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Starting a Backyard Nursery- Short Course

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Short Course Starting a Backyard Nursery

This short course is a guide for the person attempting to start or run a small nursery, herb or flower growing
enterprise as a backyard operation on their larger property. It endeavours covers the most important topics you need to get you started. 
Use this course as a starting point. Study the nursery industry and its sectors in your region – see what is and isn’t feasible. Look at what plants and related products are currently in demand. 

Consider opportunities open to you - for example:

  • You may start small, propagating, growing potted plants and selling at a local market

  • You may start by propagating herbs for sale, but also growing some, harvesting and producing some herbal products

  • You may propagate flowers, selling potted flowering plants; or growing in the ground, then harvesting and selling bunches of flowers to a florist or at a market stall.

    Nurseries, herb or flower farms that have humble beginnings on just a few dozen square metres of land; can eventually develop into a large, full time business.

 Our 20 hour courses are self paced and will help you understand a topic in a short amount of time. You can work through the course when you like- test yourself with mini-tests along the way. There are extra case studies or research you can undertake if you would really like to get into the topic. Once you have completed the lessons and self assessment tasks, there is a final exam undertaken online- you can then download your personalised certificate.

This short course covers eight lessons:

Lesson 1   Introduction and possibilities 
Form of product 
Growth stage 

Lesson 2   Management and organisation 
Management and organisation 
Selecting the site 
Choosing what to grow 
Managing manpower, equipment and materials 
Developing a nursery stock list – an example 
Nursery stocklist worksheet 

Lesson 3   Propagating techniques and equipment 
An overview 
Sexual propagation 
Asexual propagation 
Propagating structures and equipment 
Nursery irrigation techniques 
Propagating beds 
Shade houses 

Lesson 4   Propagating materials 

Potting mixtures

Lesson 5   Plant health problems 
Diagnosing problems
Minimising the likelihood of problems 
Treating a problem 
Chemical controls 
Minimising chemical use 
Biological controls 

Lesson 6   Propagation - seeds and cuttings 
Where to plant 
Pre-germination treatments 
Handling seedlings 
Pricking out seedlings 
Propagating ferns 
Practical exercise 
Budding and grafting 
Propagation of specific plants 
Annuals, bulbs and perennials 
Fruit and nut plants 
Growing on 
Potting up plants 

Lesson 7   Starting a small herb or flower farm 

Herb growing 
Herbal products 
Growing flowers for profit in your backyard 

Lesson 8   Management 
Starting a nursery 
Market research 
Work scheduling 
Operational flow charts 
Nursery profile 
Costing your production 
Practical exercise 
Hypothetical case study 




How to Grow a Seedling

Germinating seed can be complicated; but with the right technique it can be done with relative success for most plants. You will learn more about that in this course.

Germinating the seed is only the start though. You then need to keep the seedling healthy and facilitate vigorous growth to bring it to a point where it can be sold.

Pricking Out Seedlings

Once seeds have emerged and developed a set of true leaves (not seed leaves) the seedlings will need to be transplanted into a new growing environment mainly because:

  1. This gives them more space to grow.
  2. For quick and healthy growth they now need media to grow in that has added nutrition.

    The types of pots used depends on the species, for example vegetable seedlings may be pricked out into containers containing up to 12 plants, larger plants will be potted into small tubes to 10cm (referred to as tubing or potting-on).

    Note: Seedlings of some species may still be too small to prick out or pot-on, at the first true leaf stage. In this instance the seedlings will need to be fertilised with a dilute soluble fertiliser until they are large enough to handle without damage.

    All seedlings are easily damaged so they need to be handled carefully. 
  • Water seedlings well before transplanting.
  • Fill plastic tubes with suitable growing media to 5mm of rim.
  • Lift seedlings carefully from the communal tray by inserting a dibber (small round pointed stick) underneath the roots and carefully easing it from the media without breaking the roots.
  • Hold the seedling by the foliage (carefully) between the thumb and forefinger taking care not to damage the terminal bud.
  • Make a hole in the soil with the dibber in your other hand the length of the seedlings root system.
  • Place the seedling carefully into the hole making sure that the roots are hanging down and not  curled (very long roots may need to be cleanly cut off).
  • Fill the hole by pushing soil in from the sides with the dibber or your fingers.
  • Place the small pots into a tray and water well.
  • Place the trays into a similar environment as they were during the germination process.
  • Seedlings need to be gradually hardened off by moving them into less sheltered environments progressively (i.e. heated glass house – unheated greenhouse – shade house- open air).
  • Label containers.

Potted-up (or tubed) seedlings need to be watered at least daily and more during hot weather.
Seedlings should not be placed directly onto the ground to prevent disease and also to ensure adequate drainage.

Hardening off seedlings

Seedlings need to be hardened off prior to transplanting or potting on. Seedlings are accustomed to the moist damp and sheltered environment of the greenhouse or other propagating structures and as such have not developed a large amount of root hairs that are needed to survive as the environment becomes a bit harsher and drier in individual pots. To compensate for transplant shock the young plants are therefore gradually moved into a drier and harsher environment. 

The best way to prevent transplant shock is to gradually decrease the amount of watering the young plants receive over a 2-3 week period, this means that they will produce the large amount of root hairs required to enable them to seek out water within the mix. Make sure though that you don’t under-do the watering either as seedlings particularly those grown in individual cells or communal trays dry out quickly.

Hardening off is a preparation process: During this phase the transplanted seedlings will slow their growth so that they have a greater tolerance to stress once planted out into their final positions in field or garden.

  1. It slows growth.
  2. To protect it from drying out the plants develop waxes and cuticles on the leaf surface.
  3. The plant begins to store carbohydrates to stimulate growth after transplanting into the final position. 

Hardening off methods

a. Reduce watering (i.e. water less both in frequency and quantity).

b. Lower the temperature gradually i.e. transplants may be moved in order as follows:

  •  A heated glasshouse.
  •  A warm unheated glass house.
  •  A green house.
  •  Open air with greenhouse roof coverage.
  •  A sheltered open situation.

c. Apply liquid fertiliser 2 days before transplanting then cease fertiliser application; particularly nitrogen.

d. Harden off for approximately 7 days.  


How does this course work?

You can enrol at any time.
Once you have paid for the course, you will be able to start straight away.
Study when and where you like. Work through at your own pace.

You can download your study-guide to your smart phone, tablet or laptop to read offline.

There are automated self-assessment tests you can complete at the end of each lesson. You can attempt these as many times as you wish and each time, upon completion, you can see your results. You will need internet access to complete the self assessment tests.

At the end of the course, you are presented with a large assessment which can be attempted online, anywhere, anytime. If you achieve a 60% pass in the exam; you immediately receive a downloadable certificate of completion with your name on it. If you do not achieve a 60% pass rate, you can contact us to re-sit your exam. ( email- )

Contact us at anytime if you have any issues with the course.

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Starting a Backyard Nursery- Short Course Starting a Backyard Nursery- Short Course
$220.00 In stock