Tree Farmer wants to expand into other aspects

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Staffordnurseries, Nov 14, 2004.

  1. Staffordnurseries

    Staffordnurseries LawnSite Member
    Messages: 34

    I listed this post under new business and did not get much activity. Perhaps I can get more opinions here. I have a christmas tree farm with about 10,000 trees from 2 feet to 7 feet high. To do this I have picked up a line of equipment that can do dual duty. Since like many people here I am doing this part time business as an insurance policy against my manufacturing job is going to go over seas (quality manager at an auto components plant). I think I need to get into the live market with an expanded line of plantings while I am working but still gaining knowledge in this business. So here are my questions:

    Beyond my spruces and firs (dont grow pine) what plantings should I be getting in the ground. Oaks, maples perhaps ornamentals?

    How about subcontracting? I have the following line of equipment, and am willing to add any reasonable additions that might be suggested. Perhaps bigger finish mowers on the tractors. I am not at the point where I can commit large amouts of time (yet) but occasional work would be great.

    I have land to commit, and the following equipment. Any other tree farmers make this transition?

    What other work should the following equipment go after?

    Main Tractors:
    Kubota 4310 with loader and forks
    Ford Jubilee (tired nedds rebuild)
    International Backhoe (old and heavy, not very transportable)
    Power King 14 horse with three point

    Tree related:
    Lomar Johnson tree planter
    Dirt works 30" tree spade (brand new)
    Many trimmers including BD 84" backpack.
    Chainsaws, pole saws.
    Hand and ATV mounted sprayers

    60 " tiller 3 point
    Troybuilt garden tiller
    normal old style plows, disk drags

    2003 Dixie chopper (here)
    1986 Dixie chopper (cream puff bought to do my moms lawn)
    Ford brush hog
    DR two foot walk behind brush hog
    4 foot 10 hp Brush Hog brand for behind ATV
    6 hp string trimmer and changable head string trimmer

    Trucks and Plows:
    93 ford F-350 with western plow( alternate with chev below)
    88 chev K2500 with fisher plow
    71 C-50 with 16 foot grain box and hoist (running, doing body work)
    81 C-30 cab and chassis to be combined with 71 c-30 dump truck (big project)
  2. activelandscaping

    activelandscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 241

    Well..........if I were going to plant anything it would probably be Acer p. ( especially the dissectum var. ). It always seems like the prices they are getting for these are way high, considering they are fairly easy to propagate and relatively pest free.

    One thing I would do is get " The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants " by Dirr.
    A must have.

  3. shadybz

    shadybz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 12

    Our top sellers include: Red sunset maple, Autumn Blaze Maple, October Glory Maple, Flowering pear(especially cleveland select), Prarie fire Crab, just to name a few.
  4. JRSlawn

    JRSlawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 640

    the landscape manual by dirr is a must a got a copy for close to 100 its a great book the auther does a great job of spelling these things out very clearly. I would plant alot of plant that are popular in your area. Plant whatever you have room for. Even if you plant box elder there is bound to be someone who is looking for that type of weed.
  5. jd boy

    jd boy LawnSite Member
    from nw ohio
    Messages: 173

    although extremely popular, I think jap maples would be a poor choice for you. There is a reason they are so expensive... It takes forever to produce a saleable tree.

    If I were you I would think about possibly setting aside a small area to begin some container production. This way you will get a much faster turn around. By growing things you know you will be able to market easy (ornmanental grasses, perennials, etc) you will begin a quick production cycle.

    Then in whatever area you have left field grow some of the common back bone landscape plants. ie boxwood, taxus, common quick growing trees in your area.

    Horticultural production can be tricky because in most cases you are talking about years before your merchandise is ready for market. That is the beauty of containter production. You can have a saleable perennial crop start to finish in 6 months. This generates some income while your field stock gets going!
  6. activelandscaping

    activelandscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 241

    Not sure I agree with your reasons, the stock that goes for around $ 125 to 150 are generally 3 yr plants. Part of the reason is they require special pruning and must be staked. The growth rate in the first five years is fast, then it slows progressively. Another reason is that they don't tolerate pesticide apps. very well, tends to defoliate them. This can be a problem for large farms where aerial apps. or large boom equip. is the preferred method of application.

    I do agree, however, that you should not put all your eggs in one basket. ( as stated by jd boy :) ) Herbaceous perennials are usually a good seller and can be sold in a variety of ways ( landscapers, roadside, flyer's ), may come in handy if you need to generate some quick cash.

    Before you take any advice on plant material you will need to do a little homework. I would have the soil tested, say 2 spots/acre if you can afford it, for the following:

    1) composition
    2) ph & fertility........N,P,K & micro-nutrients
    3) drainage characteristics.......IE, planting Taxus in wet area's would be disastrous ( so would planting Clethra a. in dry areas )

    You will also need to come up with a business plan and do a little market research, this will help you focus on your objective and help you produce plant material that is desirable in your area. The bank will want to see a plan as well, should you decide to take out a loan. I had my CPA help me with my business plan, but I believe there are many on-line sites that have good advice and examples of proper business plan formulation.

    Before you run out and do any purchasing find a good accountant, ideally you will want someone who is a Lawyer and a CPA. A person with these qualifications generally deals in contract law & taxes. They will be able to help with with contracts and, since they go to tax court, will probably be more adept at knowing which loopholes you can jump through. You will have many deductions available to you as a business and a CPA can get you setup to take these ( as well as explaining the advantages/disadvantages of incorporation ), there is no way a layman can understand business tax law (especially as it pertains to agriculture).


  7. jd boy

    jd boy LawnSite Member
    from nw ohio
    Messages: 173


    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. Jap Maples are most effectively produced in climactic conditions that don't experience drastic high or low temps. This is why the majority of jap maples are produced on the west coast, in washington and california. There are also many nurseries that have specialized in producing them.

    Although if he did grow them he probably could do alright, there are many more plants that could be grown more efficiently in Pa. I guarantee he could get a better gross profit margin from plants he could produce faster!
  8. Rollacosta

    Rollacosta LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 331

    what you need my friend is a crystal ball as whats in vogue this year isn't usually in ,in 5 years time..the tree's i would grow are the old favorites ,silver birch ,oaks various,robinia psuedoacasia 'frisia' ,why not take a sneak at what your intended compertition are growing all the best
  9. activelandscaping

    activelandscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 241

    jd boy,

    I believe that we could both make valid arguments both for and against various plant materials which would take us well into April, without having resolved a thing. Therefore, I will not belabor the point. :)


    One quick word of caution, with regards to plant material. Make sure you figure in pesticide apps. for whatever you plant. Nursery's and Farms-(for salable stock) must maintain a zero tolerance policy, with regards to disease and insects.

  10. Staffordnurseries

    Staffordnurseries LawnSite Member
    Messages: 34

    For all of you that posted, thank you for your time to give a semi-greenhorn the benefit of your advice. Here are the following points I intend to chase or have started in a small way:

    1. Plant popular stand bys- you need some basic trees people recognize
    2. Try some high value exotics such as Japanese maple- but I will only try a few since there appears to be some climate risk here.
    3. Establish container plants- started some in my former garden area, close to the water since these need more regular care
    4. Zero tolerance on infections- already know that from the trees- when you have thousands of trees of the same variety you learn this quick- just in the last stages of kicking out an infection of white pine weevils from a stand of spruces- much time was spent on the ATV and sprayer this past april and again this april. Trimming out and recovering from their damage is a challenge- they got me for 12 trees that will need careful pruning to recover their shape. I believe their are better chemicals available than the across the counter sprays and oils I used...will need to find out how much pain is required in NY for an applicators lic.

    I believe if I stick to good shaping (therefore dense foilage), good disease control and now learn how to get the best root ball on the bottom sales will come. I do have the benefit of not needing the income immediately, but the container comment is sinking in

    Does anyone know of a good method to container and ball off of a 30" tree spade? Further are there pre steps such as going around at the drip line with a shovel to turn the roots back. I think the back bone of your sales with plants is get your quality so high that you can put real guarentee on them.

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