If you’re like most people, you probably find that it’s getting more difficult to make your pay cheque last a full month. What with inflation, dicey job markets and a global economy that is still in bad shape, it might be a good idea to start exploring ways to make extra money. Blowing your bread and milk money on slot machines is not a good idea, but starting your own little home business is.
You might think that you need a special talent to start a cottage industry, like exceptional baking skills or a winning way with sewing machines, but that is not necessarily true.
If you have a garden, you can put it to good use by planting a herbs and reaping the rewards of what you sow.
A herb garden, really?
It may sound ridiculous but if you persevere and produce healthy, flavorful herbs, you could have a successful small business on your hands.
For starters, where do you think nurseries get all their plants? They need reliable suppliers. If your herbs are up to scratch, you could find yourself with a regular client. Then there is fruit and produce markets and flea markets where pitches are relatively cheap to hire. In case you’ve never noticed, plant stalls are among the most popular. As long as you provide quality produce, you’ll have a loyal following.
A relatively hidden market contains alternative therapy practitioners and natural beauty therapists. Herbs are used in many alternative therapies and natural beauty therapists incorporate herbs into many of their products. Look for local businesses that make their own treatments and make the most of this untapped niche.
If you want to put in a little more effort, you can take some short courses and find out how to make your own herb-based alternative treatments and products, such as herbal shampoo, soap and even tea.
First of all, you need a decent amount of space to grow your herbs. Find an area that provides the best access to sunshine and shade and clear as much space as you’re willing to part with. Remember that different herbs have different space requirements, so demarcate suitable areas for each type of plant.
Prepare your soil. Loamy soil is best but you can improve the quality of your soil with various natural fertilizers, manure and compost (start making your own compost now and really get into the organic swing of things). Soil should drain well, yet retain moisture and nutrients (Eric Vinje, Planet Natural).
Decide which herbs you’re going to grow. Some of the most popular herbs include basil, coriander, thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley and oregano. If you want to corner the natural medicine/beauty market then you should consider aloe vera, marjoram, geranium, spearmint, chamomile, and lavender (Tess Pennington, Ready Nutrition).
Decide if you’re going to start off with seeds or cuttings. If you’re unsure about seeds (although instructions come on the back of the packet) you can get a head start with some seedlings from a nursery (with whom you’ll, hopefully, soon be doing business).
Ensure you have measures in place to protect your garden during winter, especially if you live in an area prone to frost and harsh winters. Vinje recommends a thick layer of organic mulch for hardier herbs and transplanting sensitive plants into containers that you can keep in your home.
Ensure that you harvest your herbs at the right time. Leaves, flowers, roots and seeds need to be harvested at very specific times in their life-cycles.
Find out how to dry herbs properly, so you can give your clients the option of dry or fresh herbs.
Growing herbs can be a good source of revenue, but spending time in the garden can also be spiritually rewarding. So, get planting now.
Written by Sandy Cosser for an education portal that promotes online TAFE courses in Australia.