An avid gardener can easily expand to starting a plant or produce business from home. Garden volunteers can be potted instead of discarded. Excess seedlings and propagated plants all have a market. The abundance of a bumper harvest can be exchanged for cash for next year's garden seeds and soil. Here's how.
In Massachusetts, the old farming laws allow individuals to sell what they grow from their property without tax and license. That's why you see tables near the street set up with extra produce from the garden or extra plants for sale. Check with your locale to see if you are permitted to do so. With little or no overhead, prices are low.
Winter is the best time to plan how you want to set up your business. Keep a journal. Answer yourself these questions:
- What do I want to sell?
- Where do I want to sell from?
- How much time do I want to allocate:
- to planting?
- to propagating?
- to selling?
- What is my budget:
- for tools and supplies?
- for seeds and plants?
- for advertising?
- How will I display my wares?
- When do I want to sell?
Start simple. As an organic gardener, in spring you will notice volunteers sprouting up from seed. Pot up what you don't need rather than weeding them out. When you divide your perennials, pot up your excess.
Pots can be gotten from nurseries for free or a small fee. You can also pick them up on trash day out of the recycle bins. Plant pots are made from the last recycling plastic number so reusing them is a good option. Those clear plastic hinged produce containers make excellent little greenhouses for starting seeds. Potting soil comes in 2 cubic foot bags which can be purchased from your local nursery. Most nurseries have a discount pricing program for landscapers and those in the biz, usually around 10-20% off their retail. Making your own nutritious compost to mix with your potting soil will keep your costs down.
Find a sheltered spot in your yard for a large table or potting bench. Store your soil underneath in a covered plastic bin to keep out weed seeds. Set up your supplies within easy reach. A dowel or heavy branch stuck securely into the ground will keep your upside down pots neatly stacked by size. Most pots have a center drainage hole that will fit over the dowel. Old wire freezer baskets are great for small pot storage and tools and can be mounted on a nearby fence. Plastic coffee containers with lids hold seed packets dry and away from vermin. Store coffee filters or newspaper in one also to use in bottom of pots so soil won't wash out.
What To Sell
Remember your limitations. You can't do it all. Go with what you know best. Take a serious look at your garden. If you grow annual flowers to fill your beds, start your own from seed. Start three times what you need and sell the rest. Pot up seedlings 3 to a 4" pot or 5 to a 6" pot. Sell them at 1/2 to 3/4 the price of your local retailers or 3-4 times your cost.
If you are good at propagating, try it for resale. Good choices are hydrangeas, geraniums, and arborvitae. All are easy to propagate. Hydrangeas started in fall will be salable in spring. Geraniums collected in fall from your neighbors can be propagated indoors during the winter and be ready for next spring. Arborvitae grows easily but may take at least a year or two to be large enough to sell.
Note: Specialty varieties are most likely patented. You are not legally able to propagate and sell. This is a punishable offense.
If vegetables are your specialty, sell seedlings. There is a good market for heirlooms. Again, 3 to a 4" pot is good and preferred by buyers. If the plants outgrow the pot, separate them to individual pots. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants are good this way.
Herbs are a popular avenue. Divide your perennial herbs and pot up extras. Rosemary can be propagated fom cuttings. Start annual seeds in pots.
Some folk just put out their extra produce for sale on a small table with baskets. Zucchini and summer squash $.50 each. Two or three tomatoes for a dollar. A quart of strawberries for $2.
Where To Sell
My business is set up against my front yard chain link fence. There is a cash box attached to the fence and clearly marked. My tiered arrangement looks like a garden so it doesn't disrupt the neighborhood. Every pot has a price tag. My buyers come and go never creating a traffic problem for the neighbors. Selling on the street keeps me from liability. Others just sell on weekends with set hours. A table, utility cart, or wagon is used.
Summer fairs, bazaars, and farmer's markets are also good venues but sales may be taxable. Consumable goods may need Board Of Health approval. Check with your local officials.
If you sell during specific times and hours, simple street signs may be all you need. Make sure you take them down right after the sale. If you sell on a continual basis, an inexpensive classified ad in your local daily or weekly newspaper will suffice. Don't overlook Craigslist and your social media sites.
These tips should help get you started with your own plant or produce business. Record what you do and sell in your journal. You won't make a fortune but a few extra dollars and new friends go a long way.