Herbs are remarkably easy to grow, so they are a great option if you are looking to earn some extra money.
Setting yourself up need not be an expensive business; a small greenhouse or plastic tunnel will give you all the space you need, initially at least. If your little enterprise takes off, then you can expand into a bigger growing area. As with all new business enterprises, it’s far better to learn to walk before you run.
You will need herb seed of course, and a supply of pots. Try to source biodegradable pots; even though plastic ones are cheaper, they are not doing anything for the environment. Plant the seeds in organic compost without any other aids – except regular watering. Herbs really are that simple to grow.
Doing your Homework
There are thousands of herb producers out there. A visit to a farmer’s market will prove that, so it’s essential to offer something a bit different.
Don’t rush out and start growing herbs at random. Study your market. What sort of customers will be in your catchment area? Young mums on a budget or aspiring gourmet chefs? Organic allotment holders? Apartment dwellers with just a window box? If you are selling in an area with a strong ethnic community, try to find out what sort of herbs they use in their cooking. If you tailor your stock to a niche market, you will soon win yourself a strong customer base.
Are you going to sell potted herbs to transplant into gardens, or are you going to sell cut fresh herbs for culinary purposes? Pots of herbs are probably the best to start with as they are far less wasteful, but good profits can come from selling bunches of cut herbs as well. This is a sensible option if a number of your customers don’t have gardens or window boxes.
Your little herb stall must stand out from the crowd if you want to turn a decent profit. It may be fun to grow herbs and take them to market, but there must be some reward for your effort. Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme may have been fine for Simon and Garfunkel, but in these days of TV cookery shows and foreign travel, your herbs have to be more unusual and eye-catching. You also need to be slightly ahead of the game, so at the first mention of a new herb being used by a celebrity chef you need to find out more about it and source some seed.
Give some thought to the seasons. If you are selling cut herbs, be prepared to have the right ones for the Christmas turkey or the Easter lamb. Make sure you have plenty of basil for summer salads, and mint and borage for warm weather drinks.
Single pots of herbs will be the ‘bread and butter’ lines but consider making up small herb collections. They make great gifts, and they will retail for more money when potted up in an attractive wicker trough, or ceramic bowl. Just three or four herbs with a culinary or beauty link attractively presented in a container will add an extra dimension to your herb sales.
Herbal teas are still popular, so how about combining a collection of herbs suitable for making teas or tisanes such as lemon balm, camomile, fennel, spearmint, peppermint, or lemongrass?
Edible flowers added to salads are very chic right now, so a collection of borage, nasturtium, pot marigold, and bergamot would make a trendy summer addition to a gift range.
Rosemary, camomile, and lavender are good herbs for beauty treatments, or as hair rinses or bath infusions.
Customers will appreciate culinary hints, or herbal beauty tips for the herbs they have bought, so a printed leaflet laid out in an attractive, informative manner can add a professional touch to your little enterprise.
Invest in one or two display items. If you can make them yourself, so much the better, but if not look out for something that will make your stall stand out from the others. A couple of garden gnomes or a brightly painted watering- can will lift up your display, and perhaps start up a conversation with a prospective customer.
Arrange your pots in tiers; nothing is more boring than a flat trestle table of green plants, and it goes without saying that your herbs must be at the peak of perfection. Dried-up, tired looking plants just won’t sell, so leave those at home to recuperate, and if they are beyond hope, throw them out and sow some more.
Herb growing can be a pleasant way to earn some extra cash, and if your enterprise takes off, you may find yourself opening a herb center before long.