Secrets to a Successful Greenhouse Business

Everything you need to know to successfully start and run a greenhouse business, including what to grow, caring for your plants, building a greenhouse and selling and marketing your business.


| December/January 1992



135-041-01

Water plants enough so that the soil is drenched throughout the pot.

MARGARET MILLER

With a little effort, you can start a greenhouse that will benefit the environment and bring in the profits.   

Starting a greenhouse could be the most satisfying endeavor you ever take on, and you can do it almost anywhere—a country farm, a suburb, even an inner city. There's a natural gratitude and pride that comes from watching your seeds or cuttings grow into large, salable plants, until one day—before you know it—you have yourself a business that benefits the environment and brings in the profits. Not only has the demand for herbs and hydroponic vegetables skyrocketed up 300 percent, but tree seedlings of all kinds are in great demand right now. I have studied dozens of greenhouses; listed below are the most effective methods for creating your own business.

Decide what Type of Plants You Will Grow

The first step to starting your business is determining what plant(s) you want to grow and how much to plant. I suggest starting out with one large, single crop; growing a wide assortment of plants can turn out to be a lot more than you bargained for with all the different watering, spraying, fertilizing, and shade requirements. It's also difficult to get your plants ready to sell at different times and to perform the dozens of different sales and deliveries that must be made with each specific variety, especially when you're first starting out. Why bother with the hassle when you can literally grow 10,000 plants of one type as easily as 2,000 plants of assorted varieties in far less time?

In choosing what type of plants to grow for profit, you must figure out the right combination of profitable plant varieties, sizes, and quantities. Evaluate your technical ability to grow plants. (An honest evaluation will make life a lot easier.) Then decide what is of acceptable quality to you and which plants can be most profitably produced by: 1) estimating plant production costs, 2) comparing expected market prices of individual plants with estimated production costs, and 3) comparing expected net returns among plant varieties and sizes on a common basis.

Growers often base their pricing on competitor's prices. If you plan to do so, consider both the market price and production costs. (See "Wholesale Price List" for ideas.) Knowing production costs of individual plants will help you make plant-selection decisions based on profits. Hint: Annuals, herbs, and foliage are likely be your best-selling plants. All of them had outstanding sales in 1989 and 1990, and I predict they will increase 100 percent in the next couple of years and then never stop increasing.

Sowing Your Seeds 

Once you decide what to plant, sow your seeds in boxes, in pots, or outdoors. If you're an inexperienced grower, start out sowing them in pots. They are ideal for slow-germinating seeds, and it's easier to recognize and remove fast-growing weeds without disturbing the seeds. How fast they germinate depends on the temperature, moisture, and how much oxygen they receive. A seed bed in a shaded area provides the best temperature, since hot sun can potentially injure or even kill young seedlings as they develop. Keep your soil moist and well-drained for good oxygen content. Good air circulation through the seed bed will help prevent damping off.





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