Nursery is the base for future development of Horticulture. Nursery can be a profitable venture only when it is thoroughly planned. Nursery depends on its physical resources as well as the financial resources. The physical resources include, land, water, labour and other supporting items such as transport, market communication facilities and availability of required technical know how. Second resource is finance. The capital requirement of a nursery should be fulfilled sufficiently and timely. There are several sources for finance, like, the banks, co-operative societies, personal loans, Govt. subsidies etc. It must be remembered that none of the above suffice 100 per cent requirement. Even though the budgets are planned, it takes much time to get the money in hand. It is therefore very essential to know these two aspects thoroughly.
Nurseries are highly labor-intensive. Although some processes have been mechanized and automated, others have not. It remains highly unlikely that all plants treated in the same way at the same time will arrive at the same condition together, so plant care requires observation, judgment and personal skill; selection for sale requires comparison and judgment. A high loss rate during maturation is accepted for the reduction in detailed plant maintenance costs. Nursery business is highly seasonal, concentrated in the winters and monsoon. The demand for the product is variable and is affected by temperature, drought, cheaper foreign competition, fashion, among other things.
Annuals are sold in trays (undivided containers with multiple plants), flats (trays with built-in cells), peat pots, or plastic pots. Perennials and woody plants are sold either in pots, bare-root or balled. They are sold in a variety of sizes, from liners to mature trees. Balled and Burlap (B & B) trees are dug either by hand or by a loader that has a tree spade attachment on the front of the machine. Although container grown woody plants are becoming more and more popular due to the adaptability, B & B is still widely used throughout the industry. Plants may be propagated by seeds, but often desirable cultivars are propagated vegetatively by budding, grafting, layering, or other nursery techniques.
Physical Resources for Nursery
Nursery like any other enterprise requires certain resources. The criteria for selection of products also depend on these resources. These resources thus play a very important role in determining the type of nursery enterprise. These physical resources are enlisted below-
Land is the basic and fundamental physical resource for plant nursery. The area available must be considered before planning the nursery and the products. Soil sample testing should be done to avoid problematic and unmanageable soils. Soil should be well drained, porous and light to medium in texture. Soil pH should be 6.5 – 7.5. Heavy, black cotton soil, sandy, ill drained and soils having high pH more than 8 are strictly avoided. Low lying land should not be selected. The soils should be free from salts and other harmful elements. The selected site should be close to railway station or bus station. Wind breaks and shelter belts should be raised prior to planting nursery plants.
2. Irrigation Facilities
Required land with sufficient and assured supply of irrigation is the most important basic resource. Quality of irrigation water should be at prescribed level. Harmful factors can be tested by water testing in laboratory. The pH and electrical conductivity (EC) of irrigation water should be tested.
Labour is another important resource. Degree of mechanization must be considered before estimating the labor requirement. Skilled as well as unskilled man power is necessary for grafting, budding, weeding, irrigation, spraying, dusting, training, pruning, etc. Technically sound gardeners are also necessary. Labour should be available at reasonable rates.
The availability of power or electricity is also very important and is in accordance with the man power available. Load shedding should be minimum possible. Regular supply of electricity is very essential. Electricity is required for water pumps, spraying, dusting and many other operations.
5. Road and Transport
Once the nursery stock is ready for sale, there should be good roads and transport facilities. These facilities are also required for timely importing of stock and other material for the nursery.
6. Mother Plants
Mother plants are the most important factor for successful nursery. Separate planting of mother plants is necessary. Different varieties of mother plants are planted in different plots. Pests and diseases are controlled regularly by spraying pesticides and fungicides. Mother plants should be authentic and selected from Government nurseries or from Agricultural Universities. Mother plants should be selected very carefully as the sale of the nursery stock depends on the mother plants used for the propagation.
7. Propagation Structures
Propagation structures are very essential for production of grafts or seedlings. They are useful for multiplication of grafts and seedlings. Hardening of plants is done with the help of propagation structures.
8. Hedges and Compound
Thorny plants like Chilar (thorny creeper), golden duranta (thorny shrub), and agave are used as hedges in nurseries. Barbed wire fencing is also used. Hedges protect the nursery plants from wild and stray animals, theft, etc. They fix the borders of the nursery and are ornamental and decorative.
9. Space for Hardening of Nursery Plants
Small shade net houses are required for hardening of nursery plants. Young, pampered seedlings that were grown either indoors or in a greenhouse will need a period to adjust and acclimatize to outdoor conditions, prior to planting. This transition period is called “hardening off”. Hardening off gradually exposes the tender plants to wind, sun and rain and toughens them up by thickening the cuticle on the leaves so that the leaves lose less water. This helps prevent transplant shock in which the seedlings have a stunted growth or they die from sudden changes in temperature. Hardenings off time depend on the type of plants grown and the temperature fluctuations.
10. Store and Office
Garden tools, implements, raw materials, insecticides, fungicides, manures, fertilizers, boards, polythene bags etc are stored in store house. An ideal nursery has at least one well managed office for keeping all registers, notebooks, information books and for instructing the team. The record of mother plants, progeny, Stock of plants, etc is preserved in office.