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How to Start Your Own Backyard Nursery

Updated on April 24, 2018
Jana Louise Smit profile image

Jana is a frugal DIY addict who is always testing fitness and work-from-home ideas as well as natural health tips for both humans and pets.


Anyone Can Do It

There is an army of gardening enthusiasts in every neighbourhood but not every one takes their foilage-and-flowers passion to the next level. Some are content to turn their gardens into a patch of paradise and play the role of buyer. Others would love to sell something, but don't know if they have the time, finances or knowledge to run a nursery. Here's the happy news - you don't need seven diplomas in agriculture to run a successful plant business. Everything you need to learn can be had from gardening articles (the Internet is an inexhaustible source) and experience.

Tough Competition

A backyard nursery can be started from scratch and without any major equipment or training. That's one of the reasons the idea is so attractive to many entrepreneurs. Many equals competition and in this business, the elbow shoving gets tough. That's the bad news. Want some more? Sure, let's get it out there and out of the way - most nurseries already have suppliers. The nurseries referred to here are the ones that take up business space in town. They get their plants from farms and other mass production sites. However, sometimes they buy from private individuals. So, how do you beat the big players? Read on.

Pick Popular Plants

The Iceberg rose remains a top seller.
The Iceberg rose remains a top seller. | Source

Don't Grow Everything

For the startup nursery, the best options are to hit the private market and the town nursery's soft spot. This means one thing - you need to ask yourself what people want. Just as an example, let's invent a plant. This imaginary shrub is called the Fluffy Thornbush from Jupiter. Everybody wants one. The problem is that they are scarce, difficult to propagate and very expensive. What do you think will happen if you are the only person in town who cultivates the Fluffy Thornbush from Jupiter - and sell them at a reasonable price? People will trample each other to buy your Fluffies. They won't even look at the ferns, geraniums and violets you spend months propagating. Don't waste your time. Grow something that sells.

Success Grows as a Side Dish

Too often, new business owners get discouraged because they want plenty of sales on the first day. That's not going to happen. Not even in the first week, or probably month. If you follow the Fluffy Formula, there's no reason why people won't buy from you. But they want plants they don't have the patience to grow themselves.

The best chance of success for the private nursery is to specialize in a few popular plants not easily available to the general public or the town nursery. This takes time and financial investment. For most aspiring specialists, this happens on the side while they rely on a day job for their main income. This way, they can safely mature a nursery without risking ending up with nothing.

Where To Start

Do your research and do it well. Patiently keep searching until you identify the true sellers. These can vary from state or country. That candy-stripe rose may be popular in Guatamala but in Texas, nobody really cares for it. After you know which species will open a stranger's wallet, learn everything you can about it. Its country of origin, the nutrients and weather it needs, life cycle, laws surrounding the species, how to care for it and most importantly, propagation. The last point is crucial. Chances are the species you've decided on will be expensive to purchase. You don't want to become some middle man to whomever you got your plants from. You want to grow your own rare babies and sell them.

The Financial Side

Growing a nursery business need not be consistently expensive. There are the expected startup costs, such as acquiring the original stock and perhaps a few tools. However, one must treat it like any other business and keep proper financial records and also, in the beginning, fold earnings back into the venture. Eventually, the profit will be enough to supplement one's main income. It is also not wise to jump in and start spending based purely on impulsive decisions and hopes. Once the nursery shows promise, then additional investments, financial or otherwise, will be more solid moves. At the beginning, allocate a budget to grow your nursery and stick to it. Remember, plenty of patience is more important while establishing yourself than spreading your wings too quickly.

Think Beyond Plants

These coconut rabbits are a great example of unique garden decorations.
These coconut rabbits are a great example of unique garden decorations. | Source

Brown Thumbs Are Good Too

Do you love everything about gardening or the idea of owning a nursery, yet every plant you touch shrivels? Never fear. One of the most lucrative niches in this business is the gardening item. The list is endless - bird baths and feeders, those creepy gnomes, decorations, pots, tools, fencing, seeds, it goes on. Selling items instead of plants have additional benefits. They don't need to be watered, checked for pests and can be mailed anywhere. Innovative handcraft sell really well. Again, research what gardeners love to decorated their trees, vegetable patch or porch with. Then put your own unique spin on the product.

How to Sell

Let's say you want to deliver a regular batch of Fluffies to your town's main nursery. If they don't already grow them or have a supplier, it's time to approach. If you don't want to directly approach the owner, at least get the business' email (not the person's private email). Write a professional introduction of yourself, the product and price. Attach a few photos to show what is on offer and how often you'll be able to provide plants.

If you decide to sell directly to the public, there are many options available to draw attention to your nursery. Depending on your budget, you can advertise in gardening magazines, online sites or the local community board. Don't get discouraged if you don't see a way to make buyers aware of you. Continue tending to your nursery's needs and somewhere, the chance will come and you'll put yourself out there. A great thing to do is to create a website for your nursery. It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive - there are plenty of free web sites available. What if the town nursery likes your email but wants to visit your website so they can see more? These days, few businesses are taken seriously if they don't have a virtual footprint. Prospective buyers like to browse products and learn more about the owner without feeling like they are pressured to buy. A website provides this privacy. The more somebody feels forced into a purchase, the less they are likely to do so and they'll never return. Worse, they'll tell their friends. Word-of-mouth is highly potent advertising, but only if it's positive.

Forget The Naysayers

In the end, the biggest obstacle might not be financial or getting the customers, but negativity from people you don't even know. Sure, if the month's grocery money is used to buy stock plants, one can understand why the significant other might get crabby. But you will face town or city nurseries who don't want you as a supplier. Every home nursery experiences this at least once. More importantly, many online articles about starting a nursery will include terrific negativity on how many people fail at this business. Ignore it and do your best. A home nursery coddled on the side will ripen when the time is ready, even if it takes a year. Take hope from the successful late bloomers who practiced two golden rules. Patience. Persistence. That's all you need.

© 2018 Jana Louise Smit


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