce enough to be worth the effort to sell to others. You need a lot more than that.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 4:10PM
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Just don't get discouraged, OhMyGourd. I didn't read your post closely enough, I thought that you had a quarter acre of land, which would be tough, but 6x9 would be very challenging. You could start seedlings to sell in early spring, which would only keep you busy for a few weeks but would give you an idea if you like doing the farmers' markets at all. Could you improve the land on the steep slope? I read an article about a very small farm running a CSA on a quarter acre, which seems impossible but someone's doing it.

The pickle and sauerkraut vendors at my markets do well, if that's something that you might be interested in. But if you find that you enjoy growing vegetables you could also look into renting land from someone else. If nothing else, growing more of your own food is very rewarding.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 10:20AM
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Good advice here, as i would expect!

I thonk growing enough to feed yourself, should be your first goal. If you fill your yard with veggies, and have success, land can always be found.

Growing food, is never a bad thing!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 6:26PM
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Good advice here, as i would expect!

I thonk growing enough to feed yourself, should be your first goal. If you fill your yard with veggies, and have success, land can always be found.

Growing food, is never a bad thing!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 5:04PM
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UPDATE: I emailed my county's agricultural extension office and asked them for advice on what to sell at my local farmers market. One of the agents emailed me back and said she has several ideas. She's going to call me on Monday to discuss some of these ideas. I'm super excited right now!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 5:37PM
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Good, I'm happy that you have an extension agents that is willing to help. I haven't had that experience with mine.

Since you are just starting out, try to find a market that has low fees that you can get in. Those fees are sometimes more than a newbie can make.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 12:51PM
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Here is my thoughts . My area the FM charges $200 a year plus you have to have insur ( its a good thing ), The FM here is small and in my eyes is not worth the fee . I sell everything I grow by word of mouth and talking with people , craigslist is another option as well as ads in the local paper

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 6:35PM
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I have 3 markets that have NO fees, and 2 markets that I know of, all within 30 mile radius from my home. 1 market charges $300 plus $2M insurance+vehicle and all kinds of rules, the other 1 charges about $35, and doesn't ask about the insurance. the 3 that don't charge also doesn't ask about insurance. Insurance is a good idea, just to protect yourself.

The most expensive market, I wouldn't try to get into with only a small acreage (less than 1/4 acre), the other 3, I'd try it. Unfortunately for me, 4 of those markets are on the same day, and I haven't figured out how to be in more than 1 place at a time, without help.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 7:36PM
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I'm in a similar boat as yours--looking to sell my extra plants/produce. So I did some research and found that in my state you need to be inspected and licensed by the Dept of Agriculture in order to sell/transport any kind of plant. Something you might want to ask about with your extension office.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 9:11PM
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I just spoke to my county's agricultural agent. She said fruit is always a good seller, but warned me that fruit trees take up too much space in a small garden to be profitable. Mushrooms, garlic, peppers, snow peas, microgreens, and mesclun greens are also good sellers that can be grown on a smaller scale. She told me that anything unusual or out-of-season will give me an advantage over other merchants. Locally-grown flowers are also profitable because there are currently very few flower farmers in my county. Looks like I may have just found my niche. :)

Ultra_Violet: Thanks for the heads up! I will definitely check it out.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 8:36PM
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Know that you will need bushels of produce in order to make any money at this and growing on a small patio just doesn't have the space. My first year I did a 75' x 25' garden and maybe grossed $1400 (and probably spent $2000). The second year we had an acre and grossed around $6K. When we got to around 3 acres we started making a living wage

The two main reasons we made no money was not enough produce and our marketing skills were poor. In order to make money at this you have to grow volume. Make it clear to the extension agent that you have virtually no space. the fact she mentioned fruit trees tells me she doesn't understand you are proposing to do market gardening on a patio that is 6 x 9 feet.

My advice is on such a small space grow only one crop to sell and make sure it is high dollar and sold in tiny amounts. No, herbs do not fit this bill as they are generally not robust sellers.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 4:05AM
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I second what boulderbelt wrote. Flowers, garlic and some of the other crops mentioned by the extension agent take up too much space. Microgreens and salad mix might work, and maybe something like pea shoots, but I can't see how one could make much money in such a small space. I grew 10, 100 foot rows of mixed produce this year and grossed around $2000. It's amazing how fast a van full of produce will sell at a market. I definitely need to increase production in order to actually make money.

I'd recommend looking at the dollar value of each product that you're planning to take to market each week. For me, if I didn't have a minimum of $200 worth of produce, it wasn't worth the work of going to the market. Packing up the truck, driving to the market, setting up, etc. is a full day's work. And even making a few hundred dollars it was barely worth the effort, but I looked at it as a learning experience. I have learned a lot as far as what sells and what to grow more of next year.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 9:45AM
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mdfarmer, I agree, it is amazing how quickly a van full can disappear at a good market. I had a 12' cargo van filled to the top and sold about 75-90% each day. I was working with a farmer with 28 acres, and I took 1/3-1/2 of his entire production.

Also agree that you have to figure what your break even point is and make sure that you will have more than that each market day.

One fruit that might help the OP is strawberries, you can grow them vertically and I never have too many of them. University of IL are growing them vertically in a hoop house and doing very well.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 2:18PM
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Today I measured my backyard and crunched some numbers:

My backyard is approximately 2,000 square feet. I can use at least half of this space for planting seeds and the remaining half for paths. Let's say each square foot of seeds produces a minimum of four seedlings, and I sell the seedlings for 50â each. That's $2,000 worth of seedlings. Subtract taxes and overhead expenses and I'm still making approximately $832.00 a month. When the month is over, all I have to do is plant new seeds and repeat the process.

According to these monthly estimates, my small backyard could generate a decent amount of money:

20.00 farmers market fee
58.00 employee labor
480.00 containers
10.00 fertilizer
25.00 water
75.00 soil
+ 8.00 gas
676.00 total overhead expense

187.00 self-employment tax
185.00 federal income tax
+ 120.00 sales tax
492.00 total taxes

2,000.00 gross income
- 1,168.00 taxes/overhead fees
832.00 profit

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 10:35PM
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Nice to see you're putting pencil to paper and actually looking at numbers - BUT - you rarely if ever sell everything you grow. When I sold seedlings and plants I considered it a good day at market if I sold 2/3 of what I brought. An average day was to sell half. Your market may be different. And you will always need to be sowing seeds and selling seedlings. If you wait until the end of the month to sow your next crop you won't have anything to sell while those seeds sprout and grow. Some plants take longer than others to get up to selling size.

If selling baby plants is what you think will work, I would consider just growing everything up on tables instead of on the ground - your back and knees will thank you.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 9:23AM
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You will NEVER sell everything you plant. There are always some that die, or don't sell. Depending upon where you live, you will not be able to re-grow the same plants month after month.

Have you decided which plants you want to grow? Some will take 8-10 weeks, not 4 weeks.

Selling plants is NOT easy, believe me I've done it. even with a hoop house that is almost the size of your entire yard space, I can't get that kind of regular income. You will be completing against the large mega greenhouses that supplies the big box stores AND alot of the smaller ones including the farm stores.

I would not expect to receive 1/2 of that on a good month.

We were giving advice on 54 sq ft and now you have changed it to 2000 sq ft, big difference.

Since you have this much, yes, GO FOR IT. just don't expect as much as you have figured.

Just some well earned experience. Plus make sure you don't have some zoning or legal problems that need to be taken care of first.

I noticed that you will collecting sales tax, but you don't have the fee that you pay the state to be able to collect that tax. Different states are different. In Indiana, it's a one-time fee.

You think this is a decent amount of income, while others wouldn't think it is.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 10:21AM
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OhMyGourd it seems like you're considering a number of different scenarios, which is good. You won't really know what's going to work until you try it. I agree with myfamilysfarm that you won't sell everything that you bring. People like to buy from a full stand, and once your market table gets a bit empty you may find that traffic slows down. I've found that I have to bring more than I'll sell, and I really make an effort to keep my tables full.

At my farmers' market, people are only interested in buying transplants early or late in the season, but mostly early, when they are planning their own gardens. And you will be competing with larger farms, so I'd try to offer something a bit unusual. Nothing too weird, but maybe you could offer several types of tomatoes or Asian greens or something to try to stand out a bit.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2013 at 8:15AM
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Offering something different is great, but too many varieties confuse people. Stick with 3-4 of each color/shape/size of varieties. Most of my customers just want what they are used to, or something near. I've found that more than 10 varieties total of tomatoes are too much. AND no matter what you grow, there will be a few that want something else. Then when you grow that special variety, the customer that wanted it, doesn't show up and not many others want it.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2013 at 10:21AM
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Marla, that's an excellent point!

Ever heard of paradox of choice? Sometimes consumers encounter a choice overload problem because of the many decisions they must make for a particular product or service. The belief that more choices will lead to more avenues for sale is deeply flawed. Scientific studies have proven that when consumers have too many choices, they will buy fewer products and be less engaged.

Here is a fascinating video on the subject. It's one of my all-time favorite TED Talks:

It sounds like you've put a lot of effort into your farmers market business. I would love to hear more of your story. How did you get started, where is your business now, and where do you plan to take it next?

This post was edited by OhMyGourd on Fri, Nov 8, 13 at 15:25

    Bookmark   November 8, 2013 at 3:24PM
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I've heard that a lot from customers. Now what I do is ask, what size of tomato, what color, then I ask what are you going to use it for. this helps the customer and I know which plant to guide them to.

I've told my story several times, and I'm sure others wouldn't want to hear again. I could email you if your email was available, or just email me.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2013 at 6:10PM
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OhMyGourd ... With the increased area, selling well-started but small landscaping plants, especially natives and perennials that aren't being sold by the big nurseries, could be a viable idea. If you do that, you can skip the farmer's markets and sell off Craigslist and have an occasional "yard sale" of plants.

Don't try to compete with Walmart or Home Depot in tomatoes or petunias. Sell things they can't or don't sell.

You don't say where you are living but ...

* Take care of supplementing your household food needs first and locate sources of seeds or cuttings for the market stuff.

Then work on the sale stuff:
* First-year perennials for fall planting, that will bloom the next spring. Echinacea, red valerian, yarrow ... whatever is good for your area.
* Ornamental grasses
* Hardy (for your area) succulents like Hesperaloe or whatever.

It's a low-key, lower pressure niche compared to selling veggies at a farmer's market. Your plants won't be perishable in the way lettuce or potatoes are, they just get a bit bigger and maybe get potted up to the next size and sold for more money.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2013 at 9:17AM
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Lazygardens, I like the way you think. So many people have warned me that I won't make much money with farmers markets, because they haven't made much money, either. They tell me it's a lot of hard work with hardly any pay. It makes me wonder why they keep doing it. I keep thinking to myself, "There's got to be a better way." And I think you just found it.

I visited a plant nursery today and talked to the owner. She said she grows most of the nursery's plants herself, but occasionally she buys plants from local gardeners. I asked her what kind of plants she's interested in and she told me there's always a demand for ground covers. So that's one possibility.

My next idea is to contact local landscapers and ask them what kind of plants they buy the most. If I can offer them what they want at a better price than they've paid before, I'm practically guaranteed to make a sale. So that's another possibility.

I have no doubt that I can make this business work. I just have to keep tweaking it until I find that winning combination. Supplementing my own food needs is important, but if I keep waiting to start this business it may never happen. They say the only way to succeed in business is to actually be in business. I feel like I should be out there making mistakes so I can learn from them.

I live in Canton, Georgia (zone 7b). Canton is a tiny suburb located 30 miles north of Atlanta. It's known as a "sweet spot" among the local gardening community. One of Canton's master gardeners recently wrote an article in the community newspaper. He claims it is possible to grow almost anything here. He has grown plants from every continent across the globe, excluding Antarctica. So, I've got that going for me. The main challenge is working with Georgia's rocky clay soil.

I plan to cover my entire backyard with compost. I've been collecting compost material for several weeks now. My neighbors keep throwing away their bags of leaves (the fools! Ha ha). I take the bags home and run the leaves through a leaf blower in reverse. This shreds the leaves into tiny pieces and speeds up the composting process considerably. By next spring I should have plenty of compost to work with. Meanwhile my neighbors will be buying all of their compost from Home Depot. Hee hee. Perhaps I could sell them some of mine for a special discount price? ;)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2013 at 8:57PM
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selling wholesale means you get about 40% of retail and you have to be able to provide a lot of units to your customers. A home owner may want say 30 landscaping plants but a landscaper will want 500 per week to fill all the orders they have and they will want to pay next to nothing for them as they have to make a profit. And they can always go to a larger plant seller and get a cheaper price and you will never be able to compete with plant sellers that have acres of land and a lot of high tunnels and greenhouses.

And you are correct this line of work generally doesn't make a lot of money but most of us do it because we like working for ourselves like working with plants and like playing in the dirt. Oh and those of use who grow food crops eat like royalty. And in my case money is not all that important. I do not suffer from a love of money/greed. I make money because it is a necessary evil of living in our modern world and my farm does provide enough for two people to farm full time and not work off the farm.

In you case you have a hobby that may well make you a biy of profit on the future but don't expect to ever make much from such little land unless you grow something illegal, than the profits got way way up as does the risk involved.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2013 at 6:07AM
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Like boulderbelt, I grow food and sell it because I enjoy it both the field work and the farmers' market work. I've always had a large garden because I like to grow my own food. I'm not overly concerned about money for now. Having said that, if there was easy money to be had by growing things in one's backyard, everyone would do it.

OP, your compost needs are likely much less than mine, but if you're spreading at least an inch or two on your growing area, you may be surprised at how much compost you need. My local landfill composts yard waste and sells it either bagged or by the yard. We hired a trucking company to deliver a large load of compost when we were amending the soil in our fields. You may also want to have a professional soil analysis before you add too much of anything. Compost tends to have a high ph (ours is around 8), which works well with my acidic soil, but maybe not with yours. If your ph is too high or too low, you won't be growing much of anything.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2013 at 10:20AM
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On your 'free' compost, make sure your neighbors haven't been using LOTS of chemicals. and don't get the walnut leaves. By doing either, you will be building soil, just not soil to be able to work with. Look up about toxicity of walnut trees. I had one vendor friend that had a very very successful market stand (grossed over $100,000 back in the 90s). His SIL thought he would be nice and bring home a bunch of bags of grass clippings and spread them near the rhubarb plants. The vendor lost 1/2 of all the plants because the grass clippings were from homes that used a chemical on their grass. He was never able to recoop that loss before he died.

Your leaves may take longer than next spring to be composted, but eventually you will have much nicer dirt to work with. How about just putting the leaves in 1 big area, but not the entire yard. Lots of people use pallets to build compost areas. That will give you about 4'x4'x4' to work at a time. Working the compost will help speed up the process. Plus it looks nicer.

Make sure you DON'T have future problems with your neighbors or community. So many housing areas have rules about businesses or gardens. Even compost sometimes gets you in trouble.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2013 at 10:47AM
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What about gourds????? You can grow them vertically and sell them on the internet once they are completely dried. People (like me) buy dried gourds for crafts and bird houses! Google gourd crafts and see the amazing things people do with them.

Also, check out the Winter Sowing forum on GardenWeb and start doing that and selling seedlings of all sorts of plants either on Craigslist or just through word of mouth. I also do not drive because of the same reasons as you so we have to be creative.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 4:13PM
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I tried the winter sowing one year and was amazed how easy it was. Almost too easy to believe. I didn't get started as early as I should have, but still worked very well.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 5:02PM
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That's a good point. It will be very difficult for my small backyard business to compete with much bigger businesses. Landscapers probably won't be interested in my plants. However, I can always try selling my plants directly to home owners. If I am successful I can invest the extra income in land, and before you know it I'll be competing with the big guys.

I once thought of money as a necessary evil. Now I think of it as a tool of empowerment. My dad once told me that business owners have a responsibility to make as much profit as possible so they can take care of themselves and their loved ones. That shifted my perspective into a more positive direction.

There is a solution to every problem. If I keep adapting my business I will eventually find success. The important thing is to keep moving forward and to never give up.

This post was edited by OhMyGourd on Mon, Nov 11, 13 at 19:30

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 7:28PM
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Definitely, a soil analysis is a great idea. I've been looking for an excuse to talk to my agricultural agent again. She is so gosh darn friendly. I just want to give her a great big hug. :)

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 7:36PM
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Thank you so much for emailing me! I enjoyed reading your story. I can tell that you've put a lot of hard work and effort into your family farm, and I hope that it continues to grow. You deserve nothing but success!

I really appreciate the fact that you have been kind enough to share your expertise with a newbie like me. I also appreciate the fact that you have been so honest with me. This has been a great learning experience so far.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 7:49PM
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p.s. Wow! I never in a million years would have thought that walnut leaves could be toxic! Thank you so much for pointing that out. I get most of my leaves from the forest behind my house. Tomorrow I will make an effort to identify the trees..

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 7:57PM
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I love your idea! As a photographer and graphic designer, I've always been an enthusiastic supporter of the arts. After reading your post I googled "gourd art" and I was blown away by the results. I can't believe I've never heard of gourd art before. I would love to see what amazing creations you've made out of gourds. Care to share some pictures with us?

Last summer I gave away dozens of pumpkin seedlings at my farmers market. Here's a picture:

When I came back an hour later they were all gone. So there's definitely a demand for seedlings. I wonder how much I could charge for them?

I will definitely check out winter sowing. How old are you, by the way? I hope you don't mind me asking. I'm 26.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 6:04AM
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Did you give away the pumpkin seedlings in those green pots? - just wondering, because they look too large (the pots) & 'too fancy' to me: what I mean is that I think they are too expensive to give away. If you are trying to supplement your income, I would be careful about the expenses (just my 'five cents' of advice...hope you don't mind).
I get lots of empty pots in spring, when most of the people throw them away. It's good to reuse-recycle! And they are free to you.
Just make sure you wash them well before using.
You can get lots of small pots from seedlings that people by in bulk, and they are best for seedlings.
You could probably get them also in any garden centre - at least around where I live, just about every garden centre have drop-off for empty pots in spring. You can get any size and amount for free.

I don't have experience you are seeking, but few years ago ended up with lots of extras after dividing plants from my overgrown garden. Potted them all up (in recycled pots), since I have hard time to throw away anything, lol. I gave away lots to my friends & neighbours.
I didn't have any space to plant them, so year after (kept them that long in pots!) I decided to sell them at garage/yard sale.
I believe that people usually take better care if they pay for something, even small amount.
They sold like crazy - very inexpensive comparing to store (for example $5 for a plant that would sell for $9.99+tax in store), and I gave discount for more than 5 plants too. Just wanted to get them to the gardeners.
Every plant sold, and people wanted more.

But: 1:timing was really good - just 1-2 weeks into a spring planting season. And I made sure I knew enough about every plant I had (I did, they were from what I was growing).
2:I live in large city, maybe that helps.
3:plants were very healthy
4:I had great variety of plants
5:I did it only few times, since the by-laws here allow only so many garage sales a year. I don't do garage sales, this was my second ever. But it's good idea to find out what is allowed where you live.
6:if I was doing it for living, I would research prices and plan everything. I know I was selling them very inexpensively, but don't forget-I was just getting rid of my extras.
You have to take in consideration all expense, even cost of soil (it really adds up).
Alltogether I ended up with over $1,000 without ever planning on selling anything. Three weekends. Just my extras.That took care of me buying more plants, lol!

Photo of some pots with extra Solomon's seal.

BTW, great tips here from everyone, and I thank to busy people, especially those that grow anything for living, for taking time to post.


This post was edited by rina_ on Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 9:22

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 9:08AM
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There is a market for anything FREE, once you try to recoop your expenses, it's a different thing.

I wish I had started at 26, but never realized that 'town' people didn't have gardens, since I had always lived in the country and always had a garden.

I found that if I grew plants as individual plants they sell better. Most people don't want to buy 4-6 zucchinis or the same variety of tomato plant.

Thanks for your support. I've always tried to help 'newbies' out, most of the time to my downfall. I would help someone at the market, and before long I was hearing my exact statements coming out of their mouths. Then they would go farther and go after my customers. I am a selling type of person, providing I can believe in what I'm selling. And I think that is one of the main reasons that several vendors within my markets would like for me to not be at the market. Thinking that if I leave, they would be able to take over all of my customers.

Now I think I've found my niche, I hope. Each previous time, I found it, then others found it also.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 9:31AM
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Location is everything! We lived in a western Chicago suburb for many years and seedlings, etc. could be sold for a very good price. Now we are 100 miles west of there in the middle of nowhere and I can't seem to lower the prices enough.

Finally at this summer's farmer's mkt. I had a 'dollar table' and was able to sell everything but made practically nothing. I had gourd planters planted with succulents that in Chicago would sell for $15.00. Here - lucky to get $4.00.

If I lived on a busy road, I would try a stand but my road gets an average of 2 cars a day (and one of them is often mine!). It amazes me to watch the people selling jewelry, crocheted items and very nice crafts selling absolutely nothing some weeks.

For 2014, I plan to do the winter sowing thing which I do yearly in January and will plan to sell seedlings especially for a 'dollar table' and see how that works. (They won't be anything like what I ended up selling for $1 this summer!) For me, clearing $50 a week would make it worth while but I wonder if even that is possible in my situation.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 9:57AM
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bagardens (Ohio, Zone 5b)

Location does make a very big difference. This year I sold at three different markets, and all were completely different. One market I can sell some plants, not fantastic but some, it is a small town market. The other I can sell plants very well, it is in my home town which is kind of city and yet still kind of country at the same time. The third I hardly sold any plants it is a big city market where I think most people would not know what to do with plants. I did not have any flowers this year, but did have herb plants.

For me I have found my most profitable thing per square foot to be my lettuce and salad mix. At all three of my markets I can sell out of all the lettuce and salad mix that I can bring, every time. I do not cut my lettuce by the head but instead do a cut and come again. I sell it in 6 oz. bags for $3.00 each. I also make around 10 different mixes such as: Just Lettuce Mix, Lettuce and Greens, Spicy Salad Mix (lettuce and mustard greens), Lettuce and Herbs Mix, and more. I think you would be surprised how much lettuce and greens you can get from an small area, and as long as it is taken care of, will grow back very fast. Of coarse your zone is warmer than mine so I am not sure how difficult it would be for you to grow lettuce and greens, but just thought I would mention it.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 1:13PM
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OhMyGourd ... If you make a niche of selling hard to find plants to home owners at a reasonable price, you can make money at this.

I met a man in New Mexico who raises and sells nothing but native shrubs and perennial plants to supplement his income - he collects the seeds or takes the cuttings, sprouts them, and sells the plants when they are about "gallon size". He specializes in the ones that are nearly impossible to find in a nursery.

He'll sell to landscapers, but they have to pay retail pricing (small discount for large orders), or pay up front for a large custom growing order with no refund.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 10:44AM
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My former SIL had done the native thing in AZ with cactus. She would go out in the desert and get them. She had to very careful when choosing, since some of them are endangered species.

It now sounds like you have several different directions to go, making up YOUR mind will be the hard thing.

Remember, anything that is easy, everyone wants to try.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 10:28AM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

Mdfarmer. I'd say don't listen to the naysayers. If you've got a passion for doing something I say go for it. Don't stop dreaming of your goal- you can figure it out. The traditional way of thinking restricts your options. I have 148 square feet to grow in and I cleared $4500 my first year. I'm now in my 3rd year and have a great cash business but I wouldn't be able to live on it. But here's the great thing-I don't want too-I already have a full time job. I make my money with the smallest of space and I have built in customers that guarantee I'll continue to do well. With the amount of land you have you can make a lot more than I possibly can. If you're interested contact me by email. The suggestions mentioned here are just too much work. Sure fruit trees can bring you in good money but they are a lot of work. And you have to stay on top of all the spraying to keep pests away.. A late frost can ruin an entire year. I'm just saying there's a much easier way. You'll have to get a little bit of experience growing but I know it can be done because I've done it. I'm not selling anything, I'm not big talking and I'm not exaggerating.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 1:19AM
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Than why not tell us here what you do to make all the money so easily snibb. Telling someone to contact you off the forums sounds like a phishing scheme or something. if you are making money from growing things that share with all of us.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 4:00AM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

Interesting. I grow veggies and produce for 5 people in only 160 square feet and make over $2100 a year. That's clear. It's not that much work and qualifies as a side job for me. My busiest days are Tuesdays where it takes me 2 hours to harvest and clean. It was so easy to start-but it was a mistake how it happened. I also teach a "how to do it" class in spring and fall. For 2 years in a row I've made over $5000 per year. Three years ago I wrote an ebook. With the teaching and growing part I made over $10,000 the first year. No exaggeration. So I wouldn't let anybody tell you that you can't make money doing it-especially if you have a lot more land than I have. But it's got to feel like work if it gets too big. My operation is small enough that I can be my own employee and it doesn't feel like work. Believe in yourself and go for it.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2014 at 8:53PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

How do you get students? I have taught classes and get few students. I had to cancel an in garden class twice this year.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2014 at 10:33PM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

Well Boulder, if you think I'm phishing then you don't have to contact me-simple. Some folks are just trying to make some extra money and they don't have the acreage you do and they don't really want to farm. And did I say it was "easy?" I think I said it was work-but not like a farm would require.

Little minnie-I get students from 3 general avenues:
1. As an addition to a library class that I teach
2. Word of mouth by those who have been to a class
3. Free advertising in the local newspaper

Occasionally I will teach an entire neighborhood. I usually get one of those a summer, and there have been some summers where I did 2 or 3(30+ people each time.) I also teach at other local places by invitation that bring in good money.

Here's an example of the ad I am running right now in the local papers. Keep in mind most of the work has been done for the year but there are still a lot of lookers and takers. Here it is:

Hope that gives you some ideas. It's one of many things I've been able to do. Really-contact me by email. I'm selling nothing. If I am all you need to do is come back into the forum and tell everyone-then I'll be banned from here. Some folks think there's only one way to do things. That's not my experience. Email:

    Bookmark   September 16, 2014 at 12:07AM
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