How to start a plant nursery from scratch

Updated February 21, 2017

Starting a plant nursery from scratch requires a lot of labour. It can be done for very little money; some people choose to spend more money to make the work a little easier. All necessary supplies are available at hardware stores or gardener supply stores. No matter how you go about it, your own plant nursery will reward you for years to come. Once the nursery is up and running, it is easy and enjoyable to grow your own delicious, organic vegetables and herbs or beautiful flowers.

When you build a plant nursery from scratch, you need to start with a foundation. Choose a preferably flat, shadeless area to erect your nursery. Dig a shallow, level trench the size you want your nursery to be; for example, 10 by 8 feet. Use a wheelbarrow to collect and transport the earth to another area. The trench itself only needs to be a few inches deep, but also dig deeper holes, about 12 inches deep, at the four corners.

For a 10-by-8-foot greenhouse, you need to screw together 2-by-4s with a power drill to make a 10-by-8-foot rectangle. Purchase metal corners with screws at the hardware store. Packets of these are sold alongside hinges. You may choose any wood, but higher quality, such as cedar or white pine, will last longer. You may also choose to use plastic planks that are made to look like wood and are sturdy, but will not disintegrate over time. After ensuring that your trench is level, nestle your frame into the trench. Place long, sturdy stakes into the four holes and attach them to the frame by nailing or screwing together with a power drill. Mix and pour concrete into the four holes and let dry. You now have a sturdy base.

Build the frame. The best material for the frame is steel tubing placed in an arc making a tunnel. You can also use PVC pipes to make the arc. The top of the nursery should be at least 6 feet high, so for an 8-foot-wide structure, each tube or pipe should be at least 20 feet and preferably 24 feet long. If using PVC pipe, you can purchase, for example, four 6-foot-long pipes for each arc and purchase PVC connectors at the same time--tell the retailer what you need to do to ensure you get the appropriate connectors.

Place each tube 2 feet apart along the length of your nursery base and attach them to the base with a wall flange on each side. Attach rafters 4 feet up and along the very top for stability. This can be done with metal or PVC clamps that you purchase when you purchase the pipes.

Cover the structure with greenhouse plastic sheeting. Ask friends to help you with this. It can be difficult to get the plastic up over the arc by yourself. You can purchase tube locks to secure the plastic sheeting. Follow manufacturer's directions for installing tube locks to the base of your nursery; some brands are simply attached with a screw and power drill. The plastic sheeting is secured to the tube lock with a screw and a cap. These are best for areas with strong winds. The simplest way to secure the plastic sheeting is with high-quality tent stakes secured to the ground right next to the base, but they may not hold in high winds. Depending upon your climate, you may choose to leave one end open. If your climate is not especially warm or gets too cold at night, then create a simple flap with the plastic sheeting.

Cover the floor of your plant nursery with weed block, a black cloth that stops growth underneath it. On top of the weed block, put down drainable flooring, such as pea stones or soft wood mulch. It gets very moist inside plant nurseries, and if the inside cannot drain you will end up with mould.

Some people choose to start their nurseries from scratch by purchasing parts from a kit. These kits are advertised as greenhouse kits, and there are literally hundreds to choose from. Many kits offer an optional base, and it is highly advisable to purchase the base when available. The base makes it easier to secure the greenhouse to the ground.

Set up plastic tables or potting benches along both sides of the length of your nursery. Leave yourself an aisle in the middle. Set all of the pots and trays of seedlings of your choice on these tables for germination. Gardening supplies such as trowels can be stored in containers underneath the tables.

Soils and seeds can be obtained from many hardware and all garden supply shops. If you don't want to buy pots and seed trays new, check rummage and estate sales.

Last but not least, as your seeds are germinating, keep the flaps on either end of your plant nursery down. As the plants grow older and if it is very hot and humid, lift the flaps to air out the plant nursery.


Make sure you explain to the professionals at your hardware and garden supply stores exactly what you are doing. They can help you choose the best options for you.


This project will take time. Expect to spend at least a week building your nursery from scratch.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Power drill and screws
  • Hammer and nails
  • Stakes
  • Concrete (36.3kg. or less)
  • 2 by 4s
  • Steel or PVC tubing
  • Polyfilm greenhouse cover
  • Flanges and tube clamps
  • Tube locks or tent stakes
  • Weed block
  • Pea stones, mulch or other flooring
  • Potting benches, plant pots and seed trays
  • Good potting soil and seeds
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About the Author

Samantha Hanly is an organic vegetable gardener, greenhouse gardener and home canner. She grows a substantial portion of her family's food every year. After receiving her bachelor's degree, Hanly embarked on a career teaching dramatic arts, arts and crafts, and languages. She became a professional writer in 2000, writing curricula for use in classrooms and libraries.