What is Garden Mentoring?

In a nut shell, mentoring is advice and training that helps individuals make the best decisions regarding plant choice, landscape modification (including hardscape) and cultivation technique — helping the mentee understand what they should and should not consider doing; make more informed decisions (i.e., save money and time while learning a skill set). Ideally it involves a visit to the specific location, since every property is different, to assess contour (drainage), available light, blocking needs, soil structure and pH, condition of existing vegetation, et cetera. The mentoring starts with the assessee making and sharing a short (one side, one sheet of paper) pre-assessment overview (e.g., likes, dislikes, goals, priorities) — there is no charge for this. The onsite assessment usually takes 1-2 hours with guidance given on what should be considered, especially regarding extraction and what to avoid. However, the decision about what to do will rest with the property owner since they will be paying the mortgage, property taxes, as well as for the work and materials, and will be the ones living with (i.e., enjoying) the outcome. The mentees will be advised that having a great yard/garden is a process and NOT an event and that it is about the requirements of the plants and available habitat. If the plant(s) cannot survive or will get too big or require special treatment (high maintenance), you could be wasting money and time. Emphasis will be placed on purpose, plan, preparation, prioritization and patience, as well as playing the cards you were dealt (i.e., being objective and realistic). Advice may include, but is not limited to ornamentals, layout/design, vegetable gardening, fruits and berries, composting, mulching, pruning, plant identification, weeding, soil, invasive species, et cetera.


The goal is to provide the mentees access to advice that will help them make their property more beautiful, useful and safe, utilizing habitat appropriate species and environmentally sustainable practices. Mentees are advised to obtain, read and frequently consult Rantings of a Mad Botanist: A Comprehensive Guide to Gardening and Land Use Practices Emphasizing Central Indiana (McKnight, 2016).  See also CLASS

Everyone should have a landscape assessment BEFORE buying a property or undertaking additions/changes to their landscape — money well spent. See TESTIMONIALS. DO NOT presume a traditional home assessor is capable of providing the service. Moreover, be suspicious of advice provided by anyone promoting their own products or services.


As regards the mentoring or assessment, there will NOT be a contract. It is pay as you go with the fee project specific and expected at time of service. There is a base hourly rate depending on travel time/distance. The Mad Botanist WILL NOT be available to do the work he recommends (too busy, and usually too banged up, dealing with his own property as well as publishing and marketing books), but will provide advice on how to proceed. Nor does he make pretty elaborate drawings of potential layouts — frankly, he finds them largely to be a waste of money, and they can be pricey. [See also the Rantings book]

NOTE: This is a professional service and how I generate income to pay bills. Moreover, the payment does not constitute a retainer. I mention this because, while I entertain some follow-up Q&A, too many people have abused the privilege. As the saying goes, one bad apple can spoil a bushel.