Starting a Plant Nursery or Greenhouse Business
Richard Regan, Extension Horticulturist, Oregon State University
Chip Bubl, Extension Agent, Columbia County, Oregon State University
Before committing yourself to growing nursery stock, carefully consider your location, land and soil quality, water source and supply, as well as your building and equipment needs. For example, windy regions adversely influence sprinkler irrigation efficiency, cause plant injury, require special plant training or staking practices, limit production practices, and require heavier building construction. Nursery growers often find that being near other growers has distinct advantages, and buyers are more likely to visit an area where a group of growers can provide a larger supply of stock. These advantages include: you can learn from those around you; suppliers are more readily available; and experienced labor and custom work are generally easier to find. Avoid locating a nursery adjacent to a residential area due to the public's concerns about pesticide applications, dust, noise, and increased traffic.
Soil is an important factor in nursery crop production. Field-grown plants require a good deep soil that is well drained. Slightly sloping land is best since it provides good air flow and surface water drainage, which are important for disease prevention. It should not flood. Drainage can be improved by the addition of drain tiles, but this adds considerable cost to the land. Avoid frost pockets, cold or unfavorably windy sites, and other climate areas. The acreage should be sufficient for future expansion and permit efficient layout and operation.
Since 1973, Oregon has maintained a strong statewide program for land use planning. Check the zoning of the property with the appropriate county or city planning department. Not all zone classifications permit agricultural operations. Nursery and greenhouse operations are usually permitted in farm zones but may not be allowed in other zones. Do not take utilities for granted. Electricity is important to every nursery operation. Natural gas for heating is not available in all Oregon communities and may have limits on its use. Be sure to check potential fuel supply for both current needs and for future expansion.
The layout design of a nursery must not be overlooked. Construction and size of buildings depends upon the nature of the growing operation. An office, storage for equipment and supplies, and dry shelter for working in winter are the nursery's greatest building needs. You will need specific dry storage areas for fertilizers and pesticides. The type of structure, such as type of greenhouse foundation, may affect taxation of your structure. Field growing requires more and larger cultivation equipment and fewer facilities for mixing of media than container growing. The specific crops grown also influence nursery layout. Locate and plan plant growing areas, irrigation ponds, and structures so that future additions can be easily constructed.
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