Archive for the ‘Home Based Business’ Category


 

Summer 2014 in the plant nursery

Summer 2014 .. seems like only yesterday!

Well here we are in 2015 and I can’t believe we are into our 6th year of the ruralgardener blog and so much has happened in that time and as I sit here gazing into my crystal ball it’s looking like another busy year ahead.

But before we look at this year  I’d like to reflect on last year.

2014 was a good year for John and I. We stayed fit and healthy (most of the time) and had plenty of laughs along the way. Tania had a big birthday which we celebrated with a lovely summer garden party which will stay in the memory for some time … not least as the weather was so kind to us.

Looking at last years projects I guess the most ambitious has to be the new workshop and adjoining potting area John built through the summer. I think it took us both by surprise just how long it took to build. We started in March and I think it took just over 4 months of weekends and a chunk of our holiday to complete the project.

Having said that the results were well worth the effort. It looks as if it was always meant to be there!  It’s given us a great base for the plant nursery and gives John a decent workshop to indulge his passion for making things. Lucky boy.

We finally managed to find a weekend to lop the 20ft leylandiis that have been a pain in the backside for so long. Always amazes me just how fast they grow. They were under 8ft when we first moved in 6 years ago and we just didn’t keep on top of them. My advice is to plant a hazel hedge. Much easier to manage, fast growing and make great sweet pea supports.

Anyway we minced all the trimmings and the resulting mulch is now providing a cover for the parking area adjacent to the new workshop. Should last a while and it was all free. We like free we do.

In 2014 the DIY blog posts proved popular so this year we’ve decided to create a section on the blog dedicated to building projects. We’re planning to convert the original workshop into an office which will enable John to work from home a lot more which is a goal we’ve been chasing for a while. We’re aiming to kick off the project in February and will be posting details.

Another project in the pipeline for this year is a general overhaul of ruralgardener.co.uk. We think its about time it had a bit of a facelift so we’re planning a few new ideas along the way including:

  • Expand our YouTube channel to include regular gardening support videos and a few other gems we have in the pipline!
  • An area where readers can purchase plans for our projects (the single most requested item on the site). We did consider offering the plans for free but to be honest they take a lot of time to produce and so we thought asking for a small contribution would be ok.
  • A few tips for making a little extra money from your garden. It’s not for everyone but given our plant nursery posts are the second most requested on the site we thought we’d share more.
  • Our most ambitious plan is to hold a few open days for anyone that might be interested in learning how to start their own gardening projects. We’re also planning to hook up with some of the local schools and offer details on the site of which have yet to be worked out. If we could inspire a few young people to start gardening that would be absolutely fantastic.

As always we welcome any suggestions for content that you’d like to see on the site so do please keep those emails coming and we’ll make it happen.

We’re really looking forward to this year and guess what … it’s February next week!

A slightly late but very well intentioned happy and prosperous new year to one and all!

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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outbuilding1We’ve been spending a fair bit of time on the new nursery shop and potting shed last few weeks.

The roof is on and not looking too bad. We decided to go for a felt roof in the end as we just don’t have the budget for clay tiles as we’d hoped to. Also started cladding the outside with 6 inch feather board.

Like to have finished the cladding completely but the builders merchant didn’t have sufficient stock as apparently there is a national shortage of feather board would you believe!  At least that what he told us anyway.

Finished off the the roof construction with the rest of the 4″ x 2″ pressure treated and covered it with 11mm OSB board.

Take your time laying the OSB making sure it’s straight and true. If you’ve built the rafters with the correct spacing your OSB should sit just fine. If not then you may need to add additional rafters to support the point at which two boards meet. The point at which the two roofs meet was a bit tricky but after much bad language it finally came together.

outbuilding4

Before the board went on we added a couple of skylights on the back of the roof. We looked at Velux but went for a lesser known brand as they were cheaper and seem to be just as good All they need is an extra coat of sealer and they’ll be as good as the Velux. (We’re not going to openly recommend a brand on the blog so if you’d like details then drop us an email and we’ll be happy to provide)

We then covered the OSB with heavy duty roofing felt.  Don’t go for the cheaper version unless you really have to or you’ll be re-roofing within 5 years.

I mention heavy duty as there are several grades of roofing felt. The best product for the price is traditional green mineral felt … certainly worth paying the extra for something that will last.

Roofing felt comes in large rolls which are heavy so make sure you have some help around when it’s delivered.

If you plan to store it for a while then keep it out of the sun and also stand the rolls on end. They usually have a wrapper with installation instructions with directions on which end to stand it up. Although it’s a tough material treat it with care or you could damage it, or worse puncture it.

You’ll see from the photos that the felt extends beyond the edge of the board by about 4 inches on all sides.

This serves two purpose:

  1. To run any rain water into the guttering.
  2. To allow for tucking the felt under the end facia boards on the gable ends.

outbuilding3

If you planning to put roofing felt onto any building my advice is don’t lay it on a hot day. On the day we laid ours it was baking and as we started handling the felt it began to soften which wasn’t a problem at first ….  until we (rather John) came to stand on it!  Foot prints started to appear in the felt which wasn’t exactly the look we were after. 😦

So best wait for a cloudy day before fitting roofing felt.

Oh and another tip … don’t lay your felt out on your lawn in the sun when you’re cutting it too length, or it will scorch the grass. Best wait for a day when the sun isn’t so strong.

We’re quite pleased with the results although we still hanker for clay tiles, but hey maybe in the future eh.

Last job for this session was to cut and fix the facias on the front and back of the building. I usually use at least 6 inch boards but as the eaves are fairly low we had to change to 4 inch instead.

We used 6 inch boards on the gable ends but it meant trimming the lower edge back slightly so it finished neatly with the facias. Turned out ok in the end.

outbuilding5

 

Next phase is to finish off the cladding (when it arrives) and put up the guttering ready to collect all that lovely rain water!

My son Tom  is starting the first fix this weekend which should see the cabling go in after which we can look at insulation and closing off the inside of the main building also with OSB board.

outbuilding6

Seems to be taking an age … but should be well worth it in the end. Can’t wait to welcome visitors to our little venture.

We’ll post more as the build progresses, but do drop us a note if you’d like any more information about the methods used.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

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How-to-start-a-nursery

Two Year Old Black Walnut Seedlings

This is the second in our series about how you can set up your own independent plant nursery from your back garden.

Hopefully Part 1 will have started you thinking that this might be something you could consider starting either as a hobby or perhaps as an alternative source of income.

Today we’re going to share what you need to get started the kind of equipment you need to get you started on the road to owning your own little plant nursery.

What do I need to get started?

You’re going to need plants for a start … and lots of them!

When John and I started on this road in 2010 we already had a few of the older varieties of shrubs and perennials in the garden that we knew grew well in our chalky soil and we were  confident the varieties are not covered under the PBR schemes which was confirmed after a little research on the web.

How-to-start-a-nursery-2

2 Year Syringa Vulgaris (Lilac) plants growing away in the nursery bed

You’re also going to need pots and plenty of them.

When we started we grand ideas like selling our plants in clay pots but it just wasn’t practical. Wonderful to look at but blooming heavy and way too expensive. Customers just won’t pay a premium for a plant in a clay pot.

As a rule we use the following sizes in the nursery.

1. Three (3) inch for one year old rooted softwood cuttings.
2. Five (5) inch for two year old mature plants.

We also occasionally use a 7 inch pot if we’re lifting mature shrubs from the ground but we find most of our customers prefer to buy the 5 inch pots.

Of course there is nothing to stop you using any size pot but if you keep them consistent they look uniform and actually it looks more professional. Appreciate we’re not building another garden centre here but these little refinements do make a difference.

You also get used to how big the plants grow and how much compost you need to fill a single pot. Very useful for when it comes to working out your production costs.

Do I need any specialist equipment?

You can get started with very little which is what’s so great about this little business.

If you plan to grow your own stock from taking softwood or semi hardwood cuttings you’re going to need:

  • Rooting hormone
  • Plant labels
  • Sharp sand or potting compost to plant the cuttings in.
  • Patience

Apart from a hose and a source of water that’s pretty much everything we had when we started and in our first year we raised around 50 young plants for a total investment of around £15. Small numbers yes, but from acorns oaks do grow as they say.

Over the last few years we’ve collected pots of all sizes, made a potting bench out of single sheet of OSB and invested in a modest misting setup. You don’t have to mist to be successful with cuttings but it does significantly increase your chances of success.

Of course if you plan to buy and sell stock then there is little need for anything other than somewhere to store the plants and means of getting them to your market.

You’re going to need to invest in a little marketing to get the message out there but we’ll cover that in more detail in the next post.

Shall I grow my own or buy in my plants?
Well that’s really a decision only you can make. Buying plants in gives you instant stock that you can simply mark up and sell on for a profit. All I would say is that does reduce your margins by quite a lot but at the same time you don’t have the added hassle of growing the plants and all the challenges that presents.

We like to grow our plants as we think it’s half the fun and it means we can market our plants as ‘locally grown on Hampshire chalk’ which is a point of difference for our business. (High tech business speak) 🙂

Whenever someone comes to visit the nursery they see healthy plants growing in our chalky Hampshire soil, which means they leave confident what they’re buying will survive in their own garden.

Propagating your own plants from seed, softwood cuttings or division we believe is more profitable than buying in stock to sell, and it’s all consuming which means you’re going to need to spend a fair amount of time on your new venture if you plan to grow your own.

How much space do I need to get started?
You need very little space to get started. It’s all relative to what you want to achieve really. You can grow plenty of plants in a square metre but if you need more space you could always expand upwards!

That’s the great thing about growing plants for profit … it ‘scales’ really easily.

Here’s another idea if you’re stuck for space. How about asking a friend or neighbour if you could use part of their garden. You could offer them an incentive to come in with you for a share of the profits. 🙂

“Yes but don’t you live in the country and have plenty of space?”

We received an email from a reader recently who asked if it was possible to start your own back garden nursery in the middle of a town. We went on to tell her about a guy we know who lives in a first floor flat in central London and runs a plant business from the back of his truck.

Basically he picks up the plants from a grower in the morning and delivers to his clients houses in the afternoon. Any left over stock goes to the local charity which gets his name out in the local community.

Where this is a will there is a way … as they say!

 How much should I charge for my plants?

Basically as much as you think your market will stand. Having said that you have to be sensible with your pricing if you’re to compete. One way to compete on price is too propagate your own as it means you not only have  great looking plants but you can also offer those plants at a great price as it’s easier to make a margin. Also ‘home grown’ is a great differentiator.

How To Start A Plant Nursery With The Rural Gardeners

Grow healthy plants and they sell themselves

Where possible we try to keep our prices at below £5.00 for a 2 year old plant and £6.95 for anything we feel will sell for that price. These tend to be 2-3 year old stock.

Where can I sell my plants?

Farmers markets are great as they usually come with customers but we choose not to sell at farmers markets as the customers tend to want to barter which I don’t have time for to be honest.

Another possible outlet for your plants is Ebay. Great thing about Ebay is it comes with millions of customers. Appreciate they’re not all looking to buy your plants but a fair chunk of them might be.

The only issue I have with eBay is it tends to attract customers with deep pockets. But hey that suits us as we’re selling our plants for under a fiver anyway.

We’re not going to spend too much time talking about eBay as there’s loads of really good stuff out there already. Just watch for the charges and always work out how much it ACTUALLY costs you to get your plants to the customer. Then factor those numbers into your pricing.

If you’re happy having customers come to your house you could always hold a plant sale from your back door, or from your garden. But watch this one as you’ll likely have to organise public liability insurance just in case someone has an accident on your property.

If you know someone who is a whizz with computers you could always start your own web site selling plants and all things gardening. It’s actually easier than you think to get started but you will have to either license the software which is typically costs around £15 – £20 a month. Alternatively you could get someone to build you a site and use PayPal as the payment gateway.

Loads of really good information out there on how to set up your own shop online.

How do I get the message out there that I’m open for business?

That will be the subject of our next post.

We’ll also take a closer look at our set up and share some ideas around how you can get your nursery off to a successful start. We’ll also share some ideas on how you make this work for you all year round as the plant selling season is fairly short and you’re going to need something to keep your business active over the winter months.

Hope you found this useful but as always any questions leave a comment or drop us an email to ruralgardeners@gmail.com.

Best wishes

 

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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Last years pink weigelia plants raised from softwood cuttings in early June

Last years pink Weigela plants raised from softwood cuttings in early June 2013.

We’ve decided to write a series of posts on the subject of starting your own plant nursery business. Partly in reply to the many emails we receive on the subject and partly because we derive so much pleasure from growing plants.

As we have so much to say we’re presenting the materials as a series of posts to ensure we get across the really valuable stuff in some detail so you can gain the most benefit.

Part 1 – The basics

I’m not even sure what we are doing really amounts to a plant nursery as such. I guess you’d call it a sort of part time hobby that has grown over the last few years. Not only it is great stress buster it also brings in some welcome funds.  It won’t make you a millionaire, at least not overnight, but if you are prepared to work hard I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you can achieve.

My advice is don’t stretch yourself too much in the beginning. Perhaps start with maybe a handful of plants and feel your way from there. It’s fairly simple to get to started and if you’re anything like us you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it years ago!

You see I firmly believe small growers like you and I can compete with the larger garden centres at so many levels. The most obvious advantage we have is we don’t have hundreds if not thousands of pounds of overheads.

Thyme growing in the nursery

Last years Thyme plants growing away in the nursery.

That to me is the secret, only invest what you can afford and never borrow money to start your business. You don’t need to, just keep it small and when it’s going well plan for something much bigger. If you’d prefer to grow just a few varieties of you choice then that’s also fine. Above all enjoy the experience … it’s meant to be fun!

You might even consider branching out (excuse the pun) into selling your plants through a small web site?  There are several tools out there that make it easy to set up your own shop on line so do your research and you can started for free if you use PayPal for example. PayPal will take around 3% in charges which I think is a small price to pay given you are using an established payment provider and all the benefits that go with it.

Where to begin?

You are going to face a few decisions along the way and perhaps the most challenging is how do I get started?

When we started we both did loads of research on plants and more specifically learning the various plant names. We set ourselves a target to learn the names of at least five plants a week.  Appreciate this doesn’t sound like a lot but setting realistic targets makes it more likely you will achieve them. So be fair with yourself or you’ll get fed up before you’ve even started.

I know John read lots of books and researched other people’s stories and what  successful growers were doing right and where the not so successful ones were going wrong.

We also spoke to lots of people we knew to find out how and why they buy plants. The results were interesting, most replied it was therapy wandering through a collection of plants and imagining how the plants would look in their own garden. They also said when they head to the garden centre they’re usually already prepared to spend money, which is great news for the small grower. All we need to do is persuade them to buy from us instead.

What should I grow?

That’s an easy one. Grow what your customers want which isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, but you can help yourself by getting a head start. Take a trip to your local garden centre and wander around taking a sneak peak in the trolleys. This will give you a pretty good idea what people are buying. Let’s call it homework. 🙂

The garden centre industry spends literally millions of pounds a year on researching what’s in and what’s not,  so if they have loads of Japanese maples dotted around (as they seem to at the moment) then there is surely a market for Japanese Maples.

Japanese Maples

Who can resist the lovely graceful Acers.

If you’re planning on keeping your nursery small it’s probably a good idea to focus on one plant type. Choose something your really passionate about and grow lots of varieties, including a few rare varieties. It will  help you to remain focused and it’s easier keeping one plant group healthy than managing lots of different ones.

Perhaps you have a passion for roses, or rhododendrons, or maybe you’re into trees?  All I would say when it comes to trees your going to need to be prepared for a lot of heavy lifting and you’ll need plenty of space so perhaps they’re best left to the big growers.

 Is it legal to sell plants from my back garden?

Yes but you can’t simply propagate anything and expect to be able to sell it. You need to learn about Plant Breeders Rights and then forget all about it. I’m serious, don’t waste time working out if you are within the law, simply invest in the older varieties as they tend to be pre-PBR and you should be fine. Always check the label on the plant before you buy and if that doesn’t help jump on the Internet and see what information is out there on the variety. Last but no means least you can always ask the garden centre or nursery where you bought the plant.

But what if no one wants to buy my plants?

It can be quite daunting at first and we all experience doubts when kick starting a new venture. The way I look at it is if you don’t make a start how can you expect to succeed?  We were exactly the same three years ago when we started growing our own plants, but after much effort we’ve created what you might call our own little plant nursery right in our back garden which is stocked with a  range of shrubs and old fashioned cottage favourites ready for anyone that wants to buy. I firmly believe if you build it they will come … now where have I heard that before?

Next time in part 2 we’ll look at how to set up your growing space, how to kick start your collection from softwood cuttings and the equipment you’ll need to get you started.

Hope you found this useful.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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Hi.
We’ve been working towards building our own little back garden nursery business for the last 2-3 years. Nothing too ambitious … a micro nursery with attitude I call it. 🙂

I’m confident I have a good grasp of the propagation side of the business and have been sharing my experiences  through the blog and on our YouTube channel.

This year I’m looking to up my game and see how best to use the space I have available. I’ve already started to collect some ideas together and have to say I’m getting very excited about the whole idea.

It’s our major project for this year and it won’t be long before the growing season kicks off in earnest, so I need to kick things along a bit if I’m to make the most of the Spring season!

Plans For The New Plant Nursery

I’ve put together a rough plan to share and would welcome your comments as I’m really not very good at this kind of thing.

You’ll see from the plan I’ve included a newly built covered area which will double up as a potting shed, as well as a general store. It will also offer shelter from the April showers and provide a nice space for pottering about or maybe running a couple of courses in the summer.

Also I need to make sure there is an electric point for a kettle. After all you can’t garden without a steady supply  of tea!

John is planning to install solar power with mains back up for days when the sun stays away. I’ll be interested to see exactly how much power we’ll be able to generate.

We’ve split the plot into different areas or spaces, each serving a specific function. Over time I’m hoping the plants will spill out onto the paths and soften the edges creating a more natural feel to the space which is the general effect we’re after.

A. The Cut Flower Garden.

Approximately 40ft long by 8ft wide dedicated to growing a range of gorgeous English cut flowers.  I’ve always been a lover of cut flowers and this year I’m planning on growing  more than ever. I might even try and sell a few bunches at the village shop.

(If you’d like to know more about growing cut flowers I’ve put up a few blog posts that might help you to get started)

B. The Sales Area.

This will be for showing off the plants and will be arranged in such a way that customers can wander freely and really get a feel for the range of plants we sell.

I guess what I’m looking for is an environment where visitors feel comfortable and leave thinking they can’t wait to come back again.

C. Workshop & Potting Shed.

Basically a shed that will provide shelter from the rain and shade in the height of the summer.  We’ll use it as a store and build a potting shed in one side. The design will be based on a traditional wood frame structure. (John is planning to put up some plans when his workload will allow)

D. Propagation Center.

I’m going to create a dedicated propagation area. It’s easier to manage and I won’t end up with cuttings here there and everywhere.

I tend to get better results if the cutting boxes are positioned in a shady spot, which is why we chose this particular part of the garden. There is a Victoria plum tree immediately adjacent to the propagation area which casts  dappled shade in the summer months which will help to keep the cuttings from drying out.  Should be perfect.

If you’d like to know more about growing your own plants from cuttings there’s lots of advice on the internet. If you’d like know how we got started head on over to the Rural Gardeners You Tube channel where you’ll find a series of short videos John recorded last summer explaining about how easy it is to get started propagating your own plants from cuttings.

F. Rainwater Collection

Really important to have good rainwater collection, especially if you’re on a water meter.  Every penny helps as they say.

I plan to have a series of barrels on a plinth with taps about half way up the barrel. Saves bending down so much.

Next steps?

Well, as soon as the weather improves in March we’ll get started but can’t do too much until all this rain passes and the ground starts to dry out, or we’ll simply make a terrible mess everywhere.

Be sure to check in on our You Tube channel as we plan to share our experiences with everyone. Also feel fr)ee to drop your email details here and well keep you right up to date. I promise you’ll not miss a second of the action!

Thanks for reading and as always any questions fire them over and we’ll endeavor to answer them.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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How To Start Your Own Plant Nursery Business
We had a really interesting conversation with one of our readers the other day who is looking to start his own plant nursery business. It’s not his real name but let’s refer to him as Colin.The basic premise of my conversation with Colin was around his plan to set up a small plant nursery to generate a little extra income from the venture. It got me thinking how many other readers might be thinking about maybe growing and selling a few plants who might have similar questions.  So I’ve compiled the summary points from our discussion.What plants will I be able to sell?
Whatever you like providing it isn’t protected under the Plant Breeders Rights program. Easiest way to tell is check the label and if you’re not sure start with the cottage garden favourites and choose the older varieties.What plants sell the best?
Not so easy as trends change, but the old cottage garden favourites are great for getting started, like Penstemons, Cranesbill geraniums, Weigela’s, Lavender, Herbs, Dogwoods, Dahlia’s, Jasmine’s and Hosta’s. If you watch people at the garden centres you’ll find more often than not they buy plants in flower and/or that have scent.My advice … try to include a good mix of plants, but consider specialising in a particular group of plants.Do I need any special equipment?
Not to get started. You can start with a few cuttings in a plant pot outside the back door and grow your business as large or as small as you’re comfortable with.
I started with a few rosemary cuttings in a 3 inch pot filled with some seed compost I had kicking around. As I began to grow in confidence I moved on to the cottage favourites and eventually on to my favourite plant group, Acers.

Learn to grow plants first and then think about investing in more kit is my advice.

I don’t anything about growing plants though?
You found us on the internet and there are others just like us sharing how to grow plants from cuttings on the web. Advice is all over the place, but my advice is dive in, make a small investment to get your business off the ground and basically have go. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get started.

Where can I sell my plants?
Visit a few local plant sales and farmers markets as see if anyone is selling plants. Is there space for one more?
Markets are sprouting up all over the place and the majority of the customers are looking for a bargain and for the personal touch. We can’t resist buying plants, just visit the local garden centre and you’ll see what I mean … trust me there is a market out there for a business just like yours.

Do you have any advice for anyone launching a plant business?

  • Yes, dive in and have a go. Yes you’ll make mistakes along the way but I can’t think of a better way to make a little extra money for a relatively small investment
  • Start small and plan for something much bigger.
  • Use the Internet as it’s a wealth of knowledge.
  • Share with others as what goes around usually comes around as they say.
  • Be prepared to work hard … You get nothing in this life for free.

Final thought to share today.
I was walking the dog around five o’clock this afternoon when I suddenly realised it was still daylight. Dare we start to think Spring is around the corner?

Happy weekend all.

With our best wishes,

The Rural Gardeners

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