There’s not a thing wrong with growing beautiful flowers and donating them to senior citizens on your block. But for people who want to make a profit from a backyard garden, it’s time to ditch the roses and start making some real money.
The fact is that just about anyone with an average-sized yard can create a profitable garden. Depending on what the “crops” are, the financial yield can range from small change to a significant amount of money. Much depends on the quality of the soil, the local climate, and the regional market for various herbs and “cash-crop” plants. Very little depends on the innate talent of the gardener because the basic skills are easy to pick up.
How to Begin with a Simple Plot or a Greenhouse
Start out small and slowly add to your garden’s size and sophistication, experts suggest. The National Gardening Association points out that even a very small plot, measuring no more than 10 feet by 15 feet, can yield approximately $600 worth of produce in a single year. That’s after an investment of about $75 on seeds, water, plant food, etc.
Saving $525 on the annual grocery bill is nice, but how can gardeners bump that number into the thousands? Research has shown that the number-one motivating factor for starting a home garden is “saving money on groceries.” That means people want to know more about this valuable topic.
One key point that amateur gardeners need to remember is to plant the foods they enjoy eating. The more items in a garden that end up on your plate, the more money you’ll save in the long run.
After doing some research and then deciding exactly what to plant, note that a small greenhouse is also a great investment and can usually pay for itself in one year or less, especially if you build it yourself from scrap lumber and a few purchased supplies.
The Best “Cash Crops” for a Home Garden
So, what to grow? Besides opting for the foods you eat, perhaps there are a few items that sell briskly at the local farmer’s market. Buying seeds and starting some plants indoors is a smart way to begin. The National Gardening Association has a very helpful chart, here, about what the cost is to produce various levels of yield for common garden crops.
Depending where you live and how long winter lasts, it is possible to earn some serious money by growing “specialty crops,” things that are not common to the average household garden. What are the best cash crops for a 600-square foot backyard garden?
On an investment of less than $300, you can grow lavender, bonsai plants, gourmet mushrooms, garlic and specialty herbs. All have ready markets and are easy to grow. Gourmet garlic comes in four varieties: porcelain, purple-stripe, elephant and rocambole. Because garlic tolerates a variety of weather conditions, it is one of the highest profit crops for home gardeners.
Specialty crops can be sold at a farmer’s market or to local retailers and gourmet food stores. Lavender can be sold to local florists and boutiques that use the fresh plants to make all sorts of beauty products.
Bonsai plants and gourmet mushrooms are also an easy sell. Local florists often depend on nearby residents to supply them with fast-selling items like bonsai. As for gourmet mushrooms, they are perhaps the most profitable of all crops on this list. Sold fresh at farmer’s markets or in local stores, it is easy to build up a small network of buyers for your high-quality, home-grown shiitake or oyster mushrooms. Because they can be grown indoors and are thus “climate-proof,” mushrooms are a home garden favorite of entrepreneurs all over the U.S.
Money-making Medicinal Plants and Organics
All of the above-mentioned cash crops can be grown as organics to increase their prices at market, but remember to follow organic guidelines for pest control, watering, and plant food throughout the growing cycle. Organics bring much higher prices and some sellers at farmer’s markets specialize in organic produce. Making a business connection with a few organic sellers can boost your home garden’s profits significantly.
Medicinal plants and herbs are another high-profit category for home growers. Some of these items are a bit finicky but can be grown in a backyard garden. Currently, the most in-demand medicinal herbs are Chamomile, Echinacea, Feverfew, Lavender (see above), Marigold, Lemon Balm, and Basil.
Actually, there are more than a hundred medicinal herbs you can grow but the above seven are the most popular with most local health stores and other retail buyers. The main advantage of growing herbs and specialty crops like mushrooms and garlic is the tiny amount of space needed for a profitable yield.
Facts and Myths about Home Garden Businesses
Myths about home gardening abound, and unfortunately keep many people from giving this fun endeavor a try. Here are some of the most common myths, with their “debunking” facts immediately following:
“It’s too expensive.” A home garden can be started on less than $100 of seeds and supplies. Then, it pays for itself about five times over within the first year.
“It’s too much trouble and hard work.” You can devote as much time as you want to a profitable home garden, but the minimum is about four hours per week. That averages out to a tad more than a half hour per day, hardly a major time commitment. As for the “hard work,” a portable, low-slung chair or thick, washable cushion and good posture make the job easy and fun. No need for backbreaking labor with a home garden.
“Home gardening requires lots of technical knowledge.” If you can read and understand simple instructions, there are literally thousands of gardening manuals and books for beginners online and off. Most are either free or very low cost. Building a backyard garden is not corporate farm management or brain surgery. It’s simple to learn, and very rewarding.
“It’s hard to make a profit with a backyard plot.” In reality, it’s hard not to make a profit with a small garden. Even if you consume everything you grow, your grocery bill will be lower and you will probably be healthier from eating all that unprocessed, home-grown produce.
Let the Learning, Earning (and Fun) Begin!
With no more than a backyard and desire to make a few extra bucks, anybody can start a profitable home-garden business. Depending upon how much time and effort you want to put into the endeavor, the activity can become a fun hobby or a full-blown avocation.
Many retired people spend time in their gardens every day. Being outdoors and staying active is also a smart way to maintain overall good health. If approached with realistic expectations and the right amount of planning, home gardening for profit can be a healthy and exciting way to earn extra money.