Nursery Growers Course

Start a Small Nursery at Home: Learn how to produce saleable plants.

Course CodeVHT101
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Start A Small Viable Nursery in Your Own Backyard


If you are enthusiastic about plant growing learning more could turn this enthusiasm into a small business.

You can even start a backyard nursery in a small space.

  • Grow it into any size business you want
  • Sell plants through local markets
  • Sell mail order or online
  • Supply plants to local retailers, the landscape trade or others

Let us show you how.

Nurseries are wonderful places which we all love to visit, and we often think "wouldn't it be idylic to work in one". Those of us who have worked in nurseries, have experienced these pleasures, but also seen the problems which can make running a nursery not as enjoyable or profitable as it could be.

As with anything though in this modern and rapidly changing world, the chances of a nursery being both pleasant to work in and successful, are increased significantly when they are managed well.  This course is designed as a very sound foundation for achieving such a goal.

Lesson Structure

There are 6 lessons in this course:

  1. Plant Identification and Culture. How plants are named, scientific and common names, watering, weed control, when and how to use a glasshouse/shadehouse.
  2. Plant Propagation. Overview of propagation techniques, propagating mixes, pots, hormones, propagating structures and aids.
  3. Soils and Nutrition. Soil structure, soil additives, major nutrients, minor nutrients, nutrient deficiencies, salt toxicity, soil mixes, fertilisers.
  4. Seed Propagation and Nursery Business. Handling seed, pre-germination treatments, handling seedlings, propagating selected species.
  5. Cutting Propagation. Stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, leaf bud cuttings, propagating selected species by cuttings.
  6. Pest and Disease. Identifying a problem, insects, fungal diseases, nursery hygiene.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Understand plant identification and culture.
  • Describe a range of growing structures including a greenhouse, glasshouse and shadehouse.
  • Understand the differences between sexual and asexual plant propagation.
  • Have and understanding of basic nursery management principles.
  • Understand the uses of a range of different materials used in plant propagation.
  • Explain the main components of common potting mixes and how they contribute to the final product.
  • Describe seed sources and how to store a range of different seeds for maximum viability.
  • Explain how to overcome dormancy in seeds.
  • Understand a range of cutting techniques including hardwood cuttings, softwood cuttings, semi hardwood cuttings, tip cuttings, heel cuttings, nodal cuttings, can cuttings and basal cuttings.

What You Will Do

  • Develop a budget for a hypothetical nursery operation
  • Name a soil based on criteria given in the course
  • Create a potting mix using a given recipe
  • Assess a number of plants for growing profitability
  • Prepare a pot of cuttings and estimate the cost of production for each cutting produced
  • Prepare a range of different types of cuttings
  • Find two plants with insect damage and determine the problem and possible remedies.
  • Collect information on various chemicals used in the nursery industry.
  • Assess plant ill health caused by agents other than insects.


Many nurseries start out as small, part time businesses, then grow into something much larger that may survive decades or even generations. Others remain a great little part time business operating out of a backyard.

In the past, most nurseries very often did just about everything to do with the production and culture of plants. They grew a wide variety of plants, and they sold them both wholesale and retail, as well as often supplying a whole range of allied products and services. Today all but the largest nurseries tend to specialize. Nurseries can be classified in many different ways. For example:

  • According to what they grow - such as natives, exotics, seedlings, cottage garden plants, bonsai or bulbs.
  • How they grow it - such as in ground or in containers.
  • Even the size of plants they produce - such as tube stock, small pots/containers, or advanced (in-ground or in containers).

Nurseries which try to do everything rarely succeed. New nurseries should consider the following options carefully and define the scope of their operation to fit their resources, skills and knowledge.

Do you want to Produce, Grow On or Sell?

There are three main types of nurseries; production, growing on and retail. Production nurseries propagate plants and wholesale them to growing on nurseries, or directly to retail nurseries, or as tube stock (sometimes larger sizes) for mass planting perhaps in forestry or parks. Growing on nurseries buy small plants, pot them up or plant them out, then grow them on to a larger size, adding value to their original purchase. Retail nurseries buy plants off production or propagation nurseries, then resell them at a profit. In many cases nurseries will be a combination of two, sometimes all three, types.

This Course Grew from an Industry Need

This  course was originally developed in the 1980's as a training program for people who were establishing part time small businesses, growing containerised plants (in pots) in their backyards, and either wholesaling those plants to retail garden centres, or selling them through weekend markets or other such outlets. Since then it has been revised and updated many times over, and continues to be an excellent "starter" course for anyone new to the idea of a nursery business.
The course has seen many hundreds of graduates develop successful mini businesses; as a supplementary income source.


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Maggi Brown

Maggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture
Diana Cole

B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild
John Mason

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.
Adriana Fraser

Over 30 years working in horticulture, as a gardener, propagator, landscape designer , teacher and consultant. Adriana has spent much of her life living on large properties, developing and maintaining her own gardens, and living a semi self sufficient li
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