Gardening Know-how as Currency –
Barter, Anyone?


by Susan
On a budget?  (A nice way of saying "cheap" or "underemployed" or, in my case, both.)  Then try bartering your gardening advice or labor for services you need.  My adventures in bartering started with my friend Dan, who’s a professional computer-guy.  In exchange for fixing my many tech problems he got not just my off-the-cuff suggestions for landscaping his new building but the collective advice of blog commenters, so he thinks he got a really good deal.  Then, following Elizabeth’s suggestion, I went to CraigsList to offer "gardening consultation for website consultation" and found a winner.  I ultimately hired him to set up my website and turn it back over to me, the technophobe, using a Dummies-friendly program to upload the content.Barter375

Then recently after I’d spent a morning helping my wonderful neighbor create a wildlife garden, she asked what she could barter in return and suggested cooking for me.  (It’s true I don’t cook, but I didn’t realize it it was so obvious.)  Her idea was that occasionally she’d cook up some extra for me when cooking for her family.  Sounds good, I said.  Then I got really ballsy.  "Um, some of my high school girlfriends are coming for lunch and I WAS going to do carry-out…." I hint.  "Great!" she exclaims, "I’ll cater!" 

And cater she did.  A full Tex-Mex meal to die for.  Recipes were demanded!  Imagine avocado soup, green pepper strada, apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, and a cool salad I can’t even describe.  Here are Margaret, Rick and Lucas delivering the feast just hours before my guests arrived.

For me, barter doesn’t just save money.  It takes me back to small-town life in the spirit of barn-raising and all that good stuff that real communities are so famous for.  (I grew up in a central Virginia town called Bon Air and yes, the air was good and so were the neighbors.)  And for self-styled but long-subdued subversives like myself, barter has the added appeal of screwing the taxman, so what’s not to love?

So, is bartering your gardening know-how working for anybody else?  Let’s hear it!  In my brazenness I once offered to barter for physical therapy treatments (and what middle-aged gardener doesn’t need a PT on retainer?) but she didn’t bite.  I’ll keep trying, though.


  1. A woman after my own heart! I’ve exchanged design time for physical therapy sessions, orthodontics, meals…so many things through the years. We do have a valuable knowledge base to offer others. I like your Craig’s List idea Susan.

  2. I’m cutting back out-of-control wild grape and old climbing roses for food, 1-3 hours per week.
    (And follow the link in there).

    I can’t help but think I’m getting the better deal.

    In addition to clean-up duties, I’m also sharing my spare bulbs, and her garden is a great place to utilize the plants I buy from the nursery’s 50% off section that are just too good to let go to waste; salvias, heliotrope, columbine.

  3. I was one of the lucky high school friends who enjoyed that delicious “bartered” lunch–totally yummy from start to finish! A garden tour and lunch–what more could I have asked for on a beautiful fall afternoon? Also, this was my first visit to Takoma Park–loved it! Thanks for a great time, Susan!

  4. I am a garden designer/landscaper and have bartered for regular massage therapy sessions, building materials, and carpentry work. I try to do this work in my ” off season” and it is a great deal for everyone.

  5. I tried to barter a discount on a window treatment from a neighbor who does custom orders, but she didn’t bite either. I will certainly try again with someone else sometime.

  6. I’m all about trading. I’m a freelance writer, so I work on brochures and other things in exchange for whatever I can get. This week I got parent/tot swimming lessons and a three month swim pass. I love the idea of trading gardening advice!

  7. Spouse makes wine, which he gives to friends and family. This weekend we got 2 pies from his aunt (pie baker extrodinaire). We have had home butchered meat, garden produce and fresh fruit (to make more wine). It is fun.

  8. I’ve been Bartering for a couple years now for small projects with the magazine – I went to Google and found some local Barter groups but they are ona whole level that I’m not quite ready for yet.
    When I finally broke down and got a tax acct this year Iwas informed that bartering IS income and must be accounted for to the IRS. So warning to all you happy barterers out there – keep careful records of the realtive costs of your exchanges.

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