Archive for Monday, March 5, 2012


Going on vacation? Hire a sitter for your garden

March 5, 2012


Garden sitting

For more about garden sitters, see this University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science fact sheet.

Gardeners don’t have to remain housebound during the vacation season just because their edibles and flowers need tending. Find a sitter to handle the work.

Keep your must-do list simple, though. Few plant minders are willing to do windows or the laundry.

“The job depends upon what they have in their yards and how long they’ll be gone,” said Caryn Sommersdorf, who operates Green Garden Sitters in Orlando, Fla. “A vegetable garden may need to be checked every day. A flower garden, not so much.”

Sommersdorf and partner Jennifer Richardson perform the typical seasonal gardening chores - weeding and watering, mowing and harvesting.

“We’ll also bring in the mail. Turn the lights off and on to make it look like somebody’s home. We’ll fertilize and prune and care for our clients’ pets, too,” she said. “But we’re not going to clean or paint the house.”

Sommersdorf got into the garden-sitting business a few years ago after asking a friend to take care of her tomatoes while she was away.

“I asked her to water the plants, but she didn’t think about picking them, and the plants were a mess when I came home,” she said. “They had worms everywhere. Fruit flies. It took them a while to produce again.”

Reliable plant sitters can provide peace of mind for vacationing gardeners, Sommersdorf said. They also can save them money.

“Florida has a lot of ‘snowbirds’ (winter residents) who go away for half a year and come back and all their landscaping is dead,” she said. “That’s quite an investment lost.”

Gardeners going on vacation should create a chores checklist, and arrange for an interview and plant tour with prospective sitters well before departing. Show them where the hoses, pruners and other tools are kept and demonstrate how they work. Offer up the edibles when they ripen, and point out your favorite flowering plants to ensure they are not weeded out.

“Design a watering program. Group your container plants so they’re easier to work with. Timers can be great on hoses but be sure you have someone around who can keep an eye on them for you,” said Robin Haglund, president of Garden Mentors Inc. in Seattle, who frequently is asked how to prep plants for trips.

You may want to provide your own supplies, too, such as fertilizers and pest-control products if you’re into organic gardening, she said.

Garden sitters also can serve as temporary managers of a property, said Jack McKinnon, who operates a business called The Garden Coach in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“Some people hire maintenance services for their yards,” he said. “Some of these crews come at odd hours and need to be held accountable for what they do.”

McKinnon suggested a few ways to find garden sitters: “Go online. Look for ads in the paper under ‘Landscape Gardeners.’ I doubt it’s all that difficult to find knowledgeable people looking for garden work in this economy.”


Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 months ago

A new industry for Lawrence green thumbs spring,summer and fall.

I would suggest $17.50 an hour ....... be honest. These would be good customers for years.

Hot Kansas temps would make this business an absolute success.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 10 months ago

Do you pay $17.50 an hour for any job someone does for you, merrill? You've also suggest that as a minimum wage for when the government hires absolutely everybody. How did you arrive at that figure?

newmedia 5 years, 10 months ago

We use the "old" industry called helping your neighbors and we do it out of the goodness of our hearts! Sorry merrill, that is priceless and not government regulated.

littlexav 5 years, 10 months ago

Sure, in some neighborhoods that works great, and growing up we'd do things like that for our neighbors all the time (we all had keys and garage door openers for each other, too, and did pet-sitting as well as garden-tending). But this isn't Norman Rockwell's America any more, and I don't trust even a single person in my current neighborhood with a key to my house. Which, in retrospect, means I probably shouldn't trust a stranger I met on Craigslist, either...

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