Archive for the ‘My Back Garden Nursery’ Category


Turn Your Hobby Into a Business

I’ve been doing quite a bit of soul searching lately which led me to wondering if it’s possible to turn your hobby into a business?

Just the thought of getting paid for something that you love sounds really interesting and worthy of a little research.

Part of the reason for the post is we have a small back garden nursery venture which although a hobby is slowly growing into something a little more ‘adventurous’ shall we say.

I’ve been doing a little research on the web it appears over 3 million people have started their own small business from home and derive a huge amount of satisfaction and fulfilment as a result. But perhaps the best bit of all is it’s born from a passion that with a little effort and a lot of planning turned into something a tad more permanent.

That’s all very interesting I hear you say .. .  but what if you want to replace your regular 9-5 job? HOW do people like us turn their hobby into a viable business?

Take my friend James (not his real name).

He has a modest workshop in his garden from which he produces the most amazing art made mainly from wood and precious metals. He’s at the top of his game (if you ever really can be)  and sells his work all over the world. I’m pretty confident he makes a modest living from it.

He’s his own boss and walks approximately 20 steps to work. What a fabulous way to make a living and the harder he works the more income he can generate. I like the sound of that!

I also have a friend that set herself up as a dog and cat sitter for friends and immediate family. Essentially she moves into the home of the owners and looks after their pets while they are on holiday or perhaps off on a short break. She has a great way with animals.

I caught up with her a couple of weeks ago and she told me she started advertising in the surrounding villages and is looking for a second sitter to help out such is the demand! How fantastic is that! She gets to spend time with all those fabulous animals and gets paid for the pleasure.

But what’s involved in turning a hobby into a business and how do you make it work?

First and foremost I think you need to find something you’re really passionate about. Almost everyone I know that runs their own succcesfull business started with an idea or a vision they felt they could spend inordinate amounts of time pursuing.

Say you love gardening and want to start your own plant nursery. First you’re going to need to enjoy gardening with a passion as your customers  are more likely to buy plants from you if you know what you’re talking about.

Second you need to understand what its going to take to make a success of it … or put another way what are you prepared to do to make it a success? There will long days and short nights for you at least for the first couple of years while you establish the business.

Also it may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you’re getting all excited about your new venture … but think about how you will cope when your little business starts to pick up momentum and the orders start to role in.  How were you going to manage the phone calls, market the business and keep your web site up to date? … as well as actually selling some plants.

These are all considerations you need to think about.

Wallflowers bursting into growth

The good news is…

I think there’s never been a better time to start a new business. In particular an online business. I also believe the pendulum is swinging back to the days of the small retailer where reputations are built on excellent customer service and the integrity of the supplier which is where you come in.

Yes Amazon and Ebay are significant players in the market but if you have a great product and outstanding customer service then you have a fighting chance of stealing a very small part of the lunch from those giants. I’m not suggesting for a minute that Amazon or Ebay aren’t good for turning a hobby into a business as they are relatively low cost access to a massive database of customers. Just remember it’s a massive market out there and there are plenty of customers to go round!

My advice having been there a couple of times in the past few years is to jump in and make a start. Yes keep it small to begin with and limit the risk but it’s never been easier to get yourself selling on line if you have a great product and story to sell.

Before you know it you’ll have your first customer and then your second and your little hobby will build a momentum of its own. You remember to keep feeding it.

Have YOU turned your hobby into a job or ever thought about it?

If you have we’d love to hear from you and perhaps you might share some of your experiences good, bad or indifferent with our readers. Its easier than you think you know and if there is anything we can do to help anyone that’s thinking of turning a hobby into a business do drop us a note as we’d love to help if we can.

Thanks all.

Best wishes,

rural-gardeners

 

 

Still living the dream …

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Goldflame Spirea

Several of our readers have been in touch and asked what plants should they start with if they want to start selling a few plants from home. Shrubs are a particular favourite of mine especially the older pretty varieties that have been around a while. (Also they’re less likely to create any problems with PBR)

Out of all the shrubs I grow my absolute favourite has to be Goldflame Spirea and it’s a great plant to get started with if you’re new to propagating plants.

Goldflame are fairly easy to propagate and make fantastic plants after one year and just keep getting better with age … which makes them an ideal plant for anyone thinking of starting there own little venture.

Over the coming weeks I’ll share a few more of these little gems that are both simple to grow and loved by gardeners but for now let me share what I’ve learned about this lovely plant.

Goldflame Spirea

Really easy to look after and will readily propagate from softwood cuttings in late May / early June. Like most other shrub-type spirea they flower on new wood in the summer. Pruning should be in late winter or early spring, just before the buds set for the new year.

At the end of March I simply go through my plants and prune them back to around 3 – 4 inches of stem. I gather up the plant a bit like a pony tail and simply chop off everything above my fist. Looks brutal at first but the plant grows back into a stronger and more balanced plant. I do this with most of my 2 year old shrubs.

Just go easy on 1 year old plants … probably best to leave them well alone for the first couple of years.

I take my Goldflame Spirea cuttings in the last week of May first week of June. If you want to improve your chances of success keep the new cuttings under mist or lightly water with a fine rose every 3-4 hours for the first 2 weeks … or until the plants stop flagging and start perk up.

Goldflame Spirea

Last Years Goldflame Spirea cuttings coming into leaf in the cutting bed.

1 Year Old Gold Flame Spirea

1 Year old Goldflame Spirea looking particularly splendid in a mature terracotta pot.

2 Year Old Goldflame Spirea growing away in the nursery bed

2 Year Old Goldflame Spirea growing away in the nursery bed

Goldflame cuttings tend to look half dead in the winter as they drop all the leaves and look somewhat anaemic. Don’t worry about them as they’ll start leafing up in early April with the distinctive reddish gold leaf. In a couple of years you’ll have a wonderful looking plant that will catch the eye of any prospective customer!

Just before I finish this is another plant we have a lot of success with and as you can see it is a gorgeous plant especially at this time of the year with it’s pretty tightly packed white flowers.

Do you know the name of this plant?

Do you know the name of this plant?

But here’s the thing … I haven’t a clue what it is? if you can help please drop a note in the comments section and put me out of my misery.

Thanks everyone.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

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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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recycle2

I don’t know about you but it’s about his time of the year I start thinking about cutting the hedges. I was brought up in the country and I remember my dad used to take a lot of advice from a farmer friend when it came to hedge cutting. “When you see the farmer out with his tractor and hedge cutter then its time to cut the hedges” he used to say.

Well last weekend the farmer in the back field was out bright and early trimming the hedgerows  so I thought I’d get the step ladder out and start tidying up our mixed hedge. It’s about 60 meters of mixed hedge in total and has pretty much everything in it from lleylandi to hazel with the odd walnut sapling thrown in for good measure.

The hedge was here when we moved in and as each year goes with careful management it just gets better. Although it isn’t perhaps the most beautiful hedge you’ll find but it does host a variety of native birds and flora so it’s always best to wait until the birds have stopped breeding before cutting.

Every year I have the challenge of finding something to do with the waste material. Well this year a friend of mine gave us a small electric shredder. It doesn’t actually shred the waste, more like grinds the branches into submission!

recycle5

Having said that it is a great little machine and I’m immensely grateful for it, not least as it enables us to create a by-product from the hedge trimmings which serves several purposes.mulchFirstly it makes a great surface for around the entrance to the nursery which is soft under foot and when its had a chance to break down it turns into the most amazing springy compost material.

The great thing is its cheap to produce and lasts for several seasons and you can throw it onto the compost heap or simply lay it on top of the beds and wait for nature to do its stuff.

Last year we started to scatter the trimmings on the paths in the kitchen garden to create a more natural feel.  One year on and its turned into the most amazing mulch which is soft under foot and can be used for mulching the flower beds.  I simply spade it onto the beds and work it into the soil and worms do the rest!

If you’re thinking of buying a shredder then the bigger you can afford the better is my advice. I love my little shredder but do sometimes wish I had a little extra power.

Here are my tips for trouble free shredding!

  • Read and follow the instructions that come with your shredder.
  • Be patient and avoid stuffing too much green material in at once especially Leylandii as it has a tendency to clog the machine.
  • Resist stuffing large branches in or you’ll likely burn out the motor. My little shredder will comfortably take branches up to an inch in diameter. Anything larger gets stripped of its branches and either used for poles in the garden or for winter firewood.

Like most of the green waste in the garden hedge trimmings can be a pain to get rid of  but if you’re able to invest in a modest little shredder I’d say go for it as the by-product is can easily be recycled.

I didn’t manage to finish the job this weekend so will be shredding some more next weekend.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

Still living the dream …

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How to use Evernote

I mentioned in my last post how we use an app called Evernote to log all our plants. If you’ve never seen Evernote before then I’d definitely recommend taking a look.

Essentially its a really easy and convenient way to take notes and review them on phone, desktop or tablet.

evernote-2

The same content seen on my tablet

The information is stored in the ‘Cloud’ which basically means you can access it anywhere providing you have access to a copy of Evernote.

Evernote for gardeners

… and on my mobile phone.

I have to say I think it’s brilliant but in the interest of balance …  there are loads of other note apps out there that are comparable with Evernote.

When I first downloaded it my immediate reaction was wouldn’t this be great for keeping a record of the plants in the nursery. It’s simple to use, has as a host of really cool features and best of all it’s free!

How does Evernote work?

Essentially it maintains a series of Notebooks in which you store notes. Think of Notebooks as folders or categories and Notes as individual pages.

Each ‘Note’ is made up of text, photos, audio, video or a combination of.

There are the usual formatting tools, bold italic, colours etc. and it has both Search and Tagging features which helps when you have lots of notes to search through.

Tags are great and can make sorting your notes so much easier.

For example you may want to find all the herbs in your collection but would rather not search through every note one by one. But if you create a tag called herbs and add it when you create a note it will make it much easier to find by simply clicking on the Tag feature and selecting the appropriate tag.

We like to keep things simple here and so tend to stick to a combination of text and images but have been occasionally known to add an audio describing the characteristics of the plant or any unusual growling conditions.

Each note has the full name of the plant and if applicable the common name along with details of the growing conditions. I also include a photo which comes in really handy as a reminder when the plant is out of flower.

Its also really useful if someone asks the same question when they’re thinking of buying the plant. I just whip out my phone and show them.

Here are a few suggestions for Notebooks.

Herbaceous, Roses, Ground cover, Evergreens, Climbers, Shrubs, Moisture loving plants, Grow well on chalk, Prefer Dry conditions.

If you want to learn more about Evernote there are loads of great videos on YouTube explaining every last detail but my advice is keep it simple and utilise the features that work best for you.

Hope you found this useful and do drop me a note if you’re using Evernote to track your plants as I’d love to know how we can make it work better for us.

Best wishes

rural-gardeners

 

 

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What Is The Name Of This Plant?
I’m hoping someone is going to be able to help me today to find the name of this plant.

I bought it two years ago from the plant nursery at the Lost Gardens Of Heligan. I’d seen it while walking round the gardens and thought it had the most beautiful deep red flowers which cover the plant in June and July. I believe it’s an evergreen and grows to approximately 5-6 feet.

Can You Name This Plant?

Not long after I got home the leaves started to drop and the plant looked to have died off completely.  😦  At first I thought it might be deciduous but this was the end of June after all.

Anyway rather than throw it away something told me I should hang on to this little plant and stuck it behind the polytunnel for the winter.

Then earlier this year to my surprise it started to grow back. It’s not as full as it was when i bought it but I’m just delighted it’s survived and I didn’t give up on it at the first sign of trouble.

Can You Name This Plant?

This where I really need some help.
Unfortunately I lost the label and have no idea what the name of the plant is?
There’s a lesson here for the would-be plant collector. As soon as you get any new plant home record the full name and the date you acquired it. After all it’s easy these days with mobile phones having a a camera of some sort.This summer I’ve gone one step further for the nursery and downloaded a great little free ‘App’ called Evernote.All I do is take a picture of the plant on my phone and add a couple of notes making sure to include the full name of the plant and the date I bought it. This information along with the photo is automatically stored in the cloud, which basically means I can access my plant list from my phone, tablet and/or pc from pretty much anywhere.  Now whenever I need to refresh my memory about a plant I just pull out my mobile and hey presto I have access to my complete library of plants.  How cool is that!

There’s plenty of information out there about Evernote but I will post a more detailed piece about this great little app and how you can use it to create your own plant list . Only wish I had it when I left Heligan that day!

If you know anything about this little plant I’d be most grateful for any information you can pass on. I’ve also noticed it’s a slow grower which might be down to the growing conditions, so any advice would also be most welcome.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you so much.

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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