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Opening a Nursery

Discussion in 'Nurseries and Growers' started by TexasFire221, Sep 16, 2017.

  1. TexasFire221

    TexasFire221 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 480

    So I have been in the lawn and landscape business for 10+ years. Two years ago we outgrew our 1,200 sqft shop and moved into a 12,000 sqft shop on a huge lot. We are on a very very busy loop in our city that tons of traffic drives on to cut through town to Wal-Mart and nearby cities. We have no nurseries currently in our town and I have been kicking the idea of opening a small one to see how it goes. We already sell bulk mulch and landscape material. My only hold up is I really don't have the knowledge to design a nursery. Can someone point me in the direction of some quality information on how to design a nursery?

    We can handle the irrigation and such since this is stuff we already do. We also sell and install holiday lighting so I want this to also be a way to showcase that part of the business. Any information would be appreciated.

    North Idaho Dream and hort101 like this.
  2. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 164

    Too much depends on what you want to do. The U.S. Forest service has a 7 volume guide on setting up a seedling production nursery.

    My suspicion is that you are more garden centre and less nursery -- that is, you will buy plants for resale and not grow your own.

    I have a mixed operation: My rule of thumb is that it's not worth growing it myself unless I can move 300 a year. So I grow my own willows and poplars from cuttings.

    There's another bunch that I buy as seedlings, and grow on for 1 to 6 years, and finally a level where I buy a plant and sell it. The three branches are roughly equal in total sales.

    At present I have 8 acres in trees for net sales of about 100K/year.

    I use about 7000 gallons of water a day.

    You are on what I presume is a smaller lot than that. So you will need to develop a relationship with several nurseries to get resupplied periodically over the summer. You will also need to figure out a way to water them all.

    You will need at least one staff member who knows enough about each plant to give intelligent advice -- this is how you *really* compete with Walmart and HomeDepot.

    Rules of thumb:

    Don't try to go head to head with the big box stores. No money there. Stock what they don't. Either carry it in a different size -- larger or smaller, or carry a different selection, or have healthy ones when theirs are dressed in rags. We do aobut 15% of our sales as seedlings. Good markup, and they come in one day and are shipped out by bus the next day. The leftovers (planned overs?) we use for our own growing on, but we're set up for that. I have storage to keep seedlings fresh for 6 weeks.

    You *really* have to be on top of watering. Zone the plants by how much water they need. Get good pole mounted sprinklers (Senneger wobble heads recommended) and good timers. If you have a decent supply (20-30 gpm) you can probably set the timers to do all of them early in the morning. This works well to maximize the water efficiency, let them dry out fast (mildew on leaves) and have them looking fresh for the day.

    A garden centre keeps different hours from a landscape company. Unless you are specifically catering to other landscape companies, make your hours different. I would suggest 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the week. 10 to 5 saturday, and closed sunday. But you can check this by pulling up a chair at home depot in the plant department and count the noses of people who come in to buy a plant.
  3. hort101

    hort101 LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from S.E. New England
    Messages: 21,342

    @sgbotsford good info and adviseThumbs UpThumbs Up
    Thanks for sharing:cool2:
  4. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 17,623

    I've designed/built nurseries for others
    Including the irrigation

    I'm easy but not cheap
    Fly me down
    Get me a hotel room
    Cover my food
    And I'm yours for the week

    I'll even help you order inventory and if necessary negotiate shipping/trucking and material prices.

    I guess I'm easy and cheap

    November is a good month for me
    So is march
    BrandonV and hort101 like this.
  5. kawasaki guy

    kawasaki guy LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from USA
    Messages: 19,328

    If I had the space I would do this!
    hort101 likes this.
  6. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 17,623

    Bare root is a good way to go
    Order the plants but don't pay for shipping dirt

    I shouldn't tell you that
    Then I won't get a free week vacation in Texas!

    Don't order potentilla bare root they do terrible
  7. oqueoque

    oqueoque LawnSite Platinum Member
    Male, from Jersey
    Messages: 4,767

    Is it just here or everywhere? I am getting bombarded with ads/brochures in the mail this year with crazy low pricing, that I never use to get. Is there an oversupply of plant material out there? My regular nurseries I use are also offering crazy low hot list prices, with large purchases, 100 or more.

    I just bought 100, 3 gallon Nandina Gulfstream for just under $6.00 each. Full and bushy, not crap.( A local garden center had them at $44.00.) The nursery also were offering 3 gallon Hostas for $2.75. Others had 3 gallon Echinacea Pow-wow Wild berry and Prairie Splendor,15 minumum $3.75 each. I thought there may be an over supply, and the nurseries must be replacing their inventory at prices a lot lower, then what they offered to me.
  8. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 164

    Fall is always a time wholesalers push remnant stock.

    Pick them up, sell what you can, put the rest in the next size larger pot.

    Seems to be more common further south.

    Bare root: My experience is that the bare root stock is never ready for sale the first year. Takes 2 years to get it full and lush looking.
    oqueoque likes this.
  9. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 17,623

    You've never ordered wholesale plant material before?
    Make sure the price they're giving you is FOB, at your door step, freight included

    Retail nursery prices include shipping, care and watering, plant stock loss and profit
    You can't just let plants sit there, they aren't soup cans.

    So if you order a 100 hosta for 600 bucks what are you going to do with them?
    A week of neglect and your plants are shite
  10. oqueoque

    oqueoque LawnSite Platinum Member
    Male, from Jersey
    Messages: 4,767

    What are you drunk or are you are an showing you just showing your expert side again? I did not order them, I bought them, picked them up 25 minutes away from my location, avoided the $300 freight charge, looked at them and approved them, before they were pulled & paid for, and they have been irrigated, & some have been sold and installed. If you know what you are doing it is not as difficult as you assume. And you assume an awful lot.

    I could of had them delivered, as you the expert suggest, but if I was not happy with the material when it arrived, my relationship with the grower would have soured. And I did not buy the 100 Hostas at $2.75, but if I did, I would have paid $275, not the $600 that your expert math assumes. When someone owns a business, as opposed to you who, clearly, only works for someone else, you do things differently then you assume. You're all hat & no cattle.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017

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