Starting a Nursery Business: Consider The Workload

One of the many things to consider when starting your own nursery business is the workload.  You probably really enjoy gardening (or else you wouldn’t even consider a nursery business!) but do you realize how much work goes into producing a plant for sale?  We aren’t just talking about one plant either.  We’re talking about lots of plants to make a decent income.

What kind of work is involved in starting a nursery business?

The obvious first job to talk about is propagating the plants.  Growing from seed, cuttings, and divisions are three easy ways for people to make more plants but consider how many plants you will need to produce.  After you think of your expenses per plant and calculate your profit per plant think about how many plants you need to produce to hit your goals.  Suppose you can make $4 per potted plant after expenses.  A goal of $1000 profit means you must sell 250 plants.  Now expand that to an income of say $40k and you need 10,000 plants!  That’s a significant crop.

Once you’ve produced your plants you have to take care of them which means regular watering, application of fertilizers, weeding, and pest prevention.  All of these activities take time and some take money for the equipment. You will have to lug around hoses or come up with a nice irrigation system to zonally cover your nursery.

Moving pots, trays, and planters takes some physical effort.  It can be very repetitive work. (Pick up plant, walk across nursery, set down plant, walk back, repeat…) Carts are helpful and if you have a large number of plants trailers are excellent too.

You have to label your plants in some fashion.  Writing 1000 labels for your plants isn’t fun.  At least I don’t think so.  Labeling printers can ease this some but most people don’t start off that way.  Hand written labels take time to put together and can be tedious.

Transporting the plants to markets or to other nurseries takes a lot of effort as well.  You will have to load and unload your goods at every location.  Trailer trucks with rolling plant carts are only accessible to the big guys for the most part who deliver to the box stores so your methods may have to be much lower tech and consequently result in harder work.

Marketing your product is essential.  How do people buy your plants if they don’t know they are there?  Either you will have to hire someone or you will need to find routes to communicate your products.  Facebook (The Home Garden, Blue Shed Gardens, Home Garden Box) is one free method but has its challenges.  Other social media sites can be effective too if used properly. Craigslist, newspapers, and other classified type services also can work but all of it takes time to set up – and – maintain a presence.

Accounting is also essential.  You have to keep track of expenses and profit.  Both of which then need to be reported for tax purposes.

I’m not trying to discourage you from starting a nursery business at all. Just go into it with your eyes wide open for the work that is involved.  Start small and build your business as you are able to with as low of a risk as possible.  Don’t ever let your gardening business become a chore!

More from the Starting a Nursery Business Series from Growing The Home Garden