We’ll talk about growing today. What do you want to grow? How much room do you have? Have you got a greenhouse or are you going to start your plants in your garage, or on top of your refrigerator ? How many market days do would you like to attend? Do you want to start early in the season or wait until it warms up a bit? How much room do you have to spread your starts out once they are ready to be shifted up? Do you have a place to hang baskets? Should you even grow baskets?
Lets start with something easy. One plant that is looked down upon by other vendors is the lowly Marigold. Great there is your first opportunity. Everything nowadays is about new plants. The trailing petunias and all of their counterparts, the fancy cutting grown patented plants that you have to pay someone else to start for you. And you do have to pay them. These patented varieties are protected by the plug industry by surprise on site inspection. When you sign up with a broker you agree to not propagate any of their plants from your own cuttings. It took me 15 years in the nursery business before the first plant inspector showed up but when they did I was clean and not growing anything except what I had bought from them. If I had they could have basically black-balled me and my nursery from ever being able to order patented plugs again.
Okay back to Marigolds. I order my seed from Park Seed Wholesale at least a month before planting time. I start my Marigolds in start early March. I start some plugs as early as early January. I take a 10″x20″ planting flat that usually holds the pots and line the bottom with plastic or newspaper fill it full of my good planting mix, Sunshine #4, water the flat in until its damp for the first couple of inches then spread the seed around the top of the flat. I try to cover the soil with a pretty good layer of seed, not so much that the seed is stacked up on top of the other seed but close. After I have a layer without a bunch of empty spots in it I cover the seed with a quarter inch of soil and gently water it in again. Cover the flat with plastic and put it in the hot bed that we discussed before. As soon as they sprout take the plastic off and move them to the cool end of the bed. After two weeks you can move the flat onto a bench and watch them grow. When they are big enough to transplant I take the flat and start ripping the nicely rooted plants out of the flat and shift them up to 3 1/2″ pots. I put one per pot but you could use two. My 17″ square flats hold 25 pots so I might get 6 full flats of 3 1/2″ plants from that one open flat of starts. I sell mine at market at two for a buck. They cost me about 15 cents to produce which nets me 35 cents times 25 per flat times six flats times probably 5 crops out of the one quarter ounce of seed. I’ll let you do the math. The thing about these plants though is not the profit but the fact that everyone can relate to the Marigold., usually from their past. They also serve as great color at the front of my stall and they don’t take up a lot of room while starting, growing or selling. Another nice thing is that folks rarely buy one plant at a time. It’s usually at least 4 or 6 and often the whole flat.
We just mentioned room to grow. How do you plan to grow. Greenhouse or some other shelter. I highly recommend a good quality greenhouse with benches for growing. I would recommend that though as I sell what I consider to be an above average quality Greenhouse Kit. If you haven’t got one go to.stevesgreenhouses.com/and you can look at mine.Yes they are ups shippable. Some folks will start enough plugs/liners and seeds to fill up their greenhouse,don’t do that. You have to remember that they are going to take up at least 3 times as much bench space once you shift them up into their finishes pots Four six packs of tomato starts will fill up one whole 17″x17′” flat. That is a standard sized flat. There are two the 10″x20″ ,that is the size most of your plugs will come in but I like the 17″ square because it holds 25 31/2″ pots and 16 4″ pots. This will hold true for almost anything you do from seed. I do my veggie starts in 4″ pots. That way I can take a half of a flat of several different varieties of veggies and not have a whole flat of just acorn squash.
If you are going to sell the fancy cutting grown plants,I sell thousands of them, plan your space ahead. Do you have room to plant them all in 3 1/2″ pots 25 to a flat or should you plant some or most of them right into your 12″ basket? I prefer to get their root system up to a better size than the plug by putting them in 3 1/2″ then shifting them to the baskets about two months before I plan on selling them. That gives you a chance to pinch them once or twice in the pot and still have time to pinch once in the basket. By the way with the new trailing plants pinch them until they scream. The more you pinch the bushier they get, but you do have to stop pinching things like the wave petunias a month before you plan on selling them. Although the newest calibrachoa/ mini trailing petunias are better at branching and don’t need quite as much pinching. Nothing is more frustrating than moving a flat of plants just so you can put another flat in it’s place. Now you have to find a place for the flat you just moved. Have enough space. Buy a bigger/another greenhouse. yay
This is getting long more on plants tomorrow. I’m just going with what I know. I plan on covering most of the plants I do each year.