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Become an Urban Farmer and Start Growing Potted Plants

As I’m not rich, I’m always keeping an eye out for a business opportuntity that might allow some of the finer things in life to become affordable. This back garden business opportunity might be applicable in the UK as well as the USA. It sounds fun, anyway.

Urban FarmerNow that I have your attention, anyone can be a farmer. You can grow trees and plants even if you have to raise them in POTS. I feel the best opportunity in agriculture is in raising plants and trees.

Growing plants can be done almost anywhere. You don’t have to have large fields and hundreds of acres. You only have to have imagination. People who grow dope do it in cellars and in caves. Select plants to raise that you see being sold in quantity by local nurseries or garden centers, and do as they do.

Arborvitae (Thuja firs) in Demand

In our area arborvitae are in hot demand. These plants can be started from cuttings or you can buy rooted cuttings. Thousands can be grown in a 20’x20′ area in small containers. Arborvitae are not the only plants that you can choose. Dwarf conifers and bonsai are other avenues to consider.

The first thing to consider is what plants you like. They make a nice starting point. I like arborvitae. Plus they are easy to grow.

There are many that are available. These can be grown from your own cuttings or you can purchase rooted cuttings, or even small liners. I suggest that you raise Emerald Green Arborvitae.

They are compact and very popular. A 2-inch to 3-inch rooted cutting in 3 years should be 2 feet tall if growing conditions are optimal. These might sell for as much as $5-10 depending on your market and quality. If you were to raise 1000 of them that might be $5-10,000. You can market them just as I do on the internet.

Being small you can ship them via UPS practically anywhere. An example of a plant that is not suitable for small plot urban farming is an Oak tree. It is very fast in growing (good), but has a big tap root, and is best marketed when over 6-8′ tall.

You will use up your space with a hard to confine, large tree that is not suitable for close compact container production. Shipping will also be more costly as starter plants tend to be larger hence larger shipping fees per tree. Besides I have sold many people 50 -100 arbs at a time but no one, 100 oaks at a time.

Sell Multiples to Maximise Profit

My largest order for arbs to one homeowner was 265. Try to target plants that will sell multiples to a customer rather than just one at a time. If you target single plants to individual customers you need high value plants for your sales cost per unit will be higher.

You will hear the same story from your customers about 1 plant as you will about 10 plants. I can tell you without a doubt that each customer will tell you about his property and his neighbors dog. I would rather hear the story once for each 10 plants that I sell. That is why I like plants that sell in multiples to a single customer.

Small developers are a good potential market in the UK. If they’re putting up three or four houses they want them to stand out and hedging or trees a little past the sapling stage will help them.

You could even consider offering a landscaping service to them so being paid to plant your trees as well

Additionally an unusual or exotic plant is seldom purchased in quanity and the buyer has little knowledge of the plant. They will have many more questions about this plant. This translates to a higher amount of time spent on a smaller volume of product sold.

Arborvitae are commonly used evergreen shrubs or trees useful in urban areas where low maintenance and durability is needed. Many cultivars with forms such as being globed in shape, columnar, or narrow pyramidal, tend to be near buildings, doors, and walkways. Other forms which are larger are used for screens and buffers that are planted in rows. These plants will be easy to raise on your small urban lot.

Cultivation of Arborvitae

The form of arborvitae is small, medium, or large depending on the cultivar. Some reach 50′, others only 3′. Most prefer full sun to partial sun. Planting in dense shade conditions should be avoided.

A moist , well drained, loamy soil in full sunlight are ideal conditions for growing healthy arborvitae. These plants will tolerate rocky, clay, urban conditions of heat drought and pollution. The most important pest we have is bagworms which must be controlled to prevent complete defoliation. Some cultivars have multiple leaders which also prove to be a detraction for the plant.

Finding Land

Pruning out multiple leaders in some cultivars is a simple remedy. As you raise these plants if you find that you are selling more than you can raise on your property, an add in the newspaper such as, “Wanted: land to grow trees on” will help you find vacant parcels to use in growing more stock.

This land may be free to use as many owners want in urban areas land to be used as it is then maintained. We have had many offers of free land to use in raising nursery stock. (In the US you should check with your local BTK Code Enforcement Officer to make sure that this use is acceptable.)

Another suggestion is that you work for another local urban grower. They may have facilities set up that they would allow you to use after hours. When they see that you are a willing go getter, they might even ask you to grow special plants that they don’t want to grow because the volumes are light or they are to intensive in labor.

At any rate it is the best way to learn the trade and its secrets. Most nurserymen will tell all their trade secrets because its the best way to help the industry and build a network of reliable and knowledgeable associates. See my web site below

About the author: Bill Hirst has been growing Arborvitae for over 25 years on his Doylestown Pa. farms. See his website for more articles.

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