A Home-Based Organic Nursery

With no money, no publicity, and virtually no plants — but some plant knowledge and plenty of determination — Donn and Rachel Tickner started a retail organic nursery.

  • organic nursery - Donn at work
    Hand-watering is still Donn's preferred method.
    Photo by Roberta A. Fanning
  • organic nursery
    Donn Tickner ponders a customer's question.
    Photo by Roberta A. Fanning
  • organic nursery - tractor
    The Tickner's old Oliver tractor enabled Donn to put in artichokes.
    Photo by Roberta A. Fanning
  • organic nursery - Tickner garden
    The thriving Tickner garden.
    Photo by Roberta A. Fanning

  • organic nursery - Donn at work
  • organic nursery
  • organic nursery - tractor
  • organic nursery - Tickner garden

Two years ago this spring—with no money, no publicity and virtually no plants—Donn and Rachel Tickner started a retail organic nursery. All they really had going for them was a healthy stock of reverence, know-how and determination.

Today, the Tickners' Organic Home Nursery is a showplace of the natural movement and Donn and Rachel's business is doing well enough to put ample food on their table and allow them the luxury of stopping occasionally to savor their rewarding way of life, proving once again that people of good faith can build the life they want if they try.

The Organic Home Nursery began and remains at the Tickners' home outside Santa Cruz, California, where the couple rents a family-of-three sized cottage and 2 1/2 fertile acres for only $100 a month. Doom-and-gloom people originally prophesied failure for the Tickners' new business because of its semi-remote location, but of course that prediction turned out to be wrong. The nursery has flourished. Donn now says, "We would have been out of business long ago if we were in town. I figure we save $200 a month in this location since in-town rental for nursery space runs a minimum of $300."

In several ways, Donn and Rachel's natural nursery—the only one in the Bay area—is perfectly located. For one thing, it's not that far from "civilization:" only 12 miles south of Santa Cruz (in a countryside rich with counter-culture folks) and within outing distance of San Francisco. For another, the thermal belt along the coastal range in northern California has excellent "grow weather." Tickner's plants thrive on both summer morning ocean winds that roll in light fog to bathe the foliage, and the relatively frost-free "inland" California winters.

When the Tickners decided to turn their homestead into a nursery, the only stock they had on hand was 15 ivy clippings that Rachel had rooted. They obviously needed many more plants, sets, and seedlings than that to launch the business, but which ones? And how many? And most important of all, how would they pay for that original stock since they had hardly any money at all? It was a large problem ... which they solved quite handily by scouting out greens to propagate from homes and school yards.

Rachel would knock on a door, flash a charmingly respectable smile and say, "My, what a beautiful plant! Would you mind if I took a little cutting?" She was never refused, possibly because she managed to contain her enthusiasm and never snip anything off at ground level!

10/15/2015 4:58:19 PM

A home based organic nursery sounds really neat to maybe get started. Oh, for my uncle it would since both him and I have started building him a garden out in his backyard. It's been a goal of his start a wholesale nursery and sell his plants to the community. http://www.dinsan.com.au

10/9/2013 6:54:27 PM

I seem to notice the old articles are better written and more interesting, with better content, than the articles I see nowdays. Hmmm.



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