Garden-Variety Problems? Put Your Business Savvy to Work

How to apply and boost your business savvy in your garden

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It's bad enough when you run into problems with a work project, but do you really need these kinds of challenges in your garden?

Let's flip that outlook on its head. Garden challenges are great opportunities to both boost and apply your business skills. They force you to observe, gather data, use your resources, experiment, expand your patience and creativity, and persevere. What's more, garden work lets you learn to live as part of a complex ecosystem, where distinct partnerships can be mutually beneficial. 

Are you starting to see how gardening makes business sense? Me too. In fact, I built my whole business around it. Let's attack some common garden problems, and apply our business sense to solving them:

1. Wrong plant, wrong place. Doesn't this sound like a human resources problem? Move that completely fish-out-of-water artist from the accounting department to the advertising group, and watch her blossom. Plants are no different. They all have favorite environments for flourishing. If you have a plant that's not happy or productive, research its soil and sun needs and see if it may simply need an internal transfer to another "department" in your garden.

2. Getting eaten alive by the competition. Are all you sales and marketing folks nodding in recognition? You know how this feels—not good. If you have a weak product in some way, then your competitors are going to swoop in on you and knock you out. This sounds like what happens with a weak plant. The next thing you know, bugs are attacking it, it can't fight off diseases, and it withers on the vine.

Your best defense: a strong offense. Build healthy soil that feeds plants the mix of nutrients they need to grow strong, enhance your plants regularly with compost and other soil-boosters, pick off predators and dead leaves frequently, choose companion plants that naturally deter pests and enhance growing conditions, and help keep your plants strong enough to ward off predators and diseases better.

3. Bit off more than you can chew. You know that project the boss wants done by the end of the month that has turned into a living, breathing beast that eats up every last minute of your time? Well, let's not let your garden become a project management nightmare.

It can happen innocently enough. You put in one little garden bed, then add another bed for garlic, and how about one for onions, and while we're at it, we might as well put in some long rows for carrots, a permanent bed for strawberries, and another for artichokes and asparagus. Oh sure, all this fresh produce is lovely, but did you forget that you travel two weeks out of the month and eat out for business half the time at home? Yes, I know you thought you'd donate the excess to the food pantry, and that's a very noble objective, but if your beds are all overrun with weeds, you haven't nourished your soil in months, and, frankly, you completely missed the planting dates for the latest season; well, this project is not being managed very well, is it?

Don't feel bad—sometimes you have to exceed the limit to find out where the limit even is. But once you know, scale back, do a small bit well rather than a whole lot poorly, and ask for or hire help when you need it. There are companies that can help you with both services and supplies. Just like at the office, use your resources.

Shift your perspective to see garden problems as business challenges. You'll use your business smarts to realize solutions for these "garden-variety" problems, and learn new skills in your garden that you can take with you to work. Who knows, you may even nab yourself a promotion from all the growing—literally and figuratively—you're doing in the garden.

Tap in next week, and I'll share with you some tips for getting rid of the weeds in our gardens, and in our lives.

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Daron Joffe is a 30-something eco-entrepreneur who lives to make a difference in the world one homegrown organic fruit and vegetable at a time. Known as "Farmer D," Joffe has grown food for celebrities, private communities, and elementary schools in his "town-by-town mission to re-energize the food culture." His products are sold at select Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma stores. Born in South Africa and based in Atlanta, Farmer D is online at www.farmerD.com.