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How to Prepare and Manage a Functional Plant and Tree Nursery

I love to help others green up their thumbs and keep their garden healthy and thriving.

This article will break down the basics of setting up a nursery site.

This article will break down the basics of setting up a nursery site.

The foundations of a healthy garden and tree crop production can be found in nursery practices and management. Performance of the garden, orchard, or the plantation depends on the quality of nursery preparation, technique, and management.

This article will take you through nursery techniques and practices of the nursery husbandry in plant and tree crop cultivation.

How to Select a Nursery Site

The following are factors to be considered in selecting a Nursery site.

  • Minimizing costs as you establish your nursery: Therefore, accessibility of the nursery to the permanent field site must be taken into consideration. It is of great benefit for the nursery sites to be situated very close to the planting site. This will reduce to the barest minimum any damage to seedlings due to transportation. As much as possible, you should transplant seedlings with a ball of earth to avoid risks of loss of seedlings during transportation and seedling failure afterwards. Nearness of the nursery to the permanent field site will enable you to coordinate effectively uprooting seedlings from the nursery with the transportation of seedlings and transplanting in the field.
  • Accessibility to a water source: Your nursery site should be situated where a reliable supply of good water is available. A lot of water is required on a daily basis, especially during the dry season, by the seedlings and nursery hands. Water is also needed for preparation of chemicals for spraying, as may be required from time to time. This water should be cheap and clean to reduce cost and reduce the threat of water-borne diseases and pests infiltrating the nursery.
  • Even and level land: It is advantageous to select a level land as your nursery site. This will minimize the risk of soil erosion and reduce the cost of maintenance. Easy movement of nursery machinery and tools will be allowed and facilitate the application of water by irrigation. If potting bags are to be used, even land will allow for stable arrangement of polythene bags and uniform growth of the seedling will be ensured.
  • Type of soil: Nursery soil should be rich, as well as physically and chemically suitable. You must also ensure that there is good drainage of the soil. Whether seedlings are raised directly on nursery soils or in containers—seedboxes, polythene bags, trays, or pots—it is an advantage if the site is well drained. (Boring little holes in your potting container of choice ensures that your soil is well drained.) Absence of water pools and muddy spots in the nursery facilitates disease- and pest-control measures and general hygiene of the nursery.
  • Availability of labour, the proximity of market, and accessibility to expertise services: Operations in the nursery are very labour intensive. As such, it should be in an area where a dependable and regular supply of experience can be easily obtained. The nearness of nursery sites to potential purchases is of importance to commercial nurseries, which raise seedlings for sale to planters. Your nursery should be sited as close as possible to these planters. Nurseries should be located in an area where the services of experts can be obtained easily. You may also wish to site your nurseries near good roads and railway stations, which are necessary for transportation supplies, seedling, and worker availability.

Preparing Nursery Beds

The following are basic steps to prepping your nursery bed.

  1. Clear the site of trash and lay out the nursery site according to plan.
  2. Plant the wind breaks and fence the nursery.
  3. Erect permanent supports for shading materials.
  4. Dig the nursery beds or lay the potting containers.

In addition to providing an appropriate growing medium for seeds and seedlings, your nursery beds also help to conserve soil from erosion. Nursery seed beds are prepared to suit seasons of operation. You can prepare your seed beds to the size of your choice. The fact you must bear in mind is that you should be able to operate on the bed with your hands reaching the other end. The conventional size is 1.5 meter in width, with the length as you may desire.

Raised Beds vs. Sunken Beds

Raised beds are designed during the rainy season and are purposely raised about 10–15 centimeters above the level of the pathway to allow for good drainage and prevent water logged beds.

Sunken beds, however, are designed during the dry season and are purposely sunken 10–15 centimeters below the level of the pathway to conserve moisture and retain water during the dry season.

So, during the wet season, it is best to use raised beds for your plant nursery; and during the dry season, it is best to use sunken beds to conserve moisture.

Application of Nematocide and Fertilizers

Three weeks before sowing the seeds, you must apply a nematocide. You can use Nemagon to destroy any nematodes in the nursery at the rate of 1 gram per 2 centimeters. After this, you will apply your fertilizers—superphosphate and nitrogen—at the rates of 50 kilograms and 100 kilograms per hectare respectively.

You could broadcast your seed thinly but evenly on the nursery bed, but it is better that you make shallow channels of 2 centimeters in between rows and 1 centimeter deep.

Sowing of Seed in a Nursery

To begin, you must select good seed of known history. You want seeds with:

  • good quality
  • high-yield ability
  • good growth and uniformity
  • freedom from diseases and pests (virus and bacterial infections)
  • high viability

You can now sow your seed by drilling thinly about evenly in the channels, covering lightly with soil.

Mulching and Watering

After planting, cover with mulch to retain moisture. The sown seed needs sufficient moisture to enhance germination. You should supply water as required, more often during the dry season than the wet season. Too much water will make the seed go rotten, while insufficient water will dry up the seed and germination will be adversely affected.

Nursery Management

Here are some essential aspects of nursery management.

  • Routine hygiene: This will provide a healthy environment to workers and minimizes pests and diseases. Cleanliness is established through regular weed control, removal of waste and other garbage, the use of an incinerator, and proper handling of nursery materials and tools.
  • Storage of nursery tools and equipment: You must clean nursery tools and equipment and store them securely each day after use to prevent transfer of disease and pathogens. The toolshed must be properly organised and store items must be well labeled. You should keep a separate inventory for the nursery.
  • Labour management: Nursery labour is specialized, and this makes it very important to ensure that labourers, attendants, and supervisors are carefully managed. You must provide adequate protection to workers by supply of uniforms (overalls), gloves, aprons, etc. for nursery workers. This is paramount to the success of your nursery.
  • First aid box: It is crucial that you provide a first aid box in the nursery. The nursery staff force must include somebody who has formal training in first aid management, especially in treating fresh wounds, snake and scorpion bites, and similar injuries.

Shade Management

It is usual that the amount of light received by the unit leaf surface will be too high in young plants that have recently germinated and have not yet developed a large leaf area. Leaf growth or leaf expansion improves with some degree of shade. Shade is therefore recommended in the early stages for most of the tree crops, such as mango, citrus, cocoa, palm oil, rubber, and in any other crop nurseries. A few crops such as coconut may not like shade. Under hot and dry conditions, some shade will reduce the loss of water and promote leaf expansion.

Another reason for shading nursery plants and nursery materials is because of the operations involved in vegetative propagation. With cuttings for example, the material is very sensitive to moisture stress before rooting has taken place. It is therefore desirable to provide shade for young seedlings before they become very leafy—and for cuttings and other vegetatively propagated material.

You will experience that after sometime, however, young plants will grow larger and inter- and intra-plant shading will occur, in so much that it usually becomes necessary to remove the shade.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.