Starting out

steve421(Tn)November 11, 2005

Hi all I have enjoyed reading your forum and how happy people seem to be doing something they love. I am considering selling veggie plants to some mom and pop market places...I plan to start small and not make much of a profir..If I break even this year I will be happy..I want to start small due to not having a lot to invest in a nursery right now..I have a small GH which I have learned to utilize the space really well...and I love there any advice anyone could share with a newbie ...I appreciate youur advice in advance


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I dont have much advice, for I am a newbie at this also. This was my first year with veggie plants. All I can say at this point, is dont be discouraged. I have found that alot of people are set in their ways, as to where they buy things from. But they do eventually come around.
Dont give up, and Best of Luck to You!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 8:32AM
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As they say, 'follow your dream'.

I have found that to make your dreams come true you have to work hard at it.

My dream job hasn't come through for me yet because I haven't put enough effort into it , so instead I settle for being a landscape designer, which I have put a lot of effort into and it pays the bills and keeps me relatively satisfied.

Maybe I should stop putting so much effort into my landscape designer job and put more effort into my dream job : Being a Trophy Wife .

But the truth of the matter is I am really not that much of a prize.
However I do have ample breasts so maybe I could be the boobie prize.

Any Trophy husbands out there looking for a boobie prize ?

moral of the story ? ,
well I don't think that there is one, but if there is maybe it might involve settling for a bobbie prize if the real dream job doesn't come through.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 5:33PM
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well mich_in_zonal_denial ...... truth be dream job has always been to be a porno star.... though, I probably em not ample enough.... well maybe, well never mind....beter off planting perennial seeds.....

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 6:28PM
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LOL Walkin away........... hahahahahhaha

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 10:06PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

If you switch your major crops to cucumbers, zucchinis and carrots, we'll understand why.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 12:39PM
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agnellok(Z9 So. Calif)

LOL,made my day..............Thanks I needed that.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 5:42PM
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Steve - I tested the waters this past spring and summer by selling seedlings and rooted cuttings at a large flea market in my city. Had tons of fun but did not make enough money to quit my day job. I believe that you just have to do it, you have to jump in. Your customers are not gonna flock to you right off the bat, they need to learn who you are, what you offer and what your schedule is before you'll make steady sales. I sold some pretty common stuff and some unusual or rare plants, there were customers for all of them but not a ton of customers for any. There was no way to determine what to sell - what they wanted one week was what they despised the following week. You can't second guess them, you just have to offer plants you know and enjoy.

I did learn that some of the advice offered in books and lectures does not apply to flea market vending (10,000+ customers per weekend in the summer, 5,000- in the winter). Not everyone understands top quality plants. Not everyone wants rare and unusuall. I believe you can sell anything you want to sell - but the prices you have to place it at to move it may not cover your expenses. What I did was pull products that people wanted but wanted for a cheaper price. I would then bring those products back after a month or so and offer it at a slightly different price. By not having the same stuff every weekend it trained my few regular customers to buy when they saw it rather than assume they could pick it up later.

I did have plenty of customers that wanted individual tomato and pepper seedlings rather than a six pak of one type and they were willing to pay $1 per seedling for heirloom or unusuall - but even at that I never sold an entire flat of anything by the end of the day.

Good luck

    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 7:56PM
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Just a thought:

Whatever the product is that you want to sell, you need to be able to produce it in such a way that you can have a competitive price. I know that is obvious. But, somehow people entering the business seem to dismiss the idea that those already in the business do not make every effort to keep costs down, have not learned from experience to produce more for less, and do not have a huge advantage by being familiar with the market. Or, if they do understand that, they assume that without those three areas of experience they believe that they can instantly compete or out compete those folks.

Why has the 20 acre family farm died? Because someone else is raising the efficiency on big acreage.

Also, look at where and why you by veggies where you do and ask yourself how someone else looking to follow your dream could find you as a buyer.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2005 at 6:46AM
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Thanks for all the advise I appreciate it..laag that last statement I didnt understand.....I am not looking to make a lot of money or to quit my job...judt to make a few extra bucks doing something that I love and learning how to do different things...I am kiind of planning a quaterly system...propagatiing x mas cactus for late winter...a few different veggies for spring...summer and fall I am still thinking of some different types of perenials...I want to stay away from the mum and pansy bombardment that is already out there...For the veggies I am doing research of the best variety...and considering the cost of seeds...and then going with only 1 variety for maybe 5 different types of veggies....I was thinking about the flea market approach but right now I am in school and thats when I do my kind of am leaning towards wholesale...hopefully have one or two good custumers that I can make happy...I dont think that I haqve the room to supply for any more that an advantage with that approach is that I can grow things that they may want as well...since they know the market...I will learn a lot from them...Its not a dream about being rich...just being able to do something that I love...and maybe oneday I couuld have enough of these small markets to go professional..

Thanks all

    Bookmark   November 18, 2005 at 7:48PM
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I started out with $200 in 1971 and a dream and stayed in the garden center business for 27 years. It didn't hurt that the family property was on the main four lane highway into the city. If you jump into the fray either wear a life preserver or choose shallow water.
In other words only spend the money you can afford to lose if things don't work out. Starting slowly can be safer but take lots of time to plan. Find a niche that is attractive to the people to whom you will be selling. Find out who their customers are. For example, if I lived near Seattle and I scoped out what was available and I learned organic vegetable plants of a certain ethinic group were not available I might test market those kinds. I guess what I am saying is know who the ultimate customer is and what they want. And always keep researching that. UT has a great horticulture business advice site.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 12:28AM
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Thanks for the advice cajungardeneer...Right now I am planning on doing it as more a hobby...what I think I am going to do this year is try my planting plan...find out when the veggies come to some people..and maybe sell at a few at small craft fairs...last year I started my own seeds and didnt pay attention as to when they actually started selling my goal is to get the plants at a sizable and healthy state by that time...My tomato seeds started slow last year while squash and corn pretty much took right off...I am also going to go around to different nurseries to see which varieties they are selling...I want to find a niche but I dont want to jumo on an already crowded bandwagon....I want to be a little biggest issue is I will have to see how I will be able to rotate so I can always be selling...veggies one cactus this year I will probally give most my veggies to friends and family if I cant get rid of them at fairs...time is also an issue because I am a grad student as well as work I plan to start off slow and not spend more than I can handle...

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 8:24PM
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You can do it. You'll find that sometimes you'll make more money than you expected and other times the same crop doesn't make anything. You have to be flexible. You could devote time and energy to a certain crop (Christmas Cactus) only to be out competed by some other operation who noticed your success. So plan on constantly finding new crops.

I approach it as: I only have so much space. I only have so much time. I can only haul so much product in my truck. I can only produce so much product. How much $$$ can I make with what I have under these conditions? You'd be surprised. I find it pays better than any part time job offers I get, and the best part is that I am in charge of my time and effort.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 3:24PM
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thanks triangle John....its good to hear someones success....The changing plants from time to time I like...I would get very bored by specializing in one last words of advice really made a lot of sence to me...that is pretty much my time space...and would like to make as much as I can even though I love the growing aspect of it...


    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 8:36PM
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HerbLady49(Z6 PA)


I started very small in 1989 and opened my nursery full time in 1991. I kept expanding and now I'm downsizing and I'm much happier. Try restaurants with your surplus. I couldn't grow enough heirloom tomatoes for them. I gave that up and now only grow Herbs in 3-4" pots for retail. You'll soon find out that you can't do everything. Good luck and have a good time.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 12:46PM
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ThePatriot(z9 Ca)

True story:

There is a Super Walmart in Oklahoma. For those who don't know, a Super Walmart is the same as a regular Walmart, except that they also sell groceries.

Well, this particular Super Walmart was having trouble getting people to buy their tomatoes. They investigated the situation and found this man who was growing tomatoes and selling them for a significantly lower price than Walmart. So Walmart, being the greedy s.o.b's that they are, needing to dominate every conceivable market on planet Earth, struck a deal with this man. Now he sells all of his tomatoes to Walmart and Walmart resells them to the people.

Moral of the story:

It doesn't matter how big your competition is. If you can beat their price they will have to deal with you.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 3:35PM
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jan44(z4b WI)

Great topic and followup on this thread!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 9:11PM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

This spring I sold about 50 flats of heirloom tomato plants. Not a lot for a nursery, but a good return on my hobby. I managed to break even +. I had to plant 2 of each variety so I'd have seed this year, so then I had too many tomatoes during summer, and had to sell some at the farmer's market. That was fun, too. So I say go for it, but start small at first, that's how I'm doing it, and no, I didn't quit my day job, as a stay at home mom! But I did take the kids with me to farmers market and as long as they got to buy a coke or ice cream, they were willing assistants.
I do hope to go a little bigger this spring, keeping my fingers crossed.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 5:28PM
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Man 50 flats lol....I am only doing about 5 then a flat of 3 different types of maybe 50 christmas cactus.....I plan on starting out very small...or else I will have tomatos coming out the gazoo....and I will have to quit my job just to keep up with them lol....anyways I am going for it I know I wont make much...but it will defintially be a learning experience...and I wll know soon enough if it is for me...thanks for all your comments and suggestions


    Bookmark   January 8, 2006 at 9:50AM
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virgo91967(z6 KY)

I have posed this question to many of my retail nursery friends and I have yet to find a satisfactory answer; What would be the most cost effective ornamental plants that one with a small (14x24) greenhouse grow to provide the most $/sq ft? I am speculating on quart sized perennials with a focus on woodland shade perennials.

I HAD considered tomatoes, however, every Tom,Dick and Harry's Garden center/nursery/greenhouse seems to be in that market and usually end up discarding at least half thier stock every season.

Thanks Guys

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 12:23PM
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Yeah but Tom diick and Harry all usually have the same ole same interest is growiing the finest variety....even though everyone has different then I add a few odd balls for them...I also have going Astilibies, Gaillardia (thought these were different) and propergating christmas cactus...those wont be ready until the fall..If you heard the size of my GH that I have you would laugh...but I have found a way to manage my space quite plans for the summer is a few different plants...and the stuff that tom dick and harry has...I plan on getting much better varieties than bigger blooms...odd colrs....this is my game plan so any advice will be appreciated...I appreciiate all advice already and to let you all know tomatos are up and going...its full speed ahead from here..



    Bookmark   January 29, 2006 at 7:17PM
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Just some "food" for thought. I have found a great way to make money by raising seedlings and propgating houseplants as well as woodies. I do NOT have a greenhouse, but start everything in our basement about now. This year we are even thinking of purchasing plugs. I also start early in April dividing perennials in our garden. Our lot is only 70' x 100! We hold advertise a 3 day garage sale twice a year but are usually sold out by noon the second day - one in June (yes after the big sales in garden centers) and one in the fall. (I don't do vegies-they do NOT sell well here as the vegetable gardens in urban settings have diminished to nearly 0 with farmers markets,lack of growing space, and with the younger generation working long hours to make ends meet have little interest or time in growing their own vegies) Any plants left over I put in a sand plung bed - pot and all - and resell it in the fall. We have done this for 6 years now, have a customer list that I send out notices to and it grows larger every year. An ad under garage sales cost under $40 and brings in people, plus signage at major intersections. Not sure what kind of $$ you want to make, but after expenses (not my time) I usually make a couple of thousand dollars each sale. I have friends who make considerably more doing this too. I don't give away the plants either - its a buying frenzy and no one questions the cost for plants. As an example, the common varigated Hosta in a gallon container sells for $6.00 for a small clump! Any perennial or annual in bloom walks out within the first hour! and any plant not in bloom has a picture that says it all. I have customers who load up their car and come back later for more usually bringing a friend. Customers love to see our garden which makes it even more fun as they can see how the plants will grow. This is more than I make working part-time in a nursery during the summer, and a lot less work! If one crop fails or there is a lack of interest, I still have other plants to sell so I am not putting all my eggs in one basket.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 2:05PM
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Years ago I did something like that and ended up with people coming over to shop when I wasn't home. And they'd tell their friends about me and those people would show at all hours. So no more home sales for me. I don't want anybody knowing where I am or where my plants are being grown. Besides my current house doesn't have the parking space for hordes of customers. Flea Market or Farmer's Market are the way to go for me.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 2:48PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Did you have to get a permit (beyond a usual yard-garage sale permit that some places require) to sell plants? Or get a phytosantitary inspection from the state ag dept?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 9:57AM
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Be careful what you put out by the road. Never know where it might lead to.

My wife and I got married in 1965. She stayed home to work on the old wreck of a house we bought. And she put a couple bunches of rhubarb out by the road. It sold right away. Everything else we put out there sold. Picked some dried grass in the fall and sold it for 10 cents a bunch.

That winter we ordered seeds and bulbs and the next year planted about 3/4 acre. I quit my job that summer and neither of us has had a job since. Neighbor let us use some land the following year and we started renting land to grow more stuff. We built little cold frames to start plants in. Then a couple little A frame greenhouses in the backyard.

About that time people started wanting to buy the plants. Then they wanted me to come to their place to plant their flower gardens. Then they wanted me to design their gardens. We were lucky to buy more land from another neighbor and started building bigger greenhouses. We were selling stuff by the roadside, going to a farmers market, a flea market, doing landscaping and starting a nursery too. Eventually had a nice little nursery with six to 11 employees. Now I'm almost out of the farming part, dropped the flea market but still do the farmers market, and the nursery is doing fine. After 40 years I now take it one year at a time and see how much longer I can go on.

That's a very short version of the story. I can't say it was a dream I had. Not like what people have that I read about on these forums. It just happened and I loved it. We never borrowed money except to buy more land. You wouldn't beleive how frugal we were. The in-laws used to say "How can they live like that". Now they think we are millionares.

Get going. Put your stuff out were people can get at it and smile.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 11:17PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Great story, Merle! Good ideas, too.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 9:20AM
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