Gain Management Skills for the Nursery Industry
This course covers management for a range of horticultural enterprises with an emphasis on nurseries and garden centres. Many of the skills you'll learn here can be applied to different settings.
- Learn to manage a Plant Nursery, Garden Centre or Production Nursery.
- Get a job, start a business or improve an existing business.
Note that each module in the Qualification - Certificate in Nursery Management is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.
What is the Nursery Industry Like?
The nature of nurseries has always been such that most commonly they have been small businesses employing fewer than five persons. This remains true in the current market, and there are good opportunities for new nurseries to establish, provided they are selective in what they grow and that they maintain adequate standards in the quality of plants they produce.
It is important for nursery managers to be well informed about industry trends, demands and conditions. Nurseries sell living things and, like all living things, plants are subject to the influences of abnormal weather, and plagues of diseases and pests. Plants are also subject to changing fashions. A promotion on TV or in popular magazines often significantly changes the way the public spends, even if it is only a temporary change. Averaged over a period of years, the demand for different types of plants may remain stable, but over shorter periods there can be very significant changes in the demand for one type of plant or another. It is essential to stay in tune with the market place and wherever possible foresee changes in demand before they occur. Maintain contact with the magazines, professional associations and gardening experts who can tell you about what is to be promoted next, or what plants are in over supply or under supply in the near future.
The Nature of Nurseries
In the past, nurseries were involved in almost all aspects of the production and culture of plants. They grew a wide variety of plants, and they sold them both wholesale and retail, as well as supplying a wide range of allied products and services. Today all but the largest nurseries tend to specialise.
Nurseries can be non-private (for example, run by government, community or conservation groups) or private businesses. Private nurseries can be individually owned partnerships (perhaps owned by a husband and wife or two friends), or corporate, such as a company, where they have a legal identity of their own.
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 production or in containers;
- even the size of plants they produce - such as tubestock, small pots/containers, or advanced stock.
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.
There are three main types of nurseries: production, growing-on and retail.
Production nurseries, also known as propagation or wholesale nurseries, propagate plants and either sell them direct to retail outlets, landscapers and council parks departments, or wholesale them to growing-on nurseries. Success of production nurseries is affected by:
- Innovation – supplying new varieties to the market or developing new ways of growing and presenting existing varieties allows the grower to develop new markets.
- Specialisation – growing fewer lines in larger quantities allows the grower to improve efficiencies in the nursery.
- Forecasting trends and meeting market demands – knowing what plants customers want, or are likely to want, and growing them in sufficient quantities allows the grower to meet consumers’ requirements, and through doing this, maintaining customer loyalty.
Growing-on nurseries buy bulk quantities of seedlings or small plants from propagators. At the time of purchase, the plants are growing in plugs, trays or tubes; the plants are then potted into larger containers and grown on for a period of time, adding value to the nursery’s original purchase.
In addition to increasing the plants’ size, specialised growing techniques, such as topiary, may be used to add value to the plant during the growing-on phase.
The most critical aspect of production in growing-on nurseries is developing a quality product for the retail market. At the time of resale, every plant must be at its peak, displaying healthy, vigorous and sturdy growth. The plant must presented appropriately, in a clean, attractive pot, with fresh potting mix (no weeds or residues on the surface) and appropriate support (small stake or trellis) if necessary. Labels must also be supplied (but not attached).
Retail nurseries buy plants from production/propagation nurseries and resell them at a profit. ‘Greenlife’ (the term used by the industry distinguish plants from other nursery products) sold by the retail sector include seedlings, bulbs, containerised and bare-rooted plants and trees. In addition garden centres sell associated products such as dry goods (pots, packaged potting mixes, fertilisers, sprays) and bulk landscaping materials.
There is an increasing emphasis on the supply of ‘lifestyle products and services’ in retail outlets, such as outdoor furniture, gift lines, display gardens, cafés and landscaping services.
ACS follows the old fashioned idea that “the student comes first”. Our staff are told to treat every student as an individual and respond promptly to their enquiries; and the facilities we have developed and continue to develop, are all focused on that goal. Facilities include:
- Offices in two time zones (UK and Australia) –which means an international team of academics are responding to students 5 days a week and 16 hours a day.
- An online student room with unique resources that are only available to students studying our courses, including online library.
- Bookshop offering quality downloadable e books
- A data base of 20 million words of unique information written by our staff over 3 decades that can be drawn upon if needed by academics for use in supporting our students.
- Systems that ensure assignments are tracked, marked and returned to students, fast -commonly within a round 1 week & rarely more than 2 weeks (note: many other colleges take longer).
- The school is active in social networking and encourages students to connect with us and each other.
- No automated handling of student phone enquiries. When you call you get a real person; or leave a message and a real person will call you back within a day, but more commonly within an hour or two.
- No additional charges for extra tutor support over the phone or email.
- Free careers advice for graduates –It is our policy to provide support and advice to our students even after they graduate. If a graduate needs help with getting a CV together, or advice on setting up a business or looking for work; they only need ask.
- The quality of academic staff is higher than many other colleges.
How our Courses Differ
- Courses are continually improved –we invite feedback from all graduates and change courses immediately the need is detected.
- Courses are relevant to the whole world –we try hard to teach make the learning transferable to any region or country because the world is increasingly a global economy
- Courses written by our staff, teach different skills to standard courses; giving a unique mix of skills and knowledge to provide a career advantage. Do you want an accredited certificate and the same skills as 100 other job applicants; or one of our courses with skills that no other applicants have?
- Certificates and diplomas are longer. They teach you more, and our qualifications have built a reputation amongst academics and industry as being a very high standard for this reason.
- We are focused on helping you learn in a way that improves your capacity to understand your discipline, apply knowledge, and continue learning and developing your capabilities beyond your course.
These things cannot be always said of other colleges.
Study alone can never guarantee career success; but a good education is an important starting point.
Success in a career depends upon many things. A course like this is an excellent starting point because it provides a foundation for continued learning, and the means of understanding and dealing with issues you encounter in the workplace.
When you have completed an ACS course, you will have not only learnt about the subject, but you will have been prompted to start networking with experts in the discipline and shown how to approach problems that confront you in this field.
This and every other industry in today’s world is developing in unforeseen ways; and while that is unsettling for anyone who wants to be guaranteed a particular job at the end of a particular course; for others, this rapidly changing career environment is offering new and exciting opportunities almost every month.
If you want to do the best that you can in this industry, you need to recognise that the opportunities that confront you at the end of a course, are probably different to anything that has even been thought of when you commence a course.