I Know How Your Garden Grows

A little known fact about me: I spent two full summers of my life running my own gardening business.

It paid the University bills (mostly), which almost make the fact that I gave myself some wicked carpel tunnel worth it. (That, and the fact that because I spent so much time in the sun, I went from being the perpetual red-head that never tanned, to the pale person who now manages to get a vague glow… In retrospect, I think tanning for me was a “learned” behavior… I just had to coax it out.)

Last year’s glory.

The summer prior to “Emily’s Lawn and Garden Business”, I worked at a garden center. I put the little knowledge I gained working there to use. As it turns out, if you are going to be “a gardener for hire”, it helps to know how to adequately, water, feed and plant in appropriate shade/sun.

“The business” got a kick start when I was printing up some flyers at a copy shop in a nearby town. Someone in line waiting for the copier asked if I would do some work for them. After I put out the flyers, I got a call asking if I aerated lawns (I didn’t). But, this shortcoming didn’t matter in the end because after the first request in the copy shop, I didn’t need any more than word of mouth to get a garden gig. Turns out, people like flower beds, but they rarely have the energy or time to take care of them.

I can’t take credit for this one. I just put it in a pot.

Throughout these two summers, I managed dozens of customers within a hundred kilometer radius. I weeded in 40 degree heat + humidity. I was asked to rip out (rather uproot) an entire row of wild rose bushes that had been let go for probably upwards of two decades (Do you know how hard it is to uproot a wild rose bush, period?). I had creepy men spy at me through binoculars from adjacent yards. One week, I spent a lot of time digging out someone’s garlic chives (The garlic festered in the heat of my no-airconditioning car seats for weeks after that.) I got a huge riding lawnmower stuck in a ditch (I used my 115 lb frame to frantically push it out before anyone could notice). I weeded an entire private vineyard in Prince Edward Wine County. I got heat stroke. I worked long, hard days, always alone, tending to other people’s flower beds and lawns. There were many hours spent with my thoughts and black flies.


It’s hard (for me anyway) when you are gardening to keep yourself from singing that old nursery rhyme, “Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” I made my own version by grumbling, “Mary doesn’t know how her garden grows, I do.”

At the end of the end of one summer, I went to a nail salon for a pedicure. There was just no sense in getting one before I was done for the season. The poor Asian manicurist working on my feet said… “oooo, wha you do to yo feet?” and then just kept shaking her head as she worked away at the layers of callused summer garden skin. (Embarrassing.)

Last weekend marked the (unofficial) kick-off of planting season in Ontario.

When we moved into our house, the garden in my backyard was limited to the area around the patio. Pffft!! They had no idea who they were dealing with.

Move in state. Note the end of the garden at the edge of the patio.

I ripped up the grass along the fence and made myself a little spot to grow things. And then, because there still wasn’t enough room, I went the rest of the length of the yard.

I’m the crazy suburbanite, ripping out her grass.

A well-known fact: a garden grows when it’s watered (so do people for that matter). I know how your garden grows.

So how does my garden grow? My garden grows when it’s told to do so. That’s the arrangement we’ve worked out in return for all my service to other peoples flower beds.


8 thoughts on “I Know How Your Garden Grows

  1. I love the idea. Did you ever take on other employees? Did people sometimes question your knowledge? (I’ve worked in a garden centre. Some people seemed to never believe the young, female cashier, about the fertilizer until the older man came over and confirmed I was right. It was annoying.)
    Any info you can give me would be great 🙂

    • Oh my gosh, how much time do you have? : ) So many things to offer up. The employee question came up when I was nearing the end of my second year. By this point, I could have definitely taken on some help, but I decided to call it quits after the second summer. Start small, put a sign up at the garden center, libraries, retirement centres, seniors drop in centres. Seniors are a HUGE market for this type of work… also they love young girls because we’re friendly, and they trust us… it’s the gender card, and it’s true 🙂 Word of mouth will honestly carry you through your first year. Charge a minimum of $20/ hour. Also… watch that you don’t hurt your wrists… constant gardening can be tough on you.
      Thanks for the comment and good luck!

      • Thank you for the tips! Perhaps next year I’ll take on the challenge. There are a lot of seniors around here who have large gardens to care for. The wrist thing is something to keep in mind, I haven’t come across it in my own gardening, but I’m sure it could be a problem if I bugger them up.

        Thanks again 🙂

      • Well, I live in an apartment building surrounded by cement. But I do have a basil plant by my window, that is dying a slow death. I’m trying my hardest, and failing miserably.

      • It does makes me feel better. But I’m still sad. I don’t think it was a good idea to name it. Poor Archibald….

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