Not all green business ideas are found in products and services that are directly related to environmental or social issues, but this one definitely does, as it can help people have not only a healthier, more beautiful local environment, but can also help them to eat better and get more connected with their food.
Whether your primary interest is an organic backyard garden for vegetables, or kitchen gardens full of culinary herbs for cooking, or edible landscape design, or perhaps even growing a permaculture food forest, there are plenty of small green business opportunities related to growing plants. If you’re passionate about designing and building backyard gardens and landscapes that are also edible and medicinal, then this green business idea might be for you.
1. What is Organic Backyard Garden Landscape Design & Installation?
Perhaps inspired by President Obama’s organic garden on the grounds of the White House, many homeowners are becoming interested in growing their own food through a backyard garden. The National Gardening Association (NGA) reported a 19% increase in do-it-yourself gardens this year, and fully 1 out of every 5 respondent to a telephone interview said they planned to start a garden in the coming year. The NGA also reported that interest in using organics around the house, where chemical exposure is so closely tied to the family (and family pet)’s health, has surged in recent years. From 2004 to 2008, the number of households estimated to be using only non-toxic fertilizer, pest control and weed control methods has risen from 5 million to 12 million.
But many Americans don’t have the know-how or the time to do the actual work to design a backyard garden. As a result, there is growing demand for skilled contractors to design, install, and maintain organic gardens and help people grow their own food, reduce their carbon footprint, and improve the health of their diets.
2. What required knowledge or skills are necessary?
Many colleges and universities have degrees in landscape design, and larger scale jobs will be very challenging if you do not have such a degree. However, small-scale jobs for homeowners interested in a small garden can be performed without such formal education. It is strenuous work and requires you to be able to lift up to 50 pounds, work outdoors in a wide variety of climatic conditions, and be skilled enough in creating and managing irrigation equipment to keep your gardens alive and productive. Ongoing maintenance of these jobs, should you choose to make that part of the business plan, will require you to be organized, skilled in organic soil fertility methods and non-toxic pest control.
3. How much money is required to start?
$-$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$) For the design aspect of this business, it can happen anywhere you can set up an office space with some room for drawing up plans, or could even be run from the couch or local coffeeshop if you do all of your design work with a computer. For the installation aspect, you’ll need a dependable vehicle of some sort, optimally a small pickup or one with a trailer hitch. At its most basic, an organic backyard garden and landscape business can be run with a few simple gardening tools, such as a shovel, a rake, a hoe, and a wheelbarrow, but investing in some larger gardening equipment can eventually save you both time and money when working on larger jobs. A trailer will allow you to not only carry your tools, but to easily haul in compost, topsoil, or manure to jobsites, as well as to transport plants from the nursery or greenhouse. A tiller can speed up digging times for garden beds, and there are a variety of other gardening accessories that can make parts of the job go faster, such as seeding devices.
4. What is the income potential?
$$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$) The size of the jobs you take on, and the type of clients you have, will do a lot to determine the income potential for this organic backyard garden and landscape business. A project of a total yard makeover that includes trees and shrubs and hardscaping is going to much more lucrative (and time-intensive) for you than one from a customer that only needs a couple of raised garden beds installed. If some of your clients have more money than they do time, or aren’t physically capable of caring for the garden, there may be opportunities for you to do weekly or monthly ongoing maintenance work on the landscape.
5. What is the best location for an organic backyard garden and landscape business?
The location in which you start this business is irrelevant, so long as you and your equipment are mobile and can get to your customers’ locations.
6. Three best questions to ask yourself to find out if this business is right for you (if you can answer yes to all three, this business might be for you):
- Have you always been told you have a ‘green thumb’?
- If you live in a place with a cold climate, this work does not continue through the winter…is that OK with you?
- Do you enjoy manual labor, working with your hands, and the ongoing need for maintenance of your work?