13 ways to make and save money from your garden
No matter how small your garden may be, you can earn a sweet mint this summer with some of our clever outdoor money-making ideas. From using the soil for growing saleable produce to renting your garden for private functions, there are loads of ways to earn pretty pounds from those lovely petals. Here are a few tops tips on how to make money from your garden.
- Grow edible flowers
- Sell medicinal plants
- Propagate seedlings
- Start an organic market garden
- Hire out your garden as allotments
- Hire out your garden for parties
- Hire out your garden as a campsite
- Hire out your garden to painting groups
- Host an open garden event
- Start a beekeeping business
- Open your garden to the public
- Get free gardening equipment
- Get free gardening seeds
Organic is big business these days. Celebrity chefs, supermarkets and health food stores tell us the benefits of organic produce for us and the environment all the time, and with a return to thrifty ways thanks to the recession there’s never been a better time to go out there and grow your own. You could even cut out the middleman and sell directly to individual customers.
Yes, really. Gourmet and health food stores do stock edible flowers, and at restaurants plenty of chefs include flowers in recipes as well as to garnish dishes. They might not be tasty on their own but with a few other key ingredients you could have a winning combination. The key is to work out what’s edible and what’s saleable. The dandelion, for example, is actually a great salad ingredient, and makes a great wine! Remember that certain flowers can only be used for decoration, such as daffodils, azaleas and rhododendrons. They’re not safe to eat – so if in doubt, always check. Roses, violets, pansies and daylilies are all popular and saleable edible plants you could grow. The good news is you don’t need a huge garden to grow them. To get started, all you’ll need is:
- Some varieties of popular edible flowers
- Organic pesticides and fungicides
- A designated plot in your garden
Before you start planting, consult your local plant nursery to find the best way of using insect deterrents to protect your plants organically. A compost pile is ideal for providing naturally enriched soil to use. If you’re going to eat your produce, be aware that you can’t use normal chemical plant agents. When it comes to harvesting your edible flowers make sure to do it whilst the temperature is cool: early in the day after the morning dew has evaporated is ideal. Remove all the pollen parts of the plant, and keep the long-stemmed flowers in water inside the fridge. Place short-stemmed flowers between moist paper towels or keep them loose inside a plastic bag – and that’s all it takes. Your flowers will be good to eat fresh for about a week. Approaching local restaurants or food stores is a good way to sell your flowers, and you’ll need to put together some photos, pricing and growing information. In order to trade directly to households, consider creating a blog page, or place adverts on eBay, Gumtree or Craigslist.
A lot of the same edible plants can also be used and sold for medicinal purposes – you just need to add an extra step and dry your plants to increase their shelf life. Stick to perennials that don’t require annual planting or germination. Medicinal herbs and plants are great because they can flourish in the shade or harsh sun, and require little water or attention. You’d be surprised at what already grows in your garden that’s medicinal. The roots and flower-tops of the dandelion can be dried and sold as a tea or a body tincture. They’re meant to aid liver and gastrointestinal detoxification, work as a digestive and as a diuretic, and they also contain plenty of antioxidants. A common weed with a stock of medicinal qualities is the plantain – it’s great for killing bacteria and reducing swelling on wounds and insect bites. Another perennial, lemon balm, belongs to the mint family and treats viral infections, shingles and cold sores. Use it as a tea to bolster the immune system in overcoming cold and flu symptoms – it’s also good for helping you get a good night’s rest. The market for selling medicinal herbs is more likely to be a domestic one. Your knowledge of their use is just as important in selling the plants as the plants themselves, so it’s vital to do your research beforehand into all the plants and herbs you’re interested in growing for sale and distribution. People are more likely to buy from you – and continue to buy from you – if you’re confident and secure in the information you can provide. Remember: Even though these plants are generally considered safe to use as a natural homeopathic medicine, you should always evaluate their risks and benefits to certain people and their illnesses, especially when used in conjunction with other prescribed medicines. If in doubt, go without until you’ve got more information and advice.
Many don’t have the skills to nurture seeds into life and choose to skip this stage and buy already-established seedlings. You can profit from this by doing the hard work for them. You’ll need:
- Good-quality seed compost – normal soil won’t cut it as the physical structure won’t be up to scratch, and potting compost has too many nutrients, putting your seedlings at risk of fertiliser damage.
- Somewhere for the seeds to grow - think somewhere warm and humid with seed trays. This could be a greenhouse, a conservatory or even just a propagator, which is a seed tray with a lid like a fish tank.
Make sure you do your research to get the best results Fresh seeds are key and will ensure that you grow the best-quality seedlings possible. A watering can is a must, but take a look at your seedling packet’s instructions to see if they have any specific needs. We’ve got an entire article dedicated to making money from propagating seedlings: why not take a look?
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This’ll require a lot more time, knowledge and money so it’s probably not for you if you’re not especially green fingered. Be aware that larger garden farms will cost more money to establish and maintain. For small-scale growers, we’ve got an article on growing your own fruit and veg here. Staple and seasonal vegetables are a good entry point. Remember to stick to the basics first before you start attempting to grow more exotic foods. Selecting produce that’s in season and can easily be grown in your local conditions will be easier and require far fewer resources to grow. Don’t worry about growing ‘perfect’ looking produce – buyers will know it’s the taste that matters. Advertise locally, with flyers and business cards that you may put up in other local shops and eateries. It’s a good idea to hold weekly or monthly markets. You could even join forces with the neighbours and see if they’re willing to grow some produce in their gardens. If they are you could have a regular street market, cashing in on all your varying produce. Running a market can require a lot of time investment (as will gardening all the produce), so be mindful of how large a market you can actually handle and how much time and money you have to invest. It’s probably worth buying small tools that you’ll be using regularly that you don’t already have, while larger machinery you’ll only be using occasionally should be borrowed or hired. Local tool hire companies can be found in the Yellow Pages or on Gumtree. Because the ‘fruits of your labour’ will take several months to become available, you’ll need working capital to finance supplies, living expenses, wages and organic certification fees. For an idea about evaluating assets and setting targets for the market, see Scott Kelland’s advice on starting a market garden.
It’s not just seasoned gardeners and the hard-up who are growing their own fruit and veg – since the recession plenty of people have discovered a green tinge to their fingers. City dwellers are in on the act too, and if they haven’t got the space to get growing at home they’re looking for land elsewhere. Enter you and your garden. Waiting lists for council lots can be huge, and if you’ve got spare garden space you could make a bit of extra cash by renting it out to others. If you live in London, waiting lists are exceptionally long which means you could charge more and still find keen tenants. You do need to have spare space, enough to feel comfortable giving a proportion of it away. Access is also an issue – if you don’t have a side gate to your garden (or can’t put one in), you might have tenants coming through your house to get to their plot. Luckily for you, we’ve got a full article on garden allotments for you to have a look at, with plenty of useful links and details on how much you can expect to earn. You could also use Spareground; a website where you can advertise your unused land and find a tenant to take care of it.
If your garden’s big enough and you don’t mind the intrusion then why not hire it out for parties? Save yourself a lot of hassle from the start and stick to hiring your garden out exclusively for children’s parties only. There’s no alcohol (and all the associated problems that can come from that – including getting a license), no late-night noise pollution and substantially less mess. You could even provide catering and children’s entertainers (or do it yourself if you’re feeling brave). The whole party can come as a packaged deal in your own garden for a nice profit. You’ll need to provide a marquee or gazebo in case it rains. Tables and chairs, games, and a music and PA system are initial financial outlays. You should expect to be asking about £800–850 to cover your expenses, time and effort in order to make it worthwhile. If this is for you make sure you get adequate insurance and liability cover. Child-proof the garden and be mindful of health and safety considerations – make sure your first aid kit is well stocked.
This is again likely to be better for bigger gardens, but letting campers into your garden is a fun way to make a bit of extra cash. If you’re near places of interest or areas of outstanding natural beauty you could be onto a winner. The Garden Caravan Site in Norfolk has done just this and they charge £15–20 per pair per night. If you’re doing this occasionally for acquaintances it shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re looking at developing it into a more permanent project or have general questions, we suggest you get in touch with your local authority. Planning Portal has good guidance on whether you need special permission.
If you have a truly lovely garden, with lots of space for sitting, you could offer it to local art schools or holiday painting groups to paint in. Offer an all-in package including refreshments, lunch and even a cool lounge to relax in and you could charge in the £100s. Of course, this is only useful for people with a special garden with lots of nooks and crannies, great views and fascinating plants, as well as an attractive home to visit. However, if you have these and the leisure to look after people, then contact local colleges, adult education establishments and even the local tourist office to let them know you exist. Send photos and a list of charges for different packages (a price for using the garden only, a price for garden and refreshments etc). If you’re more entrepreneurial you could set up classes yourself. Bring in an art teacher and advertise one-day or hour-long classes for locals and visitors.
If you have a sizeable garden that you take good care of, then a way to make money is to show it off to the public by staging an open garden event. This is where you open your garden to the public, like artists do when they hold open studio days, and you can charge an entrance fee or offer drinks or cream teas to visitors to make some money. Most open gardens are staged to raise money for charities or worthy causes, such as repairing the church roof. If this is why you’d like to open your garden then you can advertise online at The National Garden Society or Open Gardens so your chances of a good turnout are increased. You can also serve refreshments to raise more money, and if you wanted to you could take a cut of the money raised as payment for your hard work. A lot of open garden events are only staged annually, so you have a whole year to prepare your garden for the event and that way you don’t have to obtain a license from the council.
Did you know that it’s better for your immune system if you eat honey that’s made locally? It’s especially good if you suffer from seasonal allergies, like hay fever, as local bees will obviously collect nectar and pollen from local plants, and the honey they make contains a bit of pollen. Urban beekeeping is becoming more and more popular, you don’t need a lot of space to keep bees. In New York it’s become all the rage to keep bees on your roof! There are around 44,000 beekeepers in the UK, 95% of whom keep bees as a hobby. Looking after bees is suprisingly simple, you just need a couple of hours a week as they’re otherwise pretty self-sufficient. If you’re planning on keeping bees it’s probably a good idea to tell your immediate neighbours, in case there are any allergy sufferers around. Bees aren’t as vicious as wasps, as they don’t sting for the sake of it and are mainly interest in nectar and pollen so there shouldn’t really be a problem. With one hive you can expect to harvest about 40lbs of honey, and what you don’t keep for yourself you can sell at local farmers’ markets and shops! If you’re not interested in keeping bees, but don’t mind someone else using your garden for it, then why not host a beehive? You’ll no doubt get a lot of free honey from it! For more on urban beekeeping, try Urban Bees. You might need to be careful though as many amateur beekeepers end up killing their bees by not giving them the right care and attention. Poor hive hygiene, overdosing and under-dosing with drug treatments and using illegal chemicals could kill off your bees.
If you have a particularly nice garden and could rent it out for painting groups, parties and camping, then why not just open it up to the public? Some 4,000 gardens in England and Wales take part in the National Gardens Scheme whereby the money raised is donated to charity. Although you can’t really make any money, this is a great way to showcase the fruits of your labour as well as meet new people and share your passion. The size of your garden isn’t critical, and many NGS plots are typical back gardens. You don’t have to have a huge grand garden to join as most people are interested in a good range of plants and a garden which has been loved – not necessarily the size. It’s a great way to meet new people, have a cup of tea and chat about gardening. But remember, you can’t charge people for tea unless you go through hygiene and health and safety hoops. The NGS say that most people exhibit their gardens once or twice a year, meaning you don’t have to worry about finding strangers in your garden all the time!
Gardening doesn’t come cheap, especially if you’re just starting out or if you want to get a bit more advanced with the tools and types of plants you would like to use. One of the best ways to try and cut your costs (and ultimately save money) is by seeing if you can get any free gardening equipment. Community freebie sites such as Freegle and SnaffleUp along with the free sections on Gumtree or Freecycle are well worth taking a look. For whatever reason, people will always need to shift some of their stuff and these guys are giving unwanted goods away for free – you never know what you might find that could be useful in the garden and home. So before you head down to buy a new hedge trimmer or other gardening must-haves, take a quick look at some of those sites to see what you could get – as long as you’re willing to collect. It’s also worth having a root around your local recycling centre – one person’s junk is another’s treasure. You might be surprised to discover what people throw away in order to make some space. Good-quality and rarely-used gardening tools often end up on the ‘junk’ pile.
Ask family and friends for cuttings or any spare seeds they might have to help your garden grow. You could arrange a swap so that you have a range of different plants and seeds to add to your collection. Many people buy seeds but end up storing them away never to be used, so you may be surprised that plenty of people would be willing to donate them to a good home. Lots of gardeners will also be happy to furnish you with free cuttings from plants they already grow. You might want to check out gardening swap sites like Garden Swap Shop. Most are free to use, and allow you to swap seeds and plants with other community members.