Shut Up and Dig

Help Grow some Gardeners –
Start Coaching Now!

But not everyone calling themselves a gardening coach just sprang into action three weeks ago. The coach at GardenMentors.com was featured in the article, and the domain name TheGardenCoach.co.uk takes you to the site of a landscaper in England.  There’s also GardenCoach.com,
and if you can find the coach’s name anywhere on that site, let me
know.  All sorts of qualifications are revealed, however, including her
employment by DavesGarden.com (not surprisingly listed as her favorite
gardening site).

And since writing about coaching myself I’ve learned that Pam Penick
in Austin and Billy Goodnick in Santa Barbara do a bit of garden
coaching on the side.  Billy calls these one-time consults a "brain
dump." Stuart Robinson in Australia – same deal.

So here’s something new on the coaching front:  I’ve contacted
everyone I could find working as a gardening coach or mentor and
offered to list them on my site’s new Worldwide Directory of Gardening Coaches.
Not because I’m all that eager to give free web advertising to total
strangers but because I’d really like to see this coaching thing take
off.  It’s SO NEEDED. 

  • Take the first-time homebuyers who’ve acquired a yard with
    their new house and doesn’t know  a weed from a keeper or anything at
    all about taking care of all that alien green stuff out their back door.
  • Take the vast majority of homeowners who have no idea how to prune their shrubs and small trees.  Evidence of this is rampant.
  • Take the actual case of a nongardener who ventured out to the local nursery, bought 50 or so assorted plants (and I do mean assorted), and called me two months later because he
    had no idea where to plant them.  Or how to plant them.  Or how to water them (and it was now mid-summer, of course.)

Gardeners, how long did it take YOU to produce a garden you’re proud
of?  It took years of actually gardening, right?  We know that
gardening isn’t learned by reading or sitting in classrooms.  We know
that HGTV is no help at all.  We know that Master Gardener training
just scratches the surface, despite the misleading name.  We know that
nurseries don’t offer much help, certainly not enough help for the
newbies who wake up one Saturday in June and decide to go buy
themselves a garden.

So experienced gardeners of the world, help them out! Offer
your services, create not just gardens but gardeners, and make some
extra money while you’re at it.  YOU ARE DESPERATELY NEEDED.  I’m not
kidding.  Use Craig’s List.  Get included on my Directory.  If you’re
not sure your services are worth anything, start out cheap (I started
at $35 an hour) and raise your rates as you gain experience and
confidence.  I think you’ll be surprised how valuable your guidance and
hands-on instruction really are to the clueless public.

And why aren’t nurseries offering these services, or at least
publicizing the availability of independent coaches to help turn
homeowners into regular customers?  I’m going to go right over to Open Register,
the blog of the retail nursery industry, and suggest they do just
that.  Nurseries are INTIMIDATING places for beginners.  Imagine if
there were someone to lead them through the process of not just
choosing plants but going home with them to show these poor folks where
and how to plant them.  Then tell them the part they’re always shocked
to hear – that they have to water the damn things or they’ll up and
die.  After which, the customer returns to the nursery for their
guaranteed replacement plant, of course. (Man, that’s gotta gall
nurserypeople!)

Now it’s time for the Answer.  1 and 2 are correct because the handful of garden coaches in the world were reported on, and the story created more of them.  But how about number 3, pack journalism?  For this gardening coach the Times
story has led to an upcoming feature on "CBS Sunday Morning" and a
story by the wire service Agence France-Presse, and I bet the other
coaches in the original story have experienced similar journalistic
pilings-on.  And for a story like this it’s a good thing.  (When covering people in power, not so much.)

So unless you’d be competing with me in the Washington, D.C. area, drop me a line and get listed – quick, before the next wave of garden-coaching publicity.  Let’s ride this wave as far as it’ll take us.  Email me.

Photo: Taken just this morning of Kirra Jarratt – an outstanding garden coachee – singing the praises of garden coaching to Agence France-Presse reporter Virginie Montet (who hired me to consult at her own garden tomorrow morning.)  I’ll tell the story of Kirra’s garden soon.  Hint: A gardener was born!

Posted by on July 7, 2007 at 6:18 am, in the category Shut Up and Dig.
Comments are off for this post

18 Responses to “Help Grow some Gardeners –
Start Coaching Now!”

  1. So as the “coach” you get to tell the people what to do and then they do it themselves, you don’t do it for them? I just may have to put out a garden coach shingle. I have a new house to build. I may learn new things about my new zone faster that way.

  2. kelly says:

    Eh, my trackbacks never work…

    so glad you posted this, it’s given me some great food for thought as I enter yet another transition in my work.

  3. karen says:

    This is an interesting concept. Although I must admit after coming home from a long day at the garden centre where I work, I am so tired of talking to prople who have forgotten how to listen. No one wants to admit that they did something wrong ie: not watering or planting too deep. We almost have to word questions to customers so they don’t get the correct answer right away. Sounds terrible but it seems to be the only way to get information about their watering methods (or lack thereof). So, I think that maybe this concept of garden coaching is a wonderful thing. Hope it makes a difference.

  4. Curtis says:

    Interesting, A gardening coach would be a great thing for for folks that do not have a clue about growing anything. These type of people will spray anything that moves on their plants and ask questions later.

    Hope this takes off.

  5. Peter Hoh says:

    This morning, a neighbor asked me to help create a garden in her back yard. I’m still not sure if I’m just coaching or I’ll be doing some (or most) of the grunt work, too.

    But I don’t feel ready to call myself a garden coach and hang out a shingle. Maybe after a few years, but not yet.

    I’d been thinking about taking the county Master Gardener program. Whenever I take a question to one of their booths at the Farmers’ Market, I usually stump them. While they plow through their reference books, I wonder if I would get much out of the program. Better to hire myself out as a grunt worker to a more experienced gardener, I think.

    Now, got a directory of little old lady gardeners in St. Paul who would like a some help in exchange for gardening know-how?

  6. It used to be that our garden coaches were our mothers, fathers and grandparents. Now everyone lives so far away, we need to find other support systems. Gardening coaches are a great way to give that extra support and encouragement that you can’t get from a book. I certainly wish I had one when I was starting out!

    Great idea on the directory!

    –Robin (Bumblebee)

  7. Neil says:

    What a great idea. I am a former nursery owner/operator and still have people request information about plants and their garden. I don’t want to put the time and effort into landscaping for them(I have enough to do in my own garden)this is something to think about. I specialized in Australian plants.

    Good luck to you and what you’ve done

  8. I have to put a little wee plug in for public gardens – especially places (like Blithewold) that design gardens with education (coaching) in mind. Don’t know what to plant? Go to your local public garden and check out what works for them! Talk to the gardeners – we might have a thought or two (and guess what? – aside from the price of admission (usually a measly $10 or so) our advice is free! I’m certainly not knocking coaching as a biz and totally worth the $$ for a newbie but public gardens are a terrific resource and the more we’re used by gardeners and gardener wannabees, the longer we’ll be able to keep doing what we do.

  9. Charles says:

    Great article. I’m retired now and mostly write about gardening, green lifestyles and sustainability. I wouldn’t want to coach one-on-one. But as a Master Gardener, I could certainly be an eCoach.

  10. Mariwood says:

    I think I’m the first newbie to post a comment and find this to be a wonderful idea. A Master Gardener would be a great resource for a person like me, only with money to acquire such an advisor. What’s the going rate? It’s my first year gardening, leaving me with many questions about inherited plants, happy bugs vs. pests, fertilizing strategies, organic strategies, etc. It’s really why I started my own blog, so that I could get advice from those who know more and share what I’ve learned with people in similar situations. Maybe some day years from now and with all the help I get, I will learn to be a Master Gardener, too.

    P.S. I am in the MD-DC area, too, and glad to find your local blogs. Yea!

  11. Ellen Leigh says:

    Thanks for including me in your directory! Now I’m off to Craigslist!

  12. Lisa says:

    What a great thing to promote! I’m a botanical garden educator (I guess I’m already functioning as a ‘gardening coach’) who focuses a great deal of time on sustainable gardening practices, as well as being a keen habitat gardener at home. I so agree that we need to get past the HGTV approach, and the horticultural industry’s mass marketing, and get out there and learn about plants and enjoy the insects visiting the flowers, etc. etc. and create gardens full of life and ecological balance — beautiful and sustaining.

  13. Mike K. says:

    What category do I look under in “Craig’s List” to find Gardening Coaches. Newbie to this. I’m in the Milwaukee, WI Market. Thanks, Mike.

  14. susan harris says:

    ah, good question. I’d search under services generally, if possible. I know other coaches have listed themselves with Craig becuase I’ve found them there after Googling “garden coach”. Try it and do what they did!

  15. Cat Boyd says:

    What a great idea, I have been a gardener for over 25 years, now mostly I due fine pruning, Japanese gardens, english, and amarican styles, topiaries ect. planting, nurturing, and maintaining perennial beds, but also have done some consulting. I would love to put my name on your list but I dont know how to get past the blank page of the login passport. I love my work with plants and people, but I am not computer savy. Bless you for this effort, Seattle Gardener Cat Boyd

  16. susan harris says:

    Cat, just write me (susanATsustainable-gardening.com) with 150 words or fewer about your service. check the Worldwide Directory of Gardening Coaches for the general format (minimal) and to see what others have written. I’ll put it on the list for you.

  17. Rebecca Shepard says:

    When I used to work at a nursery about 6-7 years ago in Eugene OR, there was a woman who used to do something similar to what a garden coach does – although it was not called that then. I always thought that her job was something that I wanted to aspire to. I loved educating the public and helping them with their plants and gardening question. I thought it would be great to have a job doing that for individuals like she did.

    Several years have past since then and now I have a 17 month old daughter – and with motherhood – I have found – you loose most of your memory and your career goes on the back burner for a while. So I am hoping as my daughter grows I can get back into the swing of things – as I am very excited about starting down this road of being a garden coach in the near future. Good luck to all of you who are as excited as me to see this wonderful opportunity sprout up and to share our knowledge and enthusiasum with others.

  18. I am constantly amazed at how small this big world can be– We have not meet, but we do have a connection. Buffalo and Takoma Park.

    I was just in Buffalo (I am a Buffalo native, have been in Florida for 14 yrs) and did the Garden Walk while I was there.
    I just checked out your cooperative blog Garden Ranters. First I clicked on Elizabeth Licata’s name, I had just seen her garden. Next, I clicked on your name.

    Light bulb went off!

    I read about you in the NYTimes. What a great article, what a revelation.
    I never knew what I was doing was called Garden Coaching. But after I read the article about you, I began to call myself along with a few other titles, a Garden Coach.

    I am also Queen of The Garden Fairies (an artistic gardening club/ coop in Tampa Bay FL with 420 members, going on 10 yrs) http://www.wedigdoinit.com
    as well as a landscape designer, artist/ muralist, obsessive mosaic maven, gardening activist and ahh yeah…. an art director/ creative director for ad agencies (first career).

    When I was in Buffalo I was Jim Charlier’s (President of Garden Walk Buffalo) supervisor for a spell. Jim and I are two peas in a pod, both being art directors with a bad case of the Fleur Bug.

    Art directors make great gardening activist– we have the graphic talents to promote gardening in multitude of mediums. Just check out Jim’s gorgeous art direction in the book he collaborated on “Garden Walk Buffalo” to see how he was able promote his passion.

    Three cheers for my fellow plant nuts and activists- may we prosper and proliferate. Pester your neigbhors to get off the couch, ditch the lawn and get into diggin’ doin’ it.

    Happy Growin’
    Siobhan Nehin
    Queen of The Garden Fairies
    http://www.wedigdoinit.com

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