A gardening craze seems to be sweeping the nation, goosed by the First Family planting a garden on their lawn. As gardening becomes something interesting, popular, and increasingly accepted, you may find your skills are suddenly in demand.
Gardening can seem simple, but a novice will soon run into plenty of complications. An experienced gardener will know the difference between seed and transplant veggies, cool and warm season crops, compost and cover cropping. A gardener who knows the area will have invaluable knowledge about great varieties, special tricks, and keeping out the critters.
Advice is free, and tours of your garden might be gratis, but when people start needing help with actual physical labor, or want you to visit their yard - consider starting a business. Providing your knowledge and skills can make the difference between success and failure, or gardens getting started or languishing on paper. Offering your knowledge can save your friends and neighbors countless hours of research, reading, and trial and error.
Don't feel bad for charging a fee to help someone set up their garden. Personally, I would be glad to pay someone to save me the labor of creating a raised bed. I imagine many older folks, families with young children, or simply out-of-shape or time-constrained people would be glad as well. People who are planting a garden for fresh taste or to have organic produce will be less price-sensitive than people who are planting gardens to save money. People charge to clean homes, cook food, do taxes, wash laundry, and cut hair. Why not charge for starting a garden?
Consider a "First Time Gardening" Package, priced reasonably for your area. Don't price it too low - you need to make it worth your time or you will swiftly either burn out or go out of business.
Your package might include:
One hour of preliminary consulting (you send them homework to do first - like listing their favorite herbs and veggies), to include site selection and veggie selection
The building and filling of one or two 4 x 8 raised beds
Planting one or two 4 x 8 beds with veggies in the spring, complete with mulch
Printed instructions on how to care for a garden
Printed instructions on common pests for your area and how to deal with them
One hour of free troubleshooting time
You could also offer a bare-bones package that just includes the building and filling of the beds, for people who have the knowledge but not the manpower to create a raised bed. Alternatively, you could offer a platinum package for people who want edible landscaping or permaculture features - a more time intensive process.
Personally, I have always offered a money-back guarantee in my business. No one has ever taken me up on it, although I have the MBG displayed prominently on my website and even on signs in my office. A MBG builds confidence and trust. Have some faith in your fellow neighbors - it could pay you back in spades. OTOH, there are some shady characters out there. Be sure to evaluate your clients before agreeing to do work for them.
Word of mouth and referrals are usually the best marketing, but a website can be a cheap and effective way of advertising if you make it yourself. Business cards are also cost-effective. Regardless of whether you give out free help or charge for your services, be confident that you are helping people improve their health, feel more secure, and enjoy the pleasure of freshly picked produce. The more gardens there are, the more distributed and organic our food production is, the better we'll all be in a recession or oil crisis.