Plant Nursery Starter Course



By ACS Distance Education on June 10, 2019 in Business and Management & Gardening | comments


Size of Site

You don’t need a lot of space to start up a small nursery – many people have achieved it in a small backyard. There are viable commercial nurseries operating out of backyards with as little as 400 square metres of space devoted to plants. Some of these backyard businesses generate enough income to support a family, but good management is particularly critical for businesses where space is at a premium. Many of the largest nurseries started out as small backyard operations. 

The amount of land required for successful operation can vary from 0.1 hectare (1/4 acre) up to hundreds of hectares. The amount of land you acquire may depend on the following:

  • Cost of land: you may have to compromise your ideals for what you can afford.
  • Availability of land: you may be unable to get the exact size you want. For example, if you need a 1 hectare (2.5 acre) lot, land might only be selling in 2 hectare (5 acre) lots in your preferred locality.
  • Spacing and size of plants: consider the final pot size prior to sale and the space required between plants.
  • The proposed output of plants: you will need to estimate the maximum numbers of plants in the nursery at any one time.
  • Space required for buildings, storage areas, roads, paths, car parks, dams, waste management facilities.

Propagation nurseries and tissue culture operations generally require less space because the plants don't take up much room and they don't need to be kept and grown on for long before they are sold. There are a large number of plants produced with respect to space used in these nurseries, and a high income per unit area. Nurseries which deal with very valuable collectors’ plants (such as rare plants, bonsai, carnivorous plants and orchids) may also require less space than other nurseries because they are able to generate more money per plant.

Retail nurseries can vary in size from a small shop in a suburban shopping centre up to a large regional garden centre that may be five or more hectares in size. Retail nurseries with a fast turnover of plants need less space because they don't need room to hold or store plants for lengthy periods between sales. 

Advanced plant nurseries generally require considerable space as plants can be grown for years either in containers or in-ground before being sold. Nurseries that grow grafted plants or advanced trees in field rows will require at least one hectare of land as a minimum to be a viable operation.

What Else Will You Need Room For?

For plant propagation you will need: secateurs, sharp knife, wheelbarrow, hoses and sprayers, and punnets and pots. You will also need to purchase seeds, disinfectant, propagating and potting mixes, and hormone preparations. A small garden shed is enough to store these items. 

In a small space you won’t be able have large quantities of materials delivered – but potting medium, one tonne at a time, is still achievable. You will need a space with enclosed sides and a lid and a concrete floor to store it. 

You will need a clean bench for preparing the cuttings and sowing seeds, a protected area for the cuttings and germinating seeds, and a larger outdoor area for hardening off and growing on the potted plants. 

Later, you may decide you need more sophisticated equipment such as a greenhouse with a heated propagation unit and misting system, a plastic poly house and shade house. 

Planning Restrictions

Various government authorities have control over the way land can be used. Planning departments in both local and state/county governments can in fact stop a nursery from being operated in some locations and under some conditions. The worst nightmare for any business person is to have a profitable business closed down or forced to restrict its operations because the necessary permits were not’t obtained at the outset.

Obviously you can’t operate a retail nursery from your home in a suburban setting but you can grow plants to sell from other venues or to retail or wholesale nurseries. 

Before you start up or buy any nursery, you should check that it is located in an area where a nursery is allowed to operate. If buying, your purchase contract should state ‘subject to appropriate planning permits’ or an equivalent phrase depending on the country you are living in. 

Some local government organisations zone areas of land and only allow certain activities to be carried out in each area.  For example, in residential areas it may be illegal to operate a nursery business.  Always check with your local government authority prior to setting up a nursery that your intended land use is acceptable in the area.