Some months ago, I received this e-mail from a reader:
Hi David, my name is Jordan. I’m a young single father of two and I have to say that I am a major fan of your YouTube channel, your great books and hilarious songs. For quite some time now I have been fascinated with plants. Obsessed even. To the point where I have even started to begin to sell them through Facebook and other sites to people within my community. Every day I am feeding myself with knowledge, drinking in tons of information on species of different perennial edibles that are hardy to my zone in Canada. I have collected many different fruits and trees and grown many from seed. I have even started writing about them. But I can’t seem to bring myself to the next level. I am so conflicted with thoughts of what I should be doing in life but everything inside myself tells me to do what I love to do, which is grow plants. I wrote to you today naming the subject of this email “Help?” because I really want to start growing and writing about plants for profit so that I can start a fulfilling self-made career. I would love to know how you got yourself published and selling books/e-books, also how you were able to take your love of gardening to this level. Any feedback would be amazing.
That was quite the email. I thought about it long and hard, then worked out some answers for Jordan.
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First of all, I am always encouraged and amazed by the e-mails I get from viewers and readers. Though I am a good gardener and I enjoy doing YouTube, I am also very conscious of my many defects. For multiple years, my gardens were terrible, as I was renting an apartment and trying to garden on borrowed ground—yet people still stuck with me. I also became well-known as a Florida gardener, then ran away to an undisclosed location in the tropics. Furthermore, I am not the most handsome or eloquent presenter, and I am rather given to filming the occasional ridiculous video which helps precisely no one at all, even though my children and other weirdos may find it amusing.
But back to Jordan’s question(s).
First of all, I do encourage people who want to write to just go ahead and write. The problem is, most people are lousy writers. Many of the comments and e-mails I receive are not up to the level of writing one needs to publish a decent book or even an article on gardening. If you want to write, you have to put in a lot of hard work. You must learn to edit. You should read Strunk and White. Learn to construct tight sentences and stay coherent. I sometimes get e-mails I can’t understand because the sender can’t put their thoughts together in English. If you did not receive a solid foundation in writing while you were in school, becoming a writer as an adult is much harder.
PRO TIP FOR PARENTS: Homeschool or die.
If you can write, however, there is another problem. We live in an era of declining literacy and falling demand for books and articles. Hence the rise of YouTube and the decline of blogs. People would rather watch than read. There’s no sense in fighting it, which is why I both write and produce videos. Chances are, the latter format will continue to grow in popularity while demand for the former atrophies.
There also isn’t a lot of money in writing, unless you are both a good writer and a good marketer, or can connect with someone who is.
On the upside, being a writer does allow you to stay at home and spend more time with your kids. You just need to figure out how to keep time available at the keyboard. Constant interruptions lead to frustration and unfinished books and articles. If you set aside a time where you can be uninterrupted, then the time you’re not writing can be spent with family and on your gardening.
As for discovering what you should do with your life, I can’t say it better than Solomon:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Now let’s jump into some other possibilities for making money from your love of gardening.
11 Ways to Make Money From Your Gardening Addiction
Care for Landscaping
Though you may love growing food more than growing hedges and grass, you do get to spend a lot of time outdoors growing things if you work in landscaping. I was fortunate enough to get hired to plant and maintain landscaping at a resort a year ago. Much to my satisfaction, they wanted to add some edibles to their plantings, so I got to plant mulberries and coconuts and star fruit and coffee and June plums, along with ferns and ornamental grasses and ground cover. There are plenty of landscaping jobs available. I recommend working for yourself after spending some time working for a successful landscaper. You’ll gain skills that way, not to mention better muscles.
If you’re really clever, you might be able to find some work installing garden beds. Some people plant gardens for other people and maintain them, getting to share the produce. Even smarter people grow gardens on a bunch of different people’s yards, urban farming and selling what they grow.
Grow Medicinal Herbs
Someone asked me recently if I could grow a bunch of lemongrass for them, as they never had enough of it. That’s an easy-to-grow herb with both medicinal and culinary applications. You can do the same with any number of herbs. With how many people are interested in essential oils, you might grow lavender or oregano or rosemary or all of the above. Organic herbs are a high-value crop. I have a friend who specializes in rare Chinese herbs—it can be done.
Start a Seed Company
Though I have no experience with this, I am friends with Steve Solomon, who started the Territorial Seed Company. I’ve also worked with Jere Gettle, who started Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds as a young man. There’s a huge market for seeds, especially heirloom and local varieties.
Start a U-pick
I am friends with three different people who started U-pick operations, all of which were successful. You need some land and a good crop—or more than one crop—but you can really do well making a great family place for people looking to pick their own ripe grapes or peaches or strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins, or any number of other things.
Make Homemade Hot Sauce/Jam
I like making hot sauce. Some people have told me it’s the best they’ve ever tasted. Do you like making hot sauce? Or jams, jellies, or preserves? Maybe it’s time to get serious and start producing, then set up at a local farmer’s market.
Plant a Food Forest and Sell the Produce
I have planted multiple food forests and done well with it. We ended up eating most of the production ourselves because I grew in no more than a half acre and I have a lot of children. However, we did great with selling tickets for tours and producing lots of plants and cuttings we could sell in my plant nursery. More on that in a minute.
Start a Farm
Look into community supported agriculture. Maybe connect with some resorts or restaurants and supply them with high-dollar organic produce. If you’re good enough at growing, you can make a profit from even a small farm. Just look at Jean-Martin Fortier!
Sell Flowers to Arrangers
I met a man who grows a huge variety of flowers and orchids, then sells them to arrangers. Nice flowers are always in demand for special events, as well as for funerals and weddings.
Start a Home-based Plant Nursery
I did it and had great success. You can read about my system here. It’s easier than you might think—I was profitable within months.
Writing and YouTube
Despite the difficulties I covered above, writing is my main bread and butter, though I have to keep producing so I don’t fall behind on revenue. It helps to be able to write thousands of publishable words per day. Just today, I’ve written over 6,000 words. If you’re not a high producer, though, you might just make YouTube videos. Despite having almost 80k subscribers and hundreds of videos, YouTube usually makes me less than $1,000 per month. Maybe you’ll have a viral hit, though—you never know.
There are plenty of revenue-generating options available for gardening addicts. Work hard, try a lot of things, fail fast and start new ventures regularly, then reinforce what makes money. You’ll find something. It’s not lawyer or doctor levels of money, but it’s hard to beat making a living from something you love.
What Do You Think?
Do you have ideas for making money gardening that aren’t listed above, or additional tips to add? Leave a comment below!
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David The Good is a Grow Network Change Maker, a gardening expert, and the author of five books you can find on Amazon: Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening, Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, Create Your Own Florida Food Forest, and Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics. Find fresh gardening inspiration at his website TheSurvivalGardener.com and be sure to follow his popular YouTube channel.