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How to Prepare and Manage a Functional Plant and Tree Nursery

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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.

Nursery Basics Plant the Seeds of Success

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

This article will take you through techniques and practices of nursery husbandry involved 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

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 the risk of losing seedlings during transportation and seedling failure afterward. The nearness of the nursery to the permanent field site will enable you to effectively coordinate both the uprooting of seedlings from the nursery and their transportation and transplanting in the field.

Accessibility of a Water Source

Your nursery site should be situated where a reliable supply of good water is available. The seedlings and nursery hands require a lot of water on a daily basis, especially during the dry season. Water is also needed for preparing 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 level land for your nursery site. This will minimize the risk of soil erosion and reduce the cost of maintenance. This will allow the easy movement of nursery machinery and tools, as well as facilitate the application of water via irrigation. If potting bags are to be used, even land will allow for stable arrangement of polythene bags, which will ensure uniform growth of the seedling.

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 the Market, and Accessibility to Expert Services

Operations in the nursery are very labour intensive. As such, it should be in an area where a dependable and regular supply of experienced workers can be easily obtained. The nearness of nursery sites to potential purchasers is of importance to commercial nurseries, which raise seedlings for sale to planters. Your nursery should be located as close as possible to these planters. Nurseries should be set up in areas where the services of experts can be obtained easily. You may also wish to build your nurseries near good roads and railway stations, which are necessary for transportation of supplies and seedling and worker availability.

Design your nursery seedbeds based on your specific needs. Generally, however, seedbeds are 1.5 meters wide.

Design your nursery seedbeds based on your specific needs. Generally, however, seedbeds are 1.5 meters wide.

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 windbreaks 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 seedbeds are prepared to suit seasons of operation. You can create seedbeds 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 meters wide; they can be as long as you wish.

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.

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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; 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 and evenly in the channels and then 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.

You must have first-aid materials onsite at your nursery. It is vital that someone on your staff is well-trained in administering first-aid.

You must have first-aid materials onsite at your nursery. It is vital that someone on your staff is well-trained in administering first-aid.

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 the 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 supplying uniforms (overalls), gloves, aprons, etc. for them. 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 some time, however, young plants will grow larger, and inter- and intra-plant shading will occur, so much so that it usually becomes necessary to remove the shade.

Further Reading About Garden Maintenance

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.

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