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organic garden center in Malvern, PA

Posted by rebow 6 Philly (My Page) on
Tue, Dec 6, 11 at 19:52

I am the owner of a garden center in Malvern, PA and passionate about organic gardening and lawn care. I'm attempting to run my nursery organically, without the use of pesticides. What organic lawn and garden care products would you like to see in a well stocked organic garden center?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: organic garden center in Malvern, PA

I'm not in your area but I think it would be nice to have an unbranded CGM, the branded ones are just prohibitively expensive. Greensand is also something that can be difficult to find at a good price that isn't marked up just because of the name on the bag.

RE: organic garden center in Malvern, PA

Great question! Thanks for asking. We talk about bypassing nurseries because the products they sell cost about 6x more than the same products we can get at a feed store. That is not because of your mark up, it is because we can find the raw ingredients of organic fertilizer at feed stores for 6x less after the feed store retail mark up. The difference is the organic fertilizer brands do product testing and create big websites and do a lot of marketing and have their products registered as a fertilizer in the state. None of that is done done for an unmarked bag of rabbit pellets.

One of the reasons people historically avoided organic gardening was the high cost of the products. Compost leads the way on super-expensive products at an application cost of about $35/1,000 square feet. Shipping can double that price. Organic fertilizers have ingredients like alfalfa meal, soybean meal, ordinary corn meal, corn gluten meal (unlicensed CGM), cottonseed meal, linseed meal, feather meal, and/or canola seed meal (aka rapeseed meal). Those products are the bulk of the ingredients of all the labeled organic fertilizers. Along with expensive compost, expensive, branded organic fertilizers are keeping the newbies out of the organic market. By us sending them to the feed store to get supplies, literally hundreds of thousands of new organic gardeners have been created. How do I know? I wrote the Organic Lawn Care FAQ (found in the GardenWeb Organic Gardening Forum FAQs). That FAQ has been posted to many other online forums some of which have download counters. Back in 2005 it had been downloaded more than 75,000 times from the forums that count. Downloads continue and organic forums are growing like wild fire. On one forum that started a couple years ago, all the moderators are organic. The forum is general but all the mods happen to be organic. They all started with the FAQ and took off from there. So you can really go a long way to build a great business if you handle it the way we have found to be so successful. And in fact, one of the most successful organic proponents is in your general area. He is the poster child for organics. His KBG lawn remains green almost all year long with only a couple of weeks in December when it might brown some. These generic materials are animal feed and usually come with insects in them. With that in mind you don't want to stock them out in the store with the rest of the products. At the feed store you pay up front and drive around to pick up. If you play your cards right, there is a market for organic materials in the winter, too. The materials do not decompose as fast as in the summer, but there is a benefit to the soil to apply during the winter.

I would suggest you carry the name brand fertilizers along with the brown bag ingredients and let the customers decided which to use. You might even print the FAQ and have copies available (free, of course, because I expected it to be freely available when I wrote it).

I have seen a move in the forums where, once people see the results with feed store rabbit pellets, they to go back to a nursery and buy Espoma and other name brands, so there is that market, too. Additionally I've seen feed stores carrying 20% acidity vinegar by the gallon and molasses by the gallon. I get molasses at a farm CO-OP at wholesale prices if I bring my own container. That would be a welcome benefit at your store. You can get the molasses wholesale in 55-gallon drums and mark it up to resell by the pound to people who bring their own containers and still save your customers money. Other popular items are liquid seaweed (Neptune's Harvest is hydrolyzed (better), not emulsified) and greensand. One item that should be more popular than it is is brewer's yeast. It is called "rocket fuel" by one local reseller. I've never used it because of the price, but they've been selling it for 30 years, so there must be something to it.

One thing you have to be very careful of in selling unbranded materials is in the claims you make for them. Sure as I'm typing this, your competitors and the people from Espoma will be all over your store waiting for you to claim that alfalfa is a lawn fertilizer. I can make that claim because I'm not selling it, but you can't. The way they get around that is by telling customers how it works in someone else's yard. The sales person is trained to say, "Some of our customers use alfalfa pellets in their yard and tell us the grass gets dark green." Did I call it a fertilizer? Did I make a claim it was a fertilizer? Did I make a personal experience claim? It is a technicality, but it seems to work. Dark green grass is the effect we want. How much do we care about the biology or chemistry that makes it happen? Alfalfa pellets seems to make dark green grass happen...for some of our customers (don't say ALL because some will find ways to misuse it). As a reseller you are not allowed to sell products as fertilizer that are not labeled for that purpose. The statement I made above is not an authoritative claim. "Some (unnamed) customers tell us (right or wrong, truth or fiction) that alfalfa pellets make their grass dark green (dark by who's standards?)." Market them as animal feed. You might be able to call them "soil amendments." Check around locally. And now that I think about it, putting my FAQ out on the counter might be construed as making fertilizer claims about corn meal, so maybe that would not be wise.

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