Return to the Professional Gardener Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Posted by wildiris z5 WA (My Page) on
Mon, Feb 16, 04 at 2:57

I am thinking about starting a backyard nursery and am wondering if it will be as profitable as I am hoping. Are there any success or failure stories out there? Can you earn a decent living doing it without spending a fortune to get started?


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Start out by making sure everything is (High Quality)!!!! Then they will find you---Bill


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

The commute is brief, and you get home cooking at lunch time...

Brian


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

There is a big difference in making a few bucks on a couple hundred plants and making a living. If making a living to you is something like $50,000, then you will have to sell many thousands of quality plants. Can your location support the traffic to sell many thousands of plants? Does your location have the population/market to sell many thousands of plants?

Cost of doing business so low? Nothing is free, if you try to grow enough plants to make a living, you will have to buy tons of potting soil, thousands and thousands of pots, trays to carry thousands of pots, some sort of fertilizer for thousands and thousands of pots, some sort of insect/disease prevention for thousands and thousands of pots, you will have to buy many thousands of quality seeds or plugs and bareroot perennials. You will need many thousands of tags for all the plants. You will need to buy signage and advertising.

And, what most don't want to face, is that you will need a lot more facilities than just a big backyard. You will need some sort of setup to start thousands of seeds. You will need some sort of setup to display all these thousands of plants. The biggest single expense will be a greenhouse, to compete with any other nursery or big box store in your area you will have to have your plants ready and blooming when the customers are ready to buy, in my area that is April, May & June. You will not have much ready and blooming by April & May without a heated greenhouse that you will have to buy fuel for all winter.

Having said all that, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I have 4 large greenhouses, two of them heated, a large outdoor growing area set up with a dripper irrigation system and a 600 sq.ft. germination room setup. Am I making a decent living at it, well let's just say I haven't quit my night job yet!

Bill


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I think most gardeners have that dream, even if they never plan acting on it. It's an O.K. dream to have if you do one thing. That is to be totally honest with yourself about how much it costs to start one up and run it.......and why a customer would come to you instead of another outlet.

If you are just in the planning stages now, there are several things I would suggest you do before you make that decision. One is to actually work in the industry for a season or two. Not a mass merchandiser, but a growing facility. Realise you will be competing with established growers with many years of training and experience under their belts. How you grow a shrub on your property is not usually the way you would grow one commercially. Go to your farmers' markets and other roadside stands and ask about. Have you any idea of how many other small operations are also selling in your community? They will directly have an impact on your niche.

Do you have the training (and self taught surely would qualify as training) to discuss your wares with a knowledgeable customer? I mean everything from the botanical name to the cultural requirements of each and every item you plan to sell.

Have you researched your zoning restrictions, legal points as to licenses and insurance, costs of equipment you will need, costs of raw materials. Do you have a business plan? Will you grow if needed? Are you willing to work night and day to reach your goals and perhaps not make a profit for a year or two?

Do you realise the customer who buys from you and is satisfied will come back and bring several people with them. Will you be sold out or have half empty benches? If you do, they won't be back.

I think it is a pleasant way to make a little extra pocket money to begin with, but if you wish to really "live" on what you sell I will second Bill's post. It takes a heck of a lot of plant material going out that door to make a buck. You will always need one more piece of equipment, bag of fertiliser, chemical, part time help, (whatever) and the costs can mount astronomically when you are in too deep to get out quickly. Then you have to make major decisions. That is how I see so many small flower businesses go under. If you do your homework beforehand you have a greater chance of success.

I would say if you can legally make a nice little pocket money type of business and enjoy what you are doing go for it........but if you want to live on it then cover your bases, cover your bases and again........cover your bases.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

not to mention, me or anyone growing longer term crops...
You spend money in Feb 2004 so you can sell something in April 2005.
Alot of times I wonder if I couldn't make more playing the stock market :-)

Bill had a great post, re-read it a few times.

Drew


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

It's all good advise. How about a mail order plant business? Have any of you tried that? I live in a pretty rural area and probably couldn't get many customers to come to my property without re-locating. I have sold a number of plants on Ebay however and it has gone very well for me. I am considering propagating a whole bunch of my own plants and having both a mail order and regular plant nursery. There seem to be other online nurserys that look to be doing pretty well. I am more interested in growing shrubs and landscaping type stuff that I could grow without a greenhouse. I realise that a greenhose is a large investment. Maybe it's just a silly dream, but I hate to give up on it.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Wildiris,
I do mail order.
of course the main issue with it, is maintaining stock.
lets say you have 100species for sale.
lets say you want to keep 25 of each on hand in a 4inch pot.
well, thats 2,500 plants with a very short shelf life.
so... lets say they have 1 good month before they are overgrown and your season is March-July
12,500 plants to be grown in a season... and what to do with those that can't be sold? I just pot them and wholesale them, but obviously not feasible unless you have a LARGE backyard.

just something to think on.
Drew


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

The one expense not accounted for so far is health, life, accident and liability insurance. I bet these expense's alone stop or make a change in many who would venture into the plant trade.

Most farmers take on outside employment or one spouse will work 'off the farm' to be able to acquire insurance at a reasonable cost.

Competition is at a very high level in many areas of the country. Ebay is very competitive. You have to have quality, dependability and reasonable pricing. I think the easiest way to start a plant business is in the wholesale level. You do not have to produce millions of plants, you need to have a good relationship with large garden centers and be able to supply them with a high quality plant at the current wholesale price. Your advantage is costumer service. Be on time, have a accurate plant list, place the garden-centers customer as a top priority, take care of complaints fast. If you are able to get your foot in the door of a few busy garden centers and offer what is in demand and in short supply you will find that the large plant business's love growers like this.

Most seasons I feel like I am just a plant mover. We move plants and handle plants constantly. You have to sell, sell and sell. No this not a complaint, I love the plant industry. For allot of us it is way of life, not just a business.

Bruce


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

We all started out with backyard nurseries. A rule of thumb you can use is this. A 4ft wide x 8 ft long cold frame will hold about 100 one gallon pots. The standard nursery holding house is 14 ft wide by 96 ft long and will hold about 3200 one gallon pots. A holding house costs about $1000 to build and takes about 5 days for one person to assemble. A one gallon pot with soil mix generally cost 50 cents. then just add the cost of your favorite liner
Most of us who have nurseries sell are products at trade shows, we buy a display booth bring in samples and lots of pictures and take orders...Bob.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Bob, I truly respect your posts... but I do need to differ on one point you just made.
"14 ft wide by 96 ft long and will hold about 3200 one gallon pots"
This is perhaps true, pot to pot... but for a quality plant and for walking room, my 30ft by 96ft greenhouse holds about 3,200 1gal plants (and another 400 10inch baskets hanging).
I dunno, whenever crunching numbers, I'm a pessimist... keeps me profitable :-)

Drew


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Drew you are correct. In my greenhouses spacing is the key to quality when I produce a finished potted flower crop. Geraniums are my speciality. But in a perennial nursery many crops can be grown pot to pot into the second year then shipped. It all depends on the growing habit of the plant. Azaleas are usually grown into the second spring pot to pot then shipped to retailers...Bob.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

When you start selling plants comercially do you need to get licensed in any way? Do you need to have your plants inspected, etc?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

frankly I think if you sell ANY plants, you should have a license.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

In my state any business that sells plants has to apply for a certificate. If you send plants out of state you will be inspected every year. If you are a retailer and have had problems with your plant quality, they will inspect you.

The inspectors are an agency mandated by the federal government and run by the states. They are different than the extension service, they are regulatory and the agency can stop the sale of plants. Their priority is to protect the plant industry from dangerous plant pest, but can and do stop the sale of plants they deem not salable to the public.

Bruce


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery????

I needed to add,

Yes, a backyard plant business can be profitable.

No, it does not require huge start up cost. It is a very high skilled business and very labor intensive.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

All fine and dandy, so what is Mike McGroartys' secret?

Here is a link that might be useful: Free Plants


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I think Mikes secret is marketing. As in marketing his site. I've been there and perused the site. I was looking for some real info on how he proposes you start and run a profitable backyard nursery and I kept getting directed to BUY his online book. There wasn't much on the site that made me think the book really had some value.

But that is just my opinion.

jb


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

In reply to Bill_MO post above, while I agree that a person would have to produce thousands of quality plants to compete with the "big boys" or the "established" nursurey's in your area, wouldn't it be a better idea instead to go after a specialty or niche market, targeting plants and or ideas that those "big boys" wouldn't find profitable? Couldn't a person make that $50,000/yr (or whatever) by selling plants with a higher profit ratio that are maybe more labor intensive or a bit harder to grow? ie: instead of 10,000 tomatoes and petunias, 1,000 off the wall or rare plants. There are alot of these types. Or maybe it's in the way you package your plants. Decortive pots, plantings, specialty foods, ect....


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

The economy of scale plays a huge part. A small business is not at an advantage when it comes to labor intensive crops. A large business can handle labor issue's best.

One thing I think that cannot be overlooked in the assessment of scale in agriculture, the best use of skilled labor is to reduce handling of material and grow more of the same kind of plant together.

When you are able to automate to reduce labor and grow similar plants together you reduce cost and up profit. A propagator growing plants can care for a few hundred species in a block or care for a few thousand in a block. The time required from the skilled propagator to access the plants needs, takes the about the same time for each. If the plants in the block are all the same size, in the same media, in the same container size, of the same species then the required care will be the same for a hundred as it is for a thousand.

If you automate to reduce labor, it is possible to grow a huge amount of plants with very little labor. The more you reduce handling plants, watering plants, pest problems, the more competitive you will become.

You have to automate watering, no hand watering and you have to reduce plant handling. You need to containerize the plant, place the plant into the growing area and grow the merchandise in the same location without weeding or relocating the merchandise until the plant is ready to be sold.

This cost of growing the plant you have full control over. Pots, tags, media, fuel, insurance and such are fixed for the most part by the amount of containers and size of growing area. A highly skilled propagator in a automated agriculture business can produce a huge amount of plants with very little labor. Most of the labor is in the potting and placing of the plants, not the growing of the plants.

A small grower is at a disadvantage when it comes to labor intensive crops. Large Ag business's now use allot of contract labor. They will contract crews for certain days to handle a certain crop for that day and then the contract crews are gone.

Small growers need to pay close attention to the growing and business techniques of large growers.

Small retailers need to pay close attention to the big box stores.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

wildiris, let me approach your question from a local perspective. Depending on where you live in WA state, small backyard nursery operations are very plentiful, can be relatively profitable (I know quite a number of folks that make a comfortable living growing and selling plants), but as mentioned by others, involve considerable dedication and buckets of hard work.

A key to your success will be your plant offerings - if you offer something out of the ordinary, the zillions of plant geeks and collectors in this area will be beating down a path to your door. Marketing is important - take advantage of the early spring plant sales which typically feature smaller specialty nurseries to get your name out and showcase your product. If you intend to sell wholesale, load up your truck with samples and visit all the retail garden centers and nurseries in your area. Buyers are always looking for new sources of less common plants and I buy myself from a lot of very small, backyard operations, specially those featuring natives, herbs and less common perennials. Forget about the non-plant oriented sellers like grocery stores, Fred Meyer, WalMart or any of the discount outlets. They want volume, run of the mill varieties and low cost - you simply can't compete with larger growers.

Also study pricing common to your area - if you intend or are restricted to staying small, it may not be cost effective to you to wholesale but shoot directly to the retail market, eliminating the middleman.

And yes, you do need a nursery license to sell plants in Washington state. There are various licenses depending on how you sell (wholesale vs. retail) and your volume. If you are a grower as well as a seller, expect to be inspected by the state Department of Ag periodically. Be sure to find out if your local municipality allows running a nursery operation from your backyard - there are restrictions on such activities in more urban areas.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Dana, I agree, if you can find a niche in a higher profit plant you can make more with less facilities and equipment. But, you need to research your market a lot more closely. Let's say your market area has only 20,000 plant buyers, only a very small percentage of that number is looking to buy orchids or tropical hibiscus. If you have a lot larger customer base it can work very well.

Bill


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

This is turning out to be a real interesting post.
I guess my next question would be about market research. How does one find out what is wanted in thier area? I live in a city of 200,000 and I'm about 45 min. from another city of about 750,000 with many small towns surrounding. Do you ask the Garden Centers what people are looking for? Friends? Neighbors? I'm probably missing something logical but for the life of me I can think of how one would go about learning whats needed/wanted. Maybe I need a marketing class, 'eh?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

grow 10,000 plants that you can't find a market for...
no need for a class, that is all the education you will ever need.

drew


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Hey Drew, I thought I was the only one that knew that little secret marketing strategy...LOL

Bill


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Never mind on the marketing question, I didn't realize it was a touchy subject around here :)


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Now, now Dana. Lots of different personalities on the forums. No need to be sensitive. Going to Farmers Markets helped me greatly on deciding what to grow. Everyone is looking for what isn't there. ha! I also do consignment gardening. eg, I'm grow pickling cucumbers every year for one customer, geraniums for another customer, lavendar for a third, herbs for a small grocery, etc.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I guess a post has been removed?

I don't know abut Nebraska, but on the coasts, organizations such as the Hardy Plant Society will be great places to do research...maybe do some volunteering with a local garden club?

Just find a group of gardeners, and ask their opinions. They're usually more than happy to help a new nursery.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

another thing I find useful.
I grow alot of ferns, it is the majority of my crop.
lets say I keep about 80 or so cultivars.
introducing a new one is a big pain, especially since it often requires me to get in 100's of plants.

so every year I have a budget, a few hundred dollars to buy a few four inch pots from a retail/mail order nursery.
Grow that plant out and put a "stock" tag in it.
Put it right at the front of the greenhouse...
If every customer walks by it, sell the stock plant and move on.
If everyone stops and stares, grow hundreds next year.

I even had one plant I dubbed the "steal me plant" as I had to rescue it many a time from a pesky customer :-)

drew


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Another thing that we do is keep a log book at the check out area for all customer requests. Each employee is to input any requests for plants, varieties, colors etc. that he/she had from a customer that day that we don't carry. Each fall as I get my orders ready for seeds, plugs, bareroot etc. I review this list and will include some of them in the mix for the next year on a trial basis.

Bill


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

You need a half acre in sun and enough water so that you never run out.
After about ten years of not quite making a living at it, I did finally.
I am small wholesale to box store. "Fill-in" supplier that they discovered had much faster selling stuff. So I am a primary supplier by default.
Probably was lucky to get the vendor number as a small nursery in the beginning, for I would not be in business if I had to depend on retail nurseries.
I sell assortments, so I get to sell out.
A retail nursery is only interestied in cherry picking me, would leave me with unsolds.
Though I have witnessed successful tie-ins, small back yard wholesale nursery with small retail nurseries, mine was never such.

If you are thinking of doing retail, think again.

Keep costs down. You don't need a backhoe, a building, and a big truck.
Is an employee really adding to the bottom line?
What is a 'wholesale' supplier to you really isn't.
There are always deeper levels of wholesale.

What are the plants to do? And how do they grow?
Travel, talk, meet, go on line, join.
This is the part that takes years.
But you will find lots of winners eventually.

Having a good sense of what is priority is essential.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

We have found MSU extension to be invaluable in getting our Ma & Pa nursery off the ground. Join every local trade association you can, attend their meetings, go to trade shows. Join garden clubs, like Hardy Plant Society, Orchid Society, Rose Society -- whatever ties in with the products you want to sell. Become a Master Gardener and go to their meetings after you graduate. These are the "leading edge" gardeners -- the ones who will be the first to come to your nursery and tell all their friends.

I bet to differ with BruceNH about economies of scale. Some studies by Cornel and MSU on the profitablity of greenhouse businesses have found the the most profitable are either small Ma&Pa operations or really large ones. The medium sized ones aren't very profitable. Will Carlson, the retired head of the MSU hort dept, used to talk about how many small greenhouse operations are organized via the "Chief and Indians" principle, i.e. one person is in charge of everything and the others do the day-to-day work. In our business, my husband calls it the "Queen Bee and Worker Bees" model. Anyway, these types of businesses have problems in making the transition into a business that is larger than one person's span-of-control. We're making a comfortable living as a Ma&Pa operation with six part-time employees. We don't really want it to get much larger.

We do continue to automate to try to make life easier and to expand our sales capability without adding workers. I remember when we agonized about spending $12,000 for irrigation pipe and installation vs. continuing to hand water. Now I can't imagine life without irrigation. I shake my head when visiting operations that haven't made the most basic of automation investments, like exhaust fans controlled by a thermostat. Right now we're mulling the purchase of some portable conveyor belts. Everytime we consider an investment we're able to draw upon the expertise of the MSU extension people and fellow growers we've meet at trade shows, etc. They are very willing to share and open their facilities for tours.

That's how we've picked up some of the lowest cost and easiest ideas -- like changing out the wheels and tires on our nursery carts to eliminate flats and make them easier to move. It was a low-cost, why-didn't-we-do-this earlier switch, but one we wouldn't have thought of if we hadn't seen the alternate wheels at another nursery location.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

A large Ma and Pa perennial nursery in my locality is closing down leaving behind broken hearts and shattered dreams.
Their quality was great, their prices were fantastic but they couldn't beat the customer flow into the box stores.
The same perennials there had beautiful big coloured labels and if you looked very carefully behind these labels you would find a very small plant.
IMHO make sure you have the best labels money can buy or don't bother. Presentation is everything.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Quote from jenizone5:
"Now, now Dana. Lots of different personalities on the forums. No need to be sensitive."

Sorry 'bout that. I came home from work in a weird mood. Actually I got that feeling from another post I had been reading along with this one. I wasn't upset. :)

I am real courious about how you do that "consignment gardening" I've had the idea in my head for a few years now. You are the first one I've heard that does it. How did you go about setting something like that up? Can you give a little more detail(s) about it?

Another question I also had;
Has anyone here had any luck selling tubers, rootings, or that sort of thing? ie; Rhubarb, Asparagus, Crosnes, Horseradish ect...

Oh ya, another thing just popped into my head. When (if ever) a person starts to make a profit, how much do you put back into the business and how much do you 'pocket'? I realize that there probably isn't a 'set amount' but I just wanted to hear some ideas.

By the way, Wildiris, It seems I've kinda hi-jacked your post. If it bothers you I can start a new thread.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Nancy,
I agree with you on the economy of scale of small compared to large business. We have large numbers of small growers and a small number of huge growers.

My operation is small like yours, I have no plans to grow larger. I do plan on growing more with less labor and will pay close attention to how the large growers grow. The different growing concepts as well as business concepts that huge growers use can benefit small growers.

And I also agree that ending hand watering and our plant wagons have been a huge labor saver.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Drew, you are a smart hard working man. Why do you still water by hand?

jb


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Why do I water by hand?

I'll answer your question with another question.
Why does a boston fern from Florida cost $5 wholesale and yet I sell mine for between $9 and $10 wholesale?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Would it be because you have "one on one" time with each fern? Thereby keeping them looking their best?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Hi Dana_E,
don't work about the hijacking... I am reading it all and becoming smarter by the minute. Everyone seems to have their own way of doing things. I am interested in mail order, and how many of you do that as part of your business. I sell small time on Ebay and the packaging and shipping of plants seems to be the most labor intensive part of any of it. I would like to do more mail order,but I don't know if it would be worth it.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Dana, some growers grow crops, others grow plants :-)


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I have been kicking around the mail order idea also. But doesn't Ebay have a rule about not selling plants through them?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Well I sure hope they don't have a rule against it, because tons of people do it. You can find just about any plant you ever wanted on ebay. There are people who seem to make quite a comfortable living doing it. If you haven't ever checked out the plants on Ebay then you should. I sell some, and I have bought some from other people and can't complain about any that I have bought. Most people seem to be pretty honest. My Ebay user name is wildiris* if you want to check out my pitiful few listings. It just gives me something to do more than anything.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Mail order can be a wonderful way to sell. You need to invest into a nice web page and a attractive catalog. Their are many success story's of small mail order plant business's.

Drew one of the concepts I learned from large growers is that plants are an agriculture commodity and as such they should be viewed as a crop. Spending 5 to 6 hours a day hand watering would be my guess why you charge more for your fern.

Only kidding Drew! I miss hand watering because of the individual contact. But I now can water everything in one hour instead of 5 with no labor and the quality has grown for I can water exactly when I should. Another lessen from large growers is to group the same size plants with the same needs together in blocks and have these blocks on separate watering systems for individual block care.

Kindly,
Bruce


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Right on Bruce,
My problem currently is that I am maintaining between 4-5hundred different species.
and due to alot of my sales being mail order it's mighty hard just to pummel them with water and expect everything to be good :-)

I have a neighbor that grows 4 different ferns. about 40,000 plants altogether...
I long for that simplicity in a way, but for the fact I'd probably fall asleep from the boredom :-)


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Sure learning from this discussion. Drew, I have a fella that wants to put ferns on the north side of his house (zone 5 - perennial). Is there such a creature?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Water is often the limiting factor in establishing a nursery even a small backyard nursery. I think most people don't think about water much when starting out. Perhaps they assume they can water with a garden hose connected to their home water supply. It takes a lot of water to operate a nursery.
I use a 20 gallon per minute well for my greenhouses which is ok for hand watering but limited in automatic pot watering, crop must be watered in zones of 500 pots each.
In the field I use a 200 gallon per minure well that operates over head movable sprinklers this is enough to water an acre a day.
Before you start first see just how much water is available to you...Bob


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Is it really necessary to have greenhouses? What does the term field grown mean and what can you grow that way.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

'Field grown' means the plants are grown in the ground as opposed to nursery cans or containers. Generally it also means these plants are exposed to the elements year round, as it is difficult to cover an entire growing field. Some perennials can be grown this way, but the term typically refers to the woodies - shrubs and trees.

No, it's not always necessary to have greenhouses, but some tender cuttings or seedlings will do better if given protection from the weather. In my climate (western Washington), growers are split about half and half. Most perennials and other smaller containerized plants are grown under cover (not necessarily a greenhouse) for a more advanced and finished look for early sales. Trees and shrubs are generally grown out in the open either as field grown specimens or sometimes also in containers.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Thanks for the info gardengal48- I'm glad to hear that not everyone uses greenhouses. I would like to get started propogating more plants but can't really afford a greenhouse right now. Mostly what I sell on Ebay are natives and Lilac bushes and they all do just fine without a greenhouse. I would like to start growing more flowering bushes. I am thinking about putting up a few hoop greenhouses though, just to get everything growing a little quicker. The winters can be pretty long here in NE Washington:)


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

If you ask customers what they want, they always say "something different and unusual."

In my experience, they really only buy what's blooming. Even the hardcore gardners fill their carts with instant impacting plants.

I think you could corner the fruit tree market here in WA. The state is making more rules by the minute for out of state nursery grown trees (big problems with nonnative bugs). I think the bottom line cost and inconvenience is going to make the smaller nursery's seek local growers.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

May I recommend a few books?

1. How to Start a Backyard Nursery (or something like that - I forget the exact title). I got it at my library. Gives lots of basics - ways to save money and plan - without a lot of self-help style hype.

2. So You Want to Start a Nursery by Tony Avent. New book by an incredibly brilliant man who runs Plant Delights nursery out of North Carolina. I found this one at my library too, although he'd be happy to sell you a copy. This is a comprehensive look at all aspects and doesn't sugarcoat anything. Worth 5 times what it costs.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Sounds like you have some great advice. I know what you are going through. I started my business 2 years ago. It all depends on what you want to do and how much $ you want to make. You can maintain a small business and not have to hire anyone etc... or you can compete with the "big guys". I have not regrets and even though it is hard work I have decided to keep it small, great quality and customer service. I followed my dream and do not regret it. We live wayyyyyyy out and trust me, plant lovers will find you. We also offer a very unique business. I think having something differnt from your run-of-the-mill garden centers will attract people. Advertising is also a key, but it is costly. We had an open house, garden tea party, I joined the local Chamber of Commerce, garden clubs, give talks & tours for the school etc. This is great inexpensive advertising and exposure. Good Luck!!!


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Thanks for the encouraging words flowerchild2.
I'm glad to see that after two years you're not wishing you had never gotten such a silly idea to start a nursery :)
Do you do any mail order or strictly stick to selling from your place? Do you grow with green houses?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I have been growing annuals in a 16x96 house in my back yard for four years. This past fall I put in another20x50 outside growing area for perennals. i have found a niche market in the subdivisions around my house. It appears if you grow a nice looking product that people will come to you. My marketing budget is printing up flyers on the computer and sticking them on mailboxes. My best advertising is word of mouth. You learn by your mistakes just like any business but if you start on a small scale the your loses aren't as sever. By the way I also work full time, in the industry, my labor force consists of my wife, mother-in-law, and my kids. We all pitch in to plant, water,and sell. it can be done. I think you need to be in some kind of green industry job so that you can see the market trends before everyone eles jumps on the band wagon. I am looking for some property to expand my GH and make it a full time job. Good luck.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Are there any tax advantages for having a nursey? If so, how big do you need to be to qualify as a business?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I am bumping this one up.... cause I want an answer to this last question ;)


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I don't think anyone answered that last question, because it should be the last reason one would open a business, or at least a serious business. There isn't a size limit to "qualify" for a business. You qualify for a business by doing the legal prodedures necessary to become a business. Also understood is that means you claim income. What you can write off is pretty cut and dried in any business, and I'd recommend you meet with an accountant at least once for advise. You write off legitimate deductions. That's gonna depend on you and your circumstances. If you stay honest about writes offs, then it really isn't an issue if using a business for write-offs is a profit generator.

There are other types of programs where you may gain certain tax relief, and one of them is CAUV, where some of your acreage of horticultural production can be taxed at a lower rate on real property. You must meet some rather specific guidelines, and if you don't continue to meet the criteria, you are dropped and you may be paying them back. LOL. I don't even bother, even though I qualify.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

In New Hampshire anyway a container nursery does not qualify for 'current use' real estate tax reduction.
Says the Commisioner of the Ag Dept at the state level, " A container nursery is a business and not farming ..." .
But if you grow in the ground it is farming.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Doesn't surprise me. You are gonna find different definitions in every state you find a grower. It makes for a grey zone, where even one attorney will advise you differently than another. Sometimes cases have to end up in court for a precedent to be set.

I see a lot of posts about "mail order" plants, and selling on the inet. I hope you realise that this is interstate plant shipment, and therefore most likely makes the vendor liable for plant inspection by their state department of agriculture. In my state, it doesn't even have to be interestate to require plant inspections. I don't ship interstate and don't even ship out of county anymore, but I am required to be inspected, because I do perennial ,ergo nursery stock. Each type of stock I do has to be inspected as a different catagory....woody, herbaceous, bramble.

This is gotta be one of the first things anyone setting up a nursery does, is check out the legals.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I'm planning on an E-bay store nursery, with speciality in decidious woody plants which root by hardwood cuttings. This rooting method reduces the reuirement for extensive mechanical infastructure.

I also only plan to make enough to pay the property taxes and add to my IRA,

YES, I do plan to get Md. Dept of Agiculture inspections each growing season, or as frequently as they require.

Hopefully this will give life to a B S degree I got in Ornamental Horticulture from U of Md. but never used.
I have no plans to get 'BIG', too old for that!

I have loved plants all my life, and have always had an interest in plant propagation.
Maybe someday you'll see me on E-bay, Monocacy Valley Nursery.

Mike Cassidy
kcassidy@erols.com


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Good luck, Mike!


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?
Hello Everyone!

I know that this post is kind of old but I have been reading over it & have gained so much insight. I would love to start a small herb nursery myself & was interested in having a couple of questions answered from those of you in the business that WallFlowers asked in a previous post:

..."how many of you have day jobs? How does this affect your profitability? How do you manage your time? Do you have part time help manning the store while youre at work? Can't believe I'm the only one working 18 hours a day!"

Thanks a bunch & God bless,
Beth


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Hi Beth,
Glad you posted to this thread as I must have missed it when I scanned the posts for this group!
I can't be much help as I'm one of those "wanna-bees" too, but check out the forum "the cutting garden" for some threads on starting your own home business. One of the threads takes you through 2-3 years, from a woman saying "I'd like to start....", to the point where she has a seemingly very successful business!


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Hi Honeybunny & Wallflowers,

Thanks for posting in response to my question. Wallflowers I'm very well aware that most of us are overworked! LOL But that's precisely what I'd like to know if & how everyone is juggling a job outside their business & how successful they are.

I have dreamed of having an herb farm for years, nothing big or fancy, just a humble farm to where I can sell my plants & maybe other herbal related things. For years my husband & I rented a house in town but last year we bought our own place out in the country on seven acres of land and I am now in the process of starting my herb gardens over again. I do work a full time job since it takes both of us working to get by but would love to hear from some that possibly are juggling a regular job around their herb farm business and get some first hand insight as to how they handle everything. I have been herb gardening now for about ten years & fully understand the work & time that would be involved in such an endeavor.

Thanks & God bless,
Beth


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I work full time and have a daylily nursery that I sell from in the spring/summer. I've been selling for 4 years, am state inspected, sales have been by word-of-mouth. PLus I am very active in the local daylily club. Am also active with the local botanical garden.

Sales have grown over the past 4 years. This year I'm having a small website built for my business with one page of basic information and pictures, and the other page will be my price list.

All my information states that I'm open by appointment only, and to please call before making the drive. I have put a sign by the road and have Open/Closed signs attached.

I want to be able to visit other gardens, enjoy summer parties, etc. so that's why I don't list evenings and weekends as my hours. I have friends that sell a lot more than me and feel tied to their properties ALL the time.

I have an advertised "Open Garden" every summer, during peak bloom. And invite everyone I can think of and then some. This has been VERY successful.

Any other questions, please feel free to email me directly ...

Pam

Here is a link that might be useful: My Farm & Daylilies


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Our operation is not that profitable...yet. We started a year ago and now have raised beds and a new greenhouse. We made about $12,000 the first year. Mind you that's CDN and the cost of living in our area is inexpensive so $12,000 goes further than in most places. We live in a rural area as well with a small city about 45 mins away. We have found that we had to diversify to get people to buy. We started out with mostly perennials, then trees, shrubs, grasses. Started a garden design service as well, which is no overhead. When winter came we thought we'd shut down. But decided to sell houseplants and exotic cut flowers at the farmers market in the city. We've done quite a few things to keep afloat.

With a small operation you need to think small, we water by hand, buy plants dirt cheap and grow them on, and stick to plants that thrive on neglect. Keep your costs down, the plants healthy, and people will pay you well for your product.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Hi Pam & Jumpinjuniper,

Thanks for your post. It really helps give people like me more insight. :) Would love to hear from more folks that are doing the same.

May God bless you & your business's,
Beth


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Hosta is a proven winner in backyard nurseries.
I would collect Hosta varieties as originals that have never been [ruined] in tissue culture.
Avoid tissue culture totally.
The Ruh Nursery in Ohio sells some by non-tissue cultured.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Someone mentioned this, but have ANY OF YOU actually purchased Mike McGroarty's Backyard Growing System?? I thought I might look into it, but $197 seems a little steep. Have any of you purchased it yet??? How is it??


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Yes, I have. It is not worth the money. I got the on-line book and two videos. Honestly, I was very dissappointed You wanted to know how I felt about it? You got it.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I've been to McGroarty's site and while it may be real, I felt I was being sold something for nothing. Too much about how easy it is. Always a red flag.

Get Tony Avents book, "So you want to start a nursery?". Very realistic. It is aimed at starting a large nursery, but most of the practical consideraions apply to all growing and selling formats.

Good luck,
jb


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Hello all,

Im interested in rooting some plants, and am in need of information on how to build an intermittent mist system. Can anyone help me please?

Thanks,
Jim


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Everyone ... Hi!

Jim ...
See the link below for plans of an inexpensive mist system.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mist System and Hoophouse plans


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

You need water under about 30 lb of pressure.

A timer box.

And a solonoid valve.

PVC pipe + fittings and glue.

You drill holes where you insert fogging nozzles.

As for the timer, the cheapest are cog-like mechanical and the expensive, fully electronic.

The usual failures ruin stuff easily, so you are wedded to checking to make sure the fog isn't failing.
My system rattles the pipes against some wood, drum-like, when it goes off, so I can monitor it easily by sound.
Wrap some wire around the fogger nozzle/pipe connections.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

This is a very informative post and I'm glad that it has been started up again. I just found out the school I teach at, is closing, and after being there for 12 years I have decided to retire from teaching at that time too. So with 12 acres of land and a husband who just quit his job and started his own business, I'm inspired to start mine.
Gardening is what I love so a back yard nursery business, also inspired by my newsletter from Mike McGroarty, is what I'm shooting for. I'm spending this year until the school closes strarting and researching the business. I hope to target a few of the smaller plant and produce stores in the local town, and landscapers. Also will be looking into the local farmers markets.

I think one of the reasons for Mikes success in starting was taking cuttings from plants he had and starting them. That cuts down on a lot of expense and any plants you buy for cuttings is tax deductible.
Thats what I am doing now. Asking friends and family if I can take cuttings from their ornamental shrubs. I'm shooting for about 25 cuttings of 25 different plants to start. I'm using a method I found in a greenhouse book. Its February here in upstate NY and I've gone out and taken branches off 5 different varieties so far. I cut them into 12 inch peieces, bundled them and buried them in soil in a 5 gal container in the cellar.(This is usually done by burying outside in late fall) I also scratched one end and root hormoned it. In two months it should be ready to take out and plant into a nice coarse sand bed outside.( I hope) This is my research period, so I'll let you know how it worked out. In the spring I plan getting all my plants into the ground where they can root and grow till I'm ready to pot them up. Once put in #1 container I am going to use the pot-in-pot method, as a greenhouse is not an option yet. This will allow them to stay outside all winter and be easily removed for sale in the spring. I also don't want to be having to take care of a greehouse all winter. I plan on going south, very far south, like Florida.

I am also purchasing plants from the NYS forestry service. The 18" -24' trees are only about $1.65 each. I'll pot-in pot- them in #5 containers. I'm thinking of 20 different trees and 10 of each for this year.
I have found Growing Profits by Michael and Linda Harlan helpful.

For those interested in the HERBAL NURSERY try the book Herbs for Sale by Lee Sturdivant.
Here in NY you have to have made $10,000 a year from your plants for 2 consecutive years to get an agricultural tax break on your land.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Yes, a backyard nursery can be profitable. In a year and a half, we've replaced a blue-collar professional's salary.

But, and I emphasize BUT, we did NOT start from scratch.

Our 'backyard' is ten acres. It isn't all under cultivation, but there are non-protected native plants, sources of greenery, and other revenue-producing opportunities.

We have two water sources, an artesian well for non-chemically treated water, and a clean, spring-fed creek in addition to a municipal water system.

We have space and equipment for an up-and-running backyard business-sized composting operation, as well as a flock of sheep and goats to feed it.

We have a 10 X 30 sunroom that functions admirably as a winter nursery.

We have exceptionally well-prepared perennial beds, a wide-range of mature perennial mother plants, and acres of harvestable, saleable plants that had spread boisterously before we took the property.

We have a supply of home-grown, hard-working, and free, albeit short, labor.

But with all that we wouldn't have had a business without customers. Before the first plant was potted, we had an agreement with a retail nursery for all the spring-flowering shrubs we could supply with only a twenty percent commission because they wanted an overwhelming display of stock.

We had two restaurants and a bed and breakfast contracting for cut flowers, tomatoes, berries, herbs, and stray vegetables before we planted the first seed of the commercial enterprise.

We got the contracts because of personal relationships and long-term working relationships, and those contracts led to others. Had we had to start from scratch on the customer list, we would still have been struggling to pay the bill for the pots.

Sundara,

Definitely check on the penalty for resale of the trees and shrubs from the Forestry Service trees. North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia Forestry Services all conduct the same kinds of sales and the trees are for not for resale. In all the sales I've seen, the plants are for conservation plantings and forbidden even from being used for landscape or ornamental use. I'm pretty sure that they would frown on resale.

Good luck on your Mike McGroarty plan. It certainly sounds as if you have everything wired, complete to wintering in Florida.

Ray


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I haven't read the whole thread, so please forgive me if I repeat anything else said here, but I'm starting a backyard nursery, and in regard to Mike McG.'s site, I wrote to him once, and he was very nasty when I told him I couldn't afford his books. He said I was just like everybody else, that I wanted something for nothing. After a couple of nasty emails, he tried to join a gardening group I help run, and I recognized him and banned him. He joined under another name, and I banned him again. The second post he had made before he was banned was spamming his books.

O.K., enough ranting. I'm going to grow specialty plants. I'm only growing things that aren't normally found at garden centers in this area. I have been planning this for some time, trading for seeds, growing stock plants, collecting free pots and trays (HD will let you have all the trays you want), and finding cheap sources for soil and other supplies. Now I'm ready to start growing for sale.

I'll specialize in two major families of plants, with a few others that I just happen to have growing in my yard and can propagate from. I'll also specialize in 1 gallon pots, with a few 3 gallons if I have some overflow.

My area doesn't allow you to have a lot of traffic for an in-home business, so I will have to transport most of the plants to my buyers, except for the plant sales I'm allowed to have three times a year. I already have one garden center nearby who says they'll buy from me.

So it isn't an overnight thing unless you have a ton of money. If you're doing it on a shoestring, like I am, you have to take time to get things set up.

Good luck!

I'm fortunate that I live in a subtropical climate where I don't have to have greenhouses, or I wouldn't have room for this.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I don't know how much money I'll make since I have to heat a lot here in Indiana. I got the greenhouse as a hobby, and I did sell plants from my house last year without a license and did manage to break even. I just applied for my nursery license, thankfully, my property was already zoned variety business. I'm really just looking to finance my hobby and maybe make a buck or two. I've found that it helps to have a big neighborhood nearby!


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

About the Mike McGroarty program, it isn't cheap but I've found it very useful. Possibly, if you have extensive background in the industry, it wouldn't have much to offer you. For my part, I decided to take the chance figuring the worst case would be that the material was useless to me, in which case I would ask for a refund.

I'm very satisfied.

For relatively little money I've gained a quick education and many ideas of what to do next. I used to get paid to do market research and opportunity assessment and based on what I used to get paid for this type of work, I think Mike's program is a bargain.

Anyway, I saw this thread and thought I'd throw in the other point of view. Hope it helps.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I have read Mike's book as well as "growing profits" and the best thing I have read so far was the post that said: "grow 10,000 plants you cant find a market for". IMHO it boils down to this: How can you get the full potiental out of your space. A cheap way to do this is by specializing in one thing. The one thing doesnt matter too much. I am growing tomatoes. I can make about 10-15 dollars per plant. I have room for about 2000 plants. the reason I can make 10-15 dollars a plant is because I can water for almost free, harvest for free, and work 12+ hours a day. Selling the tomatoes was easy, this is my first year, it's early spring here, and all the tomatoes I can grow are already spoken for, because I have so many of one thing I can keep costs down and appeal to a bigger customer.
Why tomatoes ? Instant money. Trust me, they are labor intensive. Tomatoes were also cheap to start. With the money I make from these I can maybe afford to produce the proverbial "10,000 plants'

10,000 plants means 10,000 containers. And the space to grow them. Plus the skill and drive it takes to root 10,000+ cuttings <-(this will hold most people back).

But for anyone with the skill and drive and space - pick your plant and create a market. There are plenty of niches to be had. A grower that can root 10,000+ cuttings is a valuable resource.

- thanks for listening to my positive experience.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I hope this is relevant to this thread, I've been working in a large, retail nursery/garden center & although I'm a lowly cashier, don't see many shipments coming in from backyard nurseries. Are there other markets for these sources? why aren't there more wholesale connections to local nurseries?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Can I just say ebay is extremely competitive at the moment. I do a lot of trading on ebay, however at the moment I`m lucky if I can get 2-3 orders a week (although the quantity per peson is good). Now for a large wholesale nursery like mine who has to sell a lot of plants by the end of the growing season its simply not enough. You have to be careful or you can find yourselves in trouble.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

My friend grows between 5,000 and 30,000 plants in a spare bedroom in his house! can anyone guess how he can squeeze that many plants in such a small place? Mabee someone got it right, it's called Tissue culture,
its fun to learn and can be very profitable for speciality plants. "you must be sterile"!


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Wow this thread is still alive? So did anyone figure out that SuperPhosphate is Mike (Buy my e book!!!...join my website!!! or get lost!) McGroarty? Oh and he is probably the other three people who keep posting answers to questions that were never asked and producing testimonials out of the blue about... Mike (Buy my e book!!!...join my website or get lost!) McGroarty. Happy gardening.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Lot of interesting and informative posts made here over the past couple of years, but some seem to go a little too far off the deep end with problems we never encountered in over 4 generations in the industry.

I'm only posting to mention that while I was away at college several decades ago now, while living in a small apartment, I was able, by utilizing areas under grounds hedges, to earn enough to pay for most of my basic tuition fees and other essentials like books, etc., without taking much time away from my studies.
Basically this was common yard area, where I cobbed an area at the edge of an existing hedge roughly 6 inches wide by 50 feet long for my use. The only materials I had to purchase to do this were long vinyl shallow planter boxes and several bags of coarse sand. Managed to squeeze 4 crops per year, after the first year, by utilizing a few inside window sills and adding bottom heat to the first 6 lead trays.

Sales were never a problem, every local nursery was always looking for good rooted cuttings to grow-on. They never had the time or space to mess with starting them on their own.

Back home, although we had several acres under glass, most field crops were handled in the field independent of any greenhouse. We did have cold frames and saran (screen) coverings in some areas, but that was about it.

I recently moved to a new state in zone 7. Lots to do before I can consider getting an operation up and going here. But nonetheless, I'm getting 5 bucks each for Brugs in 4 inch pots, while the local nurseries are fighting to get $3.95 If I jump them up to 3 quart containers I can often get 10 bucks more than the competition.
This is for one very simple reason, I post the age of the plants on the pot labels. This allows a customer to compare a 3 month old cutting with a 6 month old plant and a year old plant to see just how fast they do grow. Many settle on the smallest size with the highest markup and lowest cost to produce, which is actually a benefit for me. Can fit more per square foot that way.

But if your wanting to start small, not have people coming to your house, not require many replacement materials, like pots and media, and looking to start on a shoestring budget, you can't beat the rooted cutting business.

Anything other than that is the continual lugging of heavy, dirty pots from one place to another. It doesn't matter what type of hybrid weed is sticking out of the pot, it's still hard dirty work when you step up to containerized sales.

Kell


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Not to pop your bubble mshalmarc, but posting a link to your business page is a big no-no. In 5 years I have never posted our's. All though I wish I could but I follow the rules.

When you post a message you need to read:
If you have a business, you must read: Businesses Using the Forums.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

just started my own, i've had a good response so far. my advice is to offer unique products. i'm doing some cone moss baskets with interesting heuchera and heucherella and some huge petunia baskets as well as perennials. by the way perennials aren't limited to the garden. They hold up great in containers and many offer year round interest ie geranium, dianthus d., liriope, heuchera, ect.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

  • Posted by cady 6b/Sunset34 MA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 26, 06 at 13:50

Hi Dirtunderthenails,
Good thoughts. I make planters out of metal baskets lined with moss, and plant them up with hardy outdoor perennials including Christmas fern, sedges and heucheras. Add sprigs of festive greenery and berries for a temporary holiday look that can be removed afterward and the live plants enjoyed on their own. It's a good holiday bazaar/farmer's market cash-and-carry item. People see them, love them, and take them home.

Do you sell your planters baskets as outdoor, indoor or both?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

cady

never thought of selling them as indoor. do they hold up well? i'm using bronze sedge in the top of my cones. the blue ones are cool too. i like the fern idea. i'm going to use some in my next production cycle.
i'm thinking Autumn fern 'Brilliance', Christmas fern, Branford beauty, Jap painted what else?

another tip for everyone, use shrubs in your container gardens as season extenders, kerria,itea,ninebark,spirea, ect all have great fall interest. i'm going to try some in hb's someday


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

  • Posted by cady 6b/Sunset34 MA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 26, 06 at 23:16

I am experimenting with individual plants to see how they do indoors. Some ferns seem to need a cold/dormant time and will not do well. But I'm not sure whether Japanese painted ferns are that way. Christmas fern seems to be okay with cool indoor rooms. Last winter I overwintered a heuchera -- one of the H. dolce 'Lime Rickey' -- in the house. It did okay, but definitely went through a rest phase in which it didn't grow any new foliage.

Bronze sedge I've brought in the house from summer container arrangements seem to be fine. It is great for cascading over the top. I'll bet they look good in the cones.

I think that temperate plants shouldn't be expected to act like tropicals or subtropicals in the house (that is, grow lush new foliage all year). But if you can find types that look good even when in a rest period, like the heuchera and Christmas fern, you could offer the planters as indoor-outdoor options.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Hello all;

I know it has been a couple of years since anyone has posted to this thread, but I was wondering if some of the posters here are still having any more success or failure with a backyard nursery. If so, what plants seem to be the most successful, and if not, which plants didn't workout.

Seems that all the rage these days seem to point to Japanese maples. Are there better choices? What would be a minimum number of plants to start with?

Thank you all for any insight.

Dan Harriman
Orange, Texas


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

  • Posted by hedwig QLD Brisbane (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 23, 08 at 0:09

First, do you intend to do the same? I've started another thread concerning the same topic.
What is about wildiris? Still on the forum? How is the nursery going?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

  • Posted by danh USDA 9 (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 23, 08 at 23:42

Hello Hedwig;

At this time I am entertaining the possibility of a backyard nursery. Of course, I have been to McGroarty's site, and do get his weekly newsletter. However, he seems to be just about the only one who espouses the idea. I would think that if a backyard nursery was such a great thing, then there would be several others who would be trying to sell their system, too. Some maybe even for free!

I am just not entirely convinced that I should send Mr. McGroarty $297. His whole program seems a bit like Carlton Sheets' program...mostly fluff and not much substance.

Sure, there are others who sell fluffy stories to the mags and have online blogs, but I have yet to actually see the nuts and bolts behind such endeavors. For instance, I read that plants can be propagated in milk cartons. That is true, they can. But have you seen plants grown that way? Not very professional looking. Yes, there are more examples, but I really don't want to write a book. I believe you kind of get my train of thought.

I would think that if a backyard nursery really is such a great thing, then there would be more talk of it here on these forums. You mentioned that you have started another thread on this subject. I will check it out, that is for sure.

So, thanks for your reply, and I look forward to reading more on this subject. It does sound do-able, but I would just like more info before I take a plunge.

Thank you and good growing,

Dan Harriman
Orange, Texas


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

  • Posted by hedwig QLD Brisbane (My Page) on
    Wed, Sep 24, 08 at 0:49

First of all, google for McGroarty's, and there will be something like scum or spam (I don't remember the word) as well there is another thread here and >I could read something negative about the guy.
To the backyard nursery: I think you definitively cannot make a living from it it will at best be some extra money, provided you calculate wisely.
Yes, I do maybe half of my plants in old milk containers, but until now I didn't sell will do thins in two weeks time.
You may ask in nurseries or visit kerbside collections for used pots. I wash them and that's heaps of work.
I grow useful plants from seeds and from plant in my garden, so at least the expenses are not only for the nursery.
It is really a question of space. If you want to sell 100 plants per week and count 4 month per plant and some plants who don't survive or are not good enough to sell, some gifts, let's say maybe 25% you need lots of space.
On the long run I try to grow more unusual things. I don't grow vegetable seedlings, like tomatoes and eggplants. First I find this boring second it's better for someon 100% professional. More herbs like lemongrass or fruit trees but only from seed like tree tomato.
The biggest expense is the potting mix IMO. The market fees here are between $20 and $30 and I want to search someone to share the stall on the long run. It's just funnier and I cant take my family my kid's wouldn't appreciate it.
Tell me more about your plans.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Fri, Sep 26, 08 at 20:24

Then there's the Heronswood nursery and gardens, sold after 15 years to Burpee for millions of dollars, who now calls it something like their experimental farm. When still in operation Heronswood had to hire local law enforcement officers to direct traffic during their occasional open days, as the property is in a residential area.

In other words a backyard nursery.

As with any other business endeavor what happens depends to a large extent on how you go about it. Backyard nurseries are not categorically limited to a small annual return.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

  • Posted by hedwig QLD Brisbane (My Page) on
    Sat, Sep 27, 08 at 2:01

Well at the moment I really do think small. Try to make some little extra, learning and aiming for quality and for stuff not everyone has.
I still have no good solution for the potting and seed arising mix problem I buy cheap potting mix and mix it with 1 part of sand and one part of coir.
For seed raising I use prefertilized choir.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Well, checking back on this thread 3 years later nearly. I did get my nursery license, we now have three greenhouses and I'm selling at 3-4 farmers markets. We're doing spring plants, perennials, hanging baskets, pond plants and veggies. I'm the president of the water garden society so that helps with pond plant sales.
But on the down side, I'm working my butt off from January-November, and probably making way less than minimum wages. And my boss is sometimes still a jerk! LOL...


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Am I'm am still growing and selling daylilies as a part time hobby, still work full time. Am getting lots of repeat business and more business thru the daylily groups I belong to.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 2, 08 at 19:52

When I took (somebody else's) plants to a farmer's market for awhile it was a hard sell, being there probably served primarily as a way to promote the business (and some additional sales out on the growing grounds) rather than as a significant source of direct income - I think my best session brought in about 20 or 30 bucks or so. This caused me to wonder how others who seemed to be trying to use the markets here as a significant outlet for their plants were doing.

Since then the farmer's markets within my travels have tended to become Saturday markets instead, dominated by bric-a-brac etc. instead of plants and other farm goods. Likewise, this year's Spring Garden Faire at a country town I visit frequently was almost entirely non-plant goods, multiple growers who were there just last year not coming back this time.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I started off in 2005 selling mail-order plants and seeds. I wouldn't have guessed at the time that the business would take the direction it has: now I'm spending more of my time catering to wholesale customers (almost all nurseries) and doing xeriscape planting plans for people. Meanwhile the mail order end of things has sort of gone by the wayside. Maybe I'll give it one more shot but at some point I'll have to come to some decisions about what kind of business model is really going to work the best for me. Financially things haven't really come together yet which is why I have to remain open to the possibilities and continue trying to refine my business model.

It really takes a special kind of person to make money selling plants at "Farmers Markets." Michael Dolan at Burnt Ridge Nursery apparently still finds it worthwhile to sell at the Olympia Farmers Market every weekend. I bet he makes a couple hundred bucks per trip which is pretty good.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Well, I'll bring this interesting thread back to the top with a new post.

I'm a part time tree farmer. It's a bit bigger than back yard. I've got 80 acres and about 3 are tied up in the tree farm at this point. I've got about 15,000 trees growing in pots.

Yes it's a lot of work.

No, I'm not getting rich. May and June were about 10K total. I expect 5-10 for the remainder of the season.

My goal is 60,000 gross profit on 100,000 sales.

Things I've learned:

Buy equipment that does multiple things. My tractor: Mows grass, hauls firewood, pulls a trailer, ploughs, disks, and harrows. If you can't use it at least 200 hours a season and it has a motor, you don't need it.

Time what it takes to do things.

Example: Miro makes a pot filling machine that makes a cascade of dirt. Fills a pot in record time.

But I've found that I can plant seedlings in 1 liter styroblock trays in 12 seconds per tree. In 2 gallon pots 30 seconds per tree. Reducing this time makes no sense, as there is another minute to load it on the trailer, unload it at the pot yard, and mulch it. A $15,000 machine compared to a $8 grain scoop isn't a win until I can keep that machine busy for a good chunk of the season.

On the flip side $1000 spend in a rototiller for my tractor means that I have nice soft soil without clods to fill pots. I also have an easy way to fill pots.

Be patient. I can start with a 40 cent 1 year old seedling, or a 70 cent two year old seedling. I go with the first. In a year, they have almost doubled their value.

Use polypropylene pipe for your irrigation. It flexes. submerge it into the soil only far enough to avoid the mower. This makes it a lot easier to change yoru mind later about how the pipes should be laid out.

Learn about micro irrigation.

Don't borrow money. That way you are never tempted to do something shady just to make the bank payment.

Find a web authoring system you like, and write your own stuff. Let your passion show.

I figure that my time breaks down into the following chunks:

* Production. This is a day I can, at the end of it, point to a pile of potted plants and say that my inventory has increased in value by X.
* Maintenance. Weeding, watering, fixing plumbing, mowing grass.
* Infrastructure. New plumbing, fields, mist house, sheds.
* Marketing and sales. Turning that inventory into cash. Web work. Ads for Kijiji. Talking to people on the phone, tours.
* Self education. Learning more about what I sell.

I try to make summer production and M&S, but way too much ends up being M & I

Learn your market. A tree that is shorter than the customer is a tough sell. I spend a lot of time educating my customers.

Keep records of who you sold to.

Stand behind your product. I guarantee my trees for a year. Sure some people won't take care of it. Some people will lie. On the flip side, some people will forget they bought it from me, some people will know that they didn't take care of it, and don't deserve another. This spring about 400 trees have gone out. The people who have contacted me have been ecstatic that they are thriving and growing.

Once you have a decent web page, find every local directory you can, and get yourself in tht list.

Kijiji and Craigslist are good places to advertise, but think about what you say. If you search Edmonton, Canada for tree farm you can find example ads I wrote.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Well, I'll bring this interesting thread back to the top with a new post.

I'm a part time tree farmer. It's a bit bigger than back yard. I've got 80 acres and about 3 are tied up in the tree farm at this point. I've got about 15,000 trees growing in pots.

Yes it's a lot of work.

No, I'm not getting rich. May and June were about $10K total. I expect 5-10 for the remainder of the season.

My goal is 60,000 gross profit on 100,000 sales.

Things I've learned:

Buy equipment that does multiple things. My tractor: Mows grass, hauls firewood, pulls a trailer, ploughs, disks, and harrows. If you can't use it at least 200 hours a season and it has a motor, you don't need it.

Time what it takes to do things.

Example: Miro makes a pot filling machine that makes a cascade of dirt. Fills a pot in record time.

But I've found that I can plant seedlings in 1 liter styroblock trays in 12 seconds per tree. In 2 gallon pots 30 seconds per tree. Reducing this time makes no sense, as there is another minute to load it on the trailer, unload it at the pot yard, and mulch it. A $15,000 machine compared to a $8 grain scoop isn't a win until I can keep that machine busy for a good chunk of the season. 1200 for a trailer that is only 6" off the ground would be a better investment.

$1000 spent in a rototiller for my tractor means that I have nice soft soil without clods to fill pots. I also have an easy way to fill pots, break new land for use, exhaust the weed seed bank, break up root balls of trees that died in the pot.

Be patient. I can start with a 40 cent 1 year old seedling, or a 70 cent two year old seedling. I go with the first. In a year, they have almost doubled their value.

Use polypropylene pipe for your irrigation. It flexes. submerge it into the soil only far enough to avoid the mower. This makes it a lot easier to change yoru mind later about how the pipes should be laid out. And you will change your mind.

Learn about micro irrigation.

Don't borrow money. That way you are never tempted to do something shady just to make the bank payment.

Find a web authoring system you like, and write your own stuff. Let your passion show.

I figure that my time breaks down into the following chunks:

* Production. This is a day I can, at the end of it, point to a pile of potted plants and say that my inventory has increased in value by X.
* Maintenance. Weeding, watering, fixing plumbing, mowing grass.
* Infrastructure. New plumbing, fields, mist house, sheds.
* Marketing and sales. M&S Turning that inventory into cash. Web work. Ads for Kijiji. Talking to people on the phone, tours.
* Self education. Learning more about what I sell.

I try to make summer production and M&S, but way too much ends up being M & I

Learn your market. A tree that is shorter than the customer is a tough sell. I spend a lot of time educating my customers.

Keep records of who you sold to.

Stand behind your product. I guarantee my trees for a year. Sure some people won't take care of it. Some people will lie. On the flip side, some people will forget they bought it from me, some people will know that they didn't take care of it, and don't deserve another. This spring about 400 trees have gone out. The people who have contacted me have been ecstatic that they are thriving and growing.

Once you have a decent web page, find every local directory you can, and get yourself in tht list.

Kijiji and Craigslist are good places to advertise, but think about what you say. If you search Edmonton, Canada for tree farm you can find example ads I wrote.

Put more than one string on your bow:

I'm starting to advertise for cut your own cristmas trees, because it will be a big profit stream, but because it creates brand awareness: More people learn who I am.

I'm planting rows of stuff for floral greens. The big season for selling trees is May and June, with a bit in July and a bit in September. Pussy willows and dogwood can be harvested and forced in February and March.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I'm bringing this to the top again. With the economy the way it's been the last couple of years, is a backyard nursery still a money making venture? I do a farmers market and been starting my plants inside my house. I just start veggie plants at this time. I'm not sure if I want to start flowers and herbs yet or not.

Marla


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

WELL,... although I was one of the last people to add to this thread... it's interesting to look back and read what I wrote in 2008. I had forgotten there was a time when I was about ready to give up on mail-order... but yeah it was sort of true at the time.

So I'm still in business. And after a pretty lousy 2008 and somewhat better 2009, 2010 turned out to be by far my biggest sales year yet. It's hard to say why but it may just be that the business continues to expand as fast as possible in this slow economy, which isn't very fast but still steady - as more people find out about the nursery and get interested. Also in 2010, I managed to get back on track with the mail order keeping my plant list updated regularly enough. The biggest surprise was that so many people wanted to come out here and shop for plants - I'm not exactly on the beaten track. I ended up doing a lot more retail sales last year than in the past (all by appointment as the nursery isn't really "open" to the public). I think part of my success was just creating a larger inventory in general. If I just have a ton of stuff all around then more people are more likely to find something they want. I have to throw out a few old, tired, unsaleable plants occasionally but I also seem to get away with a lot of cutting it back hard and bumping it up to the next pot size when it looks bad.

I think that despite the economy struggling there is very much the potential for backyard nurseries to remain profitable. The reason some established garden centers are struggling and even closing seems a result of their failure to think creatively to compete and adapt to a changing world that no longer values old fashioned styles of communication and marketing - I notice they are often aware of market/consumer trends but fail to get their message out in the right channels. There is definitely an opportunity for a backyard or specialty nursery that can avoid these pitfalls and carve its niche to find a place in the market.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Thanks ian, I live 15 miles out of town and am thinking about opening my farm stand on the farm, in addition to doing the farmers market. I want a greenhouse, but didn't want to buy one just for my wants. Now, to find one that I can afford.

Marla


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

marla,
build you a hoop house out of 1 1/4 inch pvc cover it with plastic setup heat and you will have a greenhouse ...
most expensive thing will besetting up the heat.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 3, 11 at 18:38

I saw that done once, Jethro. A light snow shattered it and made quite a mess, not to mention that the plants were lost.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

At this time, I have a 10x20 metal framed car canopy with plastic covering it. I also purchased and erected a 20x20 canopy. I didn't get it covered with plastic, just the cover that came with it. During one of the many storms this winter, the top came off, but the frame is still standing.

I really want a 'real' one, I'm not planning on heating it, except with Mother Nature's help. I'm not ready for the propane bills for that.

One year, we tried the pvc pipe stuck in the ground and bent over. The wind just took it away the first good wind we got. We even had it attached on one end.

We are in 'wind' country, north of us there are wind farms.

Marla


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I've built several PVC houses in that style - they can work but need to be reinforced with wood to handle any serious wind/snow. Making it cost more to build one. I prefer to attach the hoops to a wood frame that runs along the ground, rather than just sticking them in the ground - that way they all stay the same height.

For free heat you might want to consider setting aside space for large barrels of water, which can be painted black to absorb the sun's energy. It helps significantly although it does take up some space.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I put barrels of water in my 'greenhouse', unless the temps dropped to close to zero, the barrels stayed thawed.
I was happy with it, just way TOO small. I always heard that no matter how large a greenhouse you get, it will always be too small too quick.

I'm getting into perinneals, just annuals for veggies for the main part, with some flowers and possibly a few herbs. I started off just growing my own plants, and then I grew a few more and retailed them at my farmers market.

This year, I'll be finding out whether I can draw enough people to my farm to be able to sell at home instead of driving to town to sell.

Marla


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I've been doing a backyard nursery for 12 years, last year was my last year for annual potting plants and hanging baskets (prices too low at big box stores now-a-days) I can't compete with the "big box stores" anymore!! I'm done doing annual flowers, this year I will grow alot more veggie plants (sell some here,some at the local farmer's markets, and plant the remainder in my own gardens for fresh produce to sell at the farmer's markets. I also have 1000's of field grown perennials that I will dig up,divide and pot for the markets (little by little for 3 or 4 different kinds each week during the market season) I am also starting up a u-Pick raspberry set-up this spring. Hoping that will be a better ave. I'm also ckecking on growing some veggies right in the ground in the green house, get a jump start for the markets. Still too cold here, it's been 5 degree the last few nites.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Despite advice to the contrary here, large businesses can not do what small businesses do, re nursery: the intensely special, highly skilled labor simply can not be contracted out for it takes great passion, energy and skill to perform those highly intricate steps needed and economy of scale and big business can not do it no matter who says otherwise. But it means real dedication and providing an extreme niche in the field you choose (i.e. not just orchids but special kinds of orchids only, etc.), real custom hand work on everything, better than anyone locally and most afar. If you do that and stick to it, never forgetting that you are a part-time BACKYARD nursery and not a small COMMERCIAL nursery, you may succeed with modest returns, and a whole lot of luck.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Mike's advice about growing and propagation are as good as any other experienced gardener's and he has some cheap down-home style tips that are pretty good. I've been reading them for years and have learned a thing or two. He pushes his system pretty hard, but I just can't see paying for information that's available from my county extension service or the local library. As far as making money goes, I think I read somewhere that Mike's plant farm is in Madison County, Ohio. If location is the key to a staying business, he has one of the best-we call it nursery row in northeastern Ohio. The soil and conditions are great and there are a lot of growers, landscapers, and maintenance professionals that get most of their plants from that area. If his driveway is on the main route and he sets them out for sale cheap and in season-he probably makes a good chunk a' change. It might not be so profitable on my dead end street in Podunk. That being said, if you have the room to cart your wears to a local farmer's market, you might make some extra cash doing that. Of course, there are the pots to get and the potting mix and fertilizer, your time and gas, if you haul them anywhere and back again. 'better make sure there's a market before you invest very much.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Hi There,
I have recently moved to property we own and have started what the nurseries here call dooryard nurseries.
We have planted a number of fruit trees and berries along with cold hardy citrus and herbs and vegetables to begin the nursery. I will share that if you visit local nurseries and explain your vision, most of them will sell at wholesale cost which will save you a lot of money going in. We made the mistake of purchasing $60+ trees going in at Home Depot. I took a chance, shared my vision and started visiting local nurseries and have saved hundreds. I also located a wholesale only compost dealer and have been able to purchase high grade compost at cost. I will tell you to do your research as far as soil prep, protection of your crops during extreme hot days and hard freezes. Learn and study your growing seasons and watering requirements of each crop and if at all possible, buy locally to your zone and weather patterns. We are in our second growing season and have folks waiting for chemical free, homegrown food. Good luck with your venture, especially if you love gardening. Lots of planning and preparation is necessary, so be patient and vigalent. You can also search farmer's markets in your area and find out their requirements for selling your produce. Some local stores also look for local growers. And yet another option; ask friends, family, neighbors, church members, etc., if they will be interested in buying your produce. Hope this helps.

Happy Planting!


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I want to register a backyard nursery in South Carolina. I do not plan to grow alrge, but rather want to remain a small operation one person business for selected quality plants of limited variety mostly sell to retailers with revenue maximum $3000 per month. Could someone please advise, in SC, what do I have to get? A town business license? State Sales Tax account? SC Dept. of Agriculture license? Will it be worth it to spend money on town license, $50 on SC Sales Tax, then SC DOAgr perhaps another fee?


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

Talking to many nursery and tree farm owners I realized how little they know about the plants and trees that they are selling and how nothing they know about other (better) varieties of trees and plants that they have not even a clue that exist and can be grown. They told me that most people just want the generic brands of limited variety, which made me feel sad for those people.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

I read thorough the thread and learned some things.
Maybe there is a huge difference in making some bucks extra and making a living. I don't want to make a living but sell garage sale style (but a bit more stylish and I will serve a cup of tea too). We don't have regulations here thankfully. Our local nursery has closed and the next one is 9 km away (owned by the same guys). When I got there and wanted to buy something they never had a thing, told me that maybe they could get it in but didn't know at what price and when. The problem is that these small nurseries have to compete with internet sales.
I have collected a lot of pots, live in a climate were I don't need a greenhouse. I however have either to purchase potting mix ($75 ton) or the ingredients and hand mix (hurray) and I don't know if that is cheaper.
I am about to stick a webpage together, which will look really great, and plant to put a complete plant list in. The web location will be on the add in the local paper. But - maybe - Big box stores try to set up a shopping experience.... isn't it a bit boring when you know what plants you can buy and maybe even the price?
I want to make different groups of plants like essential cooking herbs or Chinese medicinal herbs or whatever. Lots of work to make signs though.


 o
RE: How profitable is a backyard nursery?

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Fri, Jan 3, 14 at 12:35

It's all lots of work. As with any business study the market before investing much in something, the less speculation the better.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Professional Gardener Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here