Archive for the ‘Propagating Plants’ Category


box hedge 2

I’ve been planting little box hedge plants this week. I think they’ll make a great new edge to the walled border near the house.  I can see now they are not quite in a straight line .. but hopefully they will grow together over time and no one will notice. 😉

These are 2 year old plants. As you can see they’ve started to put on lot of new growth and are about 6 inches high, which is an ideal size for planting out.

I find April/May the best time to plant box as the ground has warmed a little and there is still plenty of rain around, which box hedge seem to love.

box hedge 1

Once the cuttings have rooted I pot them on and move them to the cold frame. If you don’t have a cold frame a sheltered spot in the garden should be fine.

Planting Box Hedge

Although box like moisture I find they don’t respond well if they are sitting in water, so I prepare the ground first by mixing in a good helping of well rotted compost, mixed with an equal quantity of sharp sand. They seem to like growing in our chalky thin soil.

Below are just a few of their 4 year old cousins which are growing away on the opposite side of the path, and as you can see they have put on a fair bit of growth in that time.

box hedge 3

I’ll start trimming them into shape next weekend and I’m hoping they’ll look like this one day. 🙂

Buxus

If you’ve never grown your own box plants from cuttings I urge you to have a go. I raise all my own box hedge plants in late September. If I can do it … anyone can!

Box Plant From Cuttings

Although it’s not the ideal time to take box cuttings now, I thought I’d share with you my method. Btw I’ve taken Box cuttings in June before and had plenty of success.

Buxus (Box) is a great plant to raise from cuttings, as they nearly always root and I think they make a beautiful edge to a path.

Propagating from cuttings - Box Cuttings

When you’re looking for plants to use as cutting material try to select healthy, strong looking plants with plenty of new growth. It’s the new growth that makes the best cutting material.

Although it’s not critical I find it helps if you ‘tear’ semi hardwood cuttings from the stem of the plant leaving the cutting with a slight ‘heal’. I don’t know why, but it just seems improve your chances of success.

You’re going to need about 4-6 inches of stem above the heal, so snip off the rest of the cutting with a sharp knife. Then plunge a fist full of cuttings into rooting compound to encourage the cutting to develop roots.

box-cuttings sitting in Organic rooting compound

I tend to use an organic liquid compound, for no reason other than it’s nearly always works for me. Also you’ll need a 4-5 inch plant pot with a mix of 50 / 50 potting compost and sharp sand.

As I raise several hundred plants at a time I use mostly sharp sand as there is a plentiful supply at the local builder’s merchant, so it works out a lot cheaper.

This next bit is really  IMPORTANT!

  1. Collect your cutting material early in the morning when the plant is bursting with energy and store them in a plastic bag until they are ready to use.
  2. Try to get the cuttings into the compost as soon as possible after it has been cut from the plant as it will continue to transpire moisture through the leaves and start to wilt, as it has no source of moisture.
  3. Finally make sure you keep the cuttings watered for the first few weeks, until they start growing away.

If you decide to have a go at growing your own plants from cuttings do let us know how you get on … and feel free to send is your pictures.

Back soon.

Best wishes,

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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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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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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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For those of you that follow us on a regular basis will know we’re expanding our back garden plant nursery.

Well it’s been raining today which is has brought out the best in the plants and so I thought I’d share a few pics. All these plants started life as softwood cuttings in June 2012 and 2013 and have produced these wonderful looking plants. I’m not sure why I sound so surprised, but it still amazes me you can grow all these wonderful plants for virtually no outlay.

How To Start Your Own Plant Business

How to start your own nursery

We’ve also been busy over the weekend with our new building project. I’ll post more detail around the construction methods next week but wanted to share a few pics with those of you that are following our progress.

Hope your Easter weekend was a good one!

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

 

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Baby Basil plants

Baby Basil plants ready to be pricked out into 3″ pots for the summer.

Growing Basil from seed

Like a great many other gardeners April and Easter more specifically is is an incredibly productive month in the garden.

I’ve just come in from the polytunnel having pricked out about 50 basil seedlings into 3″ pots. The smell on my hands is just fantastic … can’t help thinking of tomatoes when I’m pricking out Basil plants. They go so well together and if you plant a few alongside your tomato plants the aroma will help to keep the whitefly away.

This years basil seedlings

Basil is an annual which basically means it will produce for you in one year but you will need to grow new plants next year.

We’ve been sowing in a light well drained compost mix since the beginning of March right through and so far we’ve been fairly successful with our germination.  I particularly love the broad leaf basil varieties as they are really easy to grow and don’t take a lot of looking after … and they remind me of holidays in the Loire with the children. Wonderful times.

Secret to growing great Basil plants?

Don’t over water and keep the plants in a warm, sunny spot in the garden or window sill. We grow a few outside but mostly in the polytunnel to be honest so we can control the watering and this year we’re also succession planting as we hope to sell to the local pubs and restaurants to raise a few extra pennies for the coffers!

If you want to grow a few plants of your own plant your basil seeds in a tray or pot from March onwards. We’ve sown Basil seed pretty much up until the begining of September and still produced reasonable plants, so the season is generous.

After about 4-5 weeks prick out into 3″ pots and 4-5 few weeks later you should have some handsome basil plants!

What can I do with Basil?

We use Basil all the time in the kitchen mainly on tomato salads, but also have been known to make our own pesto!  I also read somewhere the Amish chew on Basil to treat colds and flu although I’ve never tried it myself.

If you’ve never grown Basil plants from seed then give it a try as the flavour of home grown Basil is simply fantastic.

Basil Plants

Eventually those tiny plants will grow into great little plants.

Happy Easter to one and all!

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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