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Courtesy Kathy Green
Garden coach Kathy Green helps people who want to spruce up bare home gardens with the help of a professional.
Working with a Garden Coach
Central Indiana garden coach Debbie Clark also offers education and information when working with clients. In addition, she helps with long-term maintenance for some clients; those who find they can’t keep up with the care of their garden.
She gives ideas, identifies plants, teaches maintenance strategies and works side-by-side with clients on projects. She focuses on building client skills, including plant maintenance, fertilization, pruning, deadheading and understanding the needs of individual plants.
While Harris may only see a client one or two times total, Clark may visit on a regular basis throughout the growing season. She has clients who travel for work and don’t have time for regular maintenance. Some she visits once per week, while others she may only see once per month or a couple of times throughout the growing season.
“I have customers who manage the daily and weekly weeding who still want a monthly thorough weeding visit,” Clark explains. She also accommodates and supports the short-term needs of clients.
“They may need to improve their curb appeal to sell their home,” Clark says. “Others are moving to retirement communities and haven’t maintained their yard in some time. They need flowers, mulch and the addition of several plants. One client moved to Texas, and I’m maintaining the gardens until the house is sold.”
Clark has clients who have committed to schedules based on seasons as well as month to month. Each client’s needs are different, so she focuses on getting to know them individually to best serve their goals and garden visions.
Many of Green’s clients are people who have relocated to Colorado and don’t know the plant zone. They’re learning to grow things with a different amount of moisture. She spends time with clients on the phone asking questions and learning about what they want. Some choose a full-blown scale drawing of their garden’s plan, while others walk the yard with her to choose a design focus for the season.
Working with a garden coach is unlike choosing a landscaping company. Instead of a crew coming in and installing an entire garden in a day or two, garden coaches enable homeowners an affordable solution for building garden spots in their yard over time.
Courtesy Kathy Green
Kathy Green helped transform a bare garden (see above photo) into a garden full of plants that adapt well to the region.
Building Confidence in the Garden
For clients Hayden and Wright, working with a garden coach was an empowering and confidence-building experience.
“If I had tried to do this on my own, without knowing any gardening, I wouldn’t have been successful,” Hayden says. “I wouldn’t have this beautiful English flower garden that I dreamed of. Now, when I see a plant in someone else’s yard I like, I go to the door and ask the name of it. Then I consult with Kathy [Green], and we decide if it’s right for my garden.”
Wright feels a sense of accomplishment about her gardening efforts, too.
“Doing it on my own was tough; it didn’t happen overnight like it would have had I hired a landscaping crew. And, now I know all the plants I have and know how to take care of them, too. The benefit is choosing plants that fit your own goals, not just what’s on special with a landscaper. Susan invites clients to her own garden where she gives away plant cuttings and splits. She involved me, and that was important.”
Through Green, Hayden has learned about soil mixes—digging up the front yard to supplement the soil. She has laid flagstone, planted flowers and learned about garden layout. When new plants arrive, Green and Hayden work together to plant them. Not only has Hayden extended her growing experiences, she teaches her students about gardening from what she’s learned.
“I live in the neighborhood where I teach,” Hayden explains. “I’ve worked a [great] deal with parents of my students. In exchange for tutoring, their children help me with my garden. Last week, I had a child over and taught him how to plant. He was so excited to show his mother what he’d planted in Mrs. Hayden’s garden.”
Students have learned to plant, rake and dig. Last spring, two brothers helped Hayden treat her yard for voles. Another student, whose father runs a mowing company, has taken on her lawn as his first mowing project. Now, when the doorbell rings, Hayden finds students and parents bringing her plants. Her English garden dream continues to grow as it becomes a community garden project in her neighborhood.
Find a Garden Coach
Garden coaching is a fairly rare business venture. Not long after Harris launched her business, she decided to cultivate an online directory of garden coaches. Organized by state, potential clients can find a garden coach in their area, preview their gardening experience, read their profile, and find links to websites and blogs. Many garden coaches write locally or nationally about gardening in general as well as strategies specific to their planting zone.
“Ask questions about the gardening coach’s background,” advises Green. “They need to have a good understanding of plants in your area. It’s like picking a personal trainer—pick someone you can relate to and have fun with. Pick someone who understands your gardening goals.” Ask potential coaches about their own specialties, interests and on-going training. Are they a member of organizations that educate them about plants and gardening trends? Do they attend conferences?
Ask for references. Interview clients they’ve worked with in the past. Green, Harris and Clark invite potential clients to see their own gardens. This is a great way to see their work while getting ideas for what might work in your garden spaces.
About the Author: Deb Buehler is a professional writer who grew up on a hobby farm in central Indiana where she gardened, raised animals and developed a deep love for the environment. Today she lives in Indianapolis with her husband, Craig, and they grow vegetables, keep bees and play with their dogs, Abby and Tucker.
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