By Albert Makendenge
A vegetable or fruit nursery is a place where plants are cared for during the early stages of growth, providing optimum conditions for germination and subsequent growth until they are strong enough to be planted out in their permanent place. A nursery can be as simple as a raised bed in an open field (a small retail nursery for those mainly supplying to homeowners) or a sophisticated greenhouse wholesale nursery with micro-sprinklers and controlled atmospheric systems that caters for landscape contractors, retail outlets, growers and distributors.
Young plants, whether propagated from seed or vegetative reproduction require lots of care particularly during the early stages of growth. They have to be protected from adverse temperature, heavy rain, drought, wind as well as varieties of pests and diseases. If small seeds of vegetables are sown directly in the field, germination is often poor and the young plant usually grows very slowly and requires a lot of time to mature.
There are three main phases of nursery management which are planning (demand for planting material, requirement of land area, water supply, working tools, growing structures and input availability), implementation (land treatment, protection against biotic interference and soil erosion, proper layout and input supply) as well as monitoring and evaluation (physical presence, rapid response, critical analysis).
Successful nurseries are usually located in convenient areas where people can stop on their way from work, often near urban areas. One has to make sure that there is adequate protection, space and light on the location chosen, a dependable source of water, an available labor source and access to transportation. Adequate research about the science of plant production pertaining to the crops which the farmer is looking to nurse is especially important. One has to be passionate enough to start this business on their own and actually take the required time to prepare the land to create suitable and favorable conditions for the young plants to thrive.
Nursery work is both a labor of love and labor intensive. It involves planting, harvesting, transplanting, cultivating, tending, pruning, watering, fertilizing, and keeping a watchful eye out for pests and diseases or any remarkable changes from normal growth. It takes observation, monitoring and judgment as well as manual dexterity. One should be willing to spend lots of hours getting their hands dirty in the process of lifting, shoveling, digging, cutting, pruning and planting.