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Starting up a nursery

cotty1000cotty1000 Posts: 293

I wonder if anybody with any experience can give me a few pointers about starting up a nursery.

I am wanting to do it part time as a supplementary income, with hopefully free labour from retired parents,but I want to know the steps that I need to take. These are things that I think I need to do.

1) find land with water supply for use. Must be able to put a polytunnel on. (Do I have to ask the council permission for this?)

2) work out which plants to sell?where do I find out which plants I can't propagate due to ownership issue?

3) start working, can bulk buy seedlings and grow on? How much do I propagate and grow from seed myself? Do I import lots of stock from abroad?

4) start selling

I love gardening but haven't set up a business before.

Any advice will be gratefully received.




  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,424

    You can spot the ones you can't propagate and sell, they all come labeled 'Plant Breeders Rights' but if you're doubtful about any if you google the full name I'm sure it will come up.

    Open to the public or on-line supplying?

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,870

    I'd repeat Phillipa's advice point No 3. Do research, do more research and do yet more research.

    If it's that easy , then everyone would be doing it.

    Don't assume because you like plants X, Y or Z then everyone else will love them too and want to buy them from you.

    I'd not rely on free labour if things get going. More research re wages/ employment legislation etc.

    It's doable, don't get me wrong. but you really , really need to " do your homework" before you start spending money on  it. 

    Good luck and keep us informed.

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,537

    I have no experience in this matter, but the things that come to mind immediately are

    Business Regulations & Tax,


    Health & Safety.

    These will all apply even if you are self-employed and you cannot ignore them.

    These are 2 websites I found just by typing in 'Start my own garden business', they looked helpful, but you will need up to date information on all these issues and will need to do more research.

    You will need to keep costs to an absolute minimum or it will cost you far more than it provides in income.

    You need to identify who will be your potential customers and grow the things they will want to buy.

    Raising your own seeds will be cheaper than buying seedlings but you need to allow for the space and the time required to grow them on to saleable size.

    As you will be unable to compete with the big boys on breadth of range, it might be better to concentrate on something more individual such as planted up pots or hanging baskets. You could look round the local area for people who seem to like their gardens and put out some fliers or conduct a small survey to find out what they would buy.

    Would they come to you or would you deliver? Petrol costs eat up profits, you don't want to travel far!

    Plants you are not allowed to propagate for sale or profit are covered by Plant Breeders' Rights - you may just see PBR on the labels.

    There is an awful lot to think about - Good Luck!

  • cotty1000cotty1000 Posts: 293

    Thank you for your advice so far. There is an old nursery site nearby so I might ask about the land and more specifically what happened to it.

    I don't want to rush into it. I would rather build up a selection of plants and research where is best to sell before diving in.

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,870

    make sure the selection of plants are those which folk will want to buy. You could have a nursery full of lovely plants, but without customers who want those plants, you'll not make a living. 
     I hate to sound negative, but tread slowly, and carefully. 

  • I have a nursery, I'm 76, been self employed now for over 60 years. you can forget about minimum wage, holiday pay, sick pay, overtime, Bank Holidays off etc., that doesn't happen.  Take your time and think about what you want to grow and sell, don't grow anything that is for sale in Tesco !!  Make sure that you keep records of all monies received and spent, vital that you also fill in your own Tax Return, easy now with Self Assessment.  Plenty of opportunities for selling on internet, car boots, charity open days etc., but you need to come up with the right plants at the right price.  The very best of luck to you, I can assure you that you will enjoy it.

  • ...........and, most important.....propagate, propagate, propagate.

  • oakridgeoakridge Posts: 83

    This could be a great opportunity or a disaster as all the previous posts have made clear.  It is definitely a different ballgame to having an allotment.  Land is the problem.  When I was looking for somewhere in 1981 after I had been made redundant I wrote to every landowner I could think of to rent or buy - Duke of Norfolk, Earl Scarborough, the NCB, British Rail - you get the idea.  I was selling vegetables all over the place and bedding plants on a trust basis from the top of the drive.  As it turned out I was offered 15 acres of very acid land by Norfolk estates so livestock was the best bet.  I supplemented my income by teaching horticulture at the local FE college to Level III C&G.  We got fed up of the rules and regulations with livestock so I have cut back to 1.25 acres and have gone back to horticulture but just for family use.

    One important point - do buy the best quality commercial seed e.g. Moles, Kings commercial, flower and veg., and BallColegrave for flower seeds.

    Go for it, there will be ups and downs, but if you have the drive it can be done.  There is a nursery near us that we visited last Autumn for the first time in 25 years - it hadn't changed a bit and they recognised me. 

    I did this and my sight is bad enough to be registered as blind.  You can see some of my activities here:

  • IamweedyIamweedy Posts: 1,364

    cotty1000 I don't want to poor cold water on your ideas but what worries me a bit was your very first sentence .

    "I am wanting to do it part time as a supplementary income, with hopefully free labour from retired parents,but I want to know the steps that I need to take. These are things that I think I need to do."

    "Hopefully free labour from retired parents".  Ouch! 

     Well I love my garden. I am a retired parent and grandparent but I would not exactly welcome my grown up children thinking  I am totally at their beck and call for plant (or child) minding.  I do have other interests in my life besides gardening. 

    You say "Part time" do you mean you have another  part time job? This really is a  huge enterprise particularly if you are looking to buy nursery land.  That does not sound to me like a part time job.

    How about setting up as a gardener partime and gaining experience.  The National Trust have good volunteer schemes and there are never enought reliable gardeners about.

    The funding for buying could be very difficult. There is a very high  failure rate for new small business's and it seems to be down financial problems.

    Good luck with that.

    'You must have some bread with it me duck!'

  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,424

    I think there are plenty of suppliers of bedding and all the usual suspects. You need something to make you stand out from the rest, a speciality, like Richard's clematis. you can add in some cheap and cheerfuls as 'bread and butter' 

    In the sticks near Peterborough
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