Layout And Design Considerations For A Wholesale Container Nursery 1

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Archival copy: for current recommendations see or your local extension office.CIR558Layout and Design Considerations for a WholesaleContainer Nursery 1Thomas H. Yeager, Dewayne L. Ingram2Many commercial nurseries begin as smallbackyard operations, with little thought given toinitial or future layout design. Nursery managers areoften anxious to realize a rapid return on theirinvestment, and overlook the need for thoroughnursery layout planning. Nursery managers may beapprehensive about nursery expansion or may nothave a clear perspective of nursery crop productionsystems. Consequently, an inefficient, haphazardlayout design may result which requires a costlychange later.This publication provides the framework forplanning and implementing efficient nursery layouts.Visits to nurseries with similar production systemswill be valuable, and discussions with other managersabout how they would change their productionsystems will usually give insight to an effectivelayout. A slight modification in the proposed designmay increase the flexibility for future expansion andincrease time and motion efficiency.A nursery operation encompasses many differentphases and components of production. Proper timingof operations is essential, and efficient use of landand resources is important. Layout design must beefficient if the nursery is to be productive andcompete in today's market. Facilities or activity areaswill vary with the type of nursery and specificproduction scheme employed. For example, a nurserymay produce small plants or liners that only requiregreenhouse space. Other nurseries may purchaseliners so propagation areas are not needed. The firstrequirement in planning is to determine the activitiesthat are proposed in the nursery, and the space neededfor each immediately, and as the nursery expands.Make a scaled drawing ( Figure 1 ) to ensure thatrequired areas or facilities are well planned andintegrated so that nursery activities or operationsprogress efficiently ( Figure 2 ). Appropriatejudgement of distance and arrangement of areas canbe achieved when every element is seen on the samescale. Scales of 1 inch equals 50 to 200 ft arecommon, but the dimension of the property and theavailable drawing supplies and equipment may dictateother scales.An efficient arrangement of the 8 areas thatshould be considered for a container nursery is seenin Figure 1 . These activity areas must be arrangedefficiently, considering constraints such as land form,1. This document is CIR558, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food andAgricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date May 1985. Reviewed October 2003 and February 2010. Visit the EDIS Web site at Thomas H. Yeager, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Horticulture, Dewayne L. Ingram, Associate Professor, Department ofEnvironmental Hoticulture, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information andother services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex,sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service,University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. MillieFerrer-Chancy, Interim Dean

Archival copy: for current recommendations see or your local extension office.Layout and Design Considerations for a Wholesale Container Nursery2Figure 3.Figure 1.layout so comparisons of alternative routescan be made. Cost of travel time is of moreconcern for nursery operations located onnon-adjoining land. In this case, somereduction in travel time can be achieved bystrategically locating shipping and pottingareas near production areas.Nursery EntranceFigure 2.slope, and natural barriers. The containernursery layout in Figure 1 is adaptable tomost land shapes, the exception being verynarrow tracts. The layout for narrow landtracts ( Figure 3)requires more time to transport employees towork sites, and plants must be transported greaterdistances, either to and from potting areas or toshipping areas. Labor costs are 25% to 35% of totalproduction costs for the average nursery, and 60% oflabor is moving materials. Efficiency can also beimproved by planning travel routes. One way toevaluate equipment and personnel movement is toplot the routes on a scaled drawing of the nurseryThe organization and appearance of a nurserygives visitors and customers an impression of theoperation that directly influences sales. The nurseryentrance provides the first and most importantopportunity to present a good image. The entranceshould be accessible to the nursery office andshipping areas, and be landscaped with an attractive,uncluttered arrangement of plants including thosesold by the nursery. The entrance planting shouldcontain any special plant materials offered by thenursery, or plant materials that need to be introducedor emphasized.Nursery Office and Sales AreaThe nursery office should be clearly identifiedand located close to the nursery entrance ( Figure 1 ).Customer parking for cars must be provided, andreceiving trucks should be directed to the loadingareas by signs so drivers can proceed without delays.A sales area, located close to the office andcontaining a representative display of salable plantmaterials, enables customers to view salable plantmaterial without traveling through the nursery. Thissaves time for customers and sales personnel.

Archival copy: for current recommendations see or your local extension office.Layout and Design Considerations for a Wholesale Container NurseryPropagation AreaThe propagation area is the heart of the nurseryoperation and must be located in an area accessible tothe production and potting areas. A propagation arealocated close to the office helps in communicationbetween the office staff and the propagationmanagers who must make long-range decisionsregarding the number of specific plants to beproduced. Propagation area size and design aredetermined by production type, number of plants andspecies produced, and markets.The propagation area may contain greenhousestructure designs from A-frame steel and fiberglass toquonset PVC or galvanized pipe and polyethylene.Steel frame, gutter-connected, or ridge-and furrowtype greenhouses usually cover more than 1000 sq ft.Conduit or PVC greenhouses usually cover less that1000 sq ft and cost considerably less than steel frameor ridge-and furrow-type houses. Plant species thatrequire different rooting environments may besegregated using smaller greenhouses. However,several small greenhouses will require more land thanl or 2 larger houses of equivalent square footage, andthis should be considered if less than ample land isavailable for the propagation area and facilities.Certain plant species, such as junipers, may bepropagated outdoors in small containers or raisedground beds and will not require special propagationstructures ( Figure 4 ). Because of repeated mistcycles or frequent watering, this area must be locatedon well-drained soil. Seeds may also be germinated inoutdoor beds, although structures built toaccommodate tiers or racks of seed germinating flatswill use space more efficiently ( Figure 5 ). Outdoorpropagation has the disadvantage of lacking watercontrol. Heavy rains may occur and pack the rootingmedia, destroying aeration and contributing tosoil-borne diseases.The amount of land available for propagationmay determine if plant stock blocks are maintained tosupply cuttings. Stock blocks are generally 20% to25% the size of container production areas and shouldbe located close to the propagation area. Limited landavailability requires taking cuttings from salablenursery plants and eliminating stock blocks. CuttingFigure 4.Figure 5.preparation areas may be included in the propagationarea of the layout. A protective structure allows forcutting preparation during inclement weather ( Figure6 ) and will be an advantage for the nurseryproducing large numbers of junipers propagatedduring the winter. A nursery producing primarilybroadleaf evergreens, propagated during the summer,may choose to exclude a cutting preparation areafrom the layout and require that cuttings be preparedfor sticking when cut from the plant.Media Preparation and StorageMedia mixing and potting may be accomplishedat one central location where potting media or mediacomponents are stored in bulk quantities. Pottingmedia or components are stored either in loose pilesor in open bins often constructed of concrete. Mediacomponents are usually mixed by commerciallyavailable soil mixers, manure spreaders, or front-endloaders that scoop and dump the media several timeson a concrete slab. A reinforced, raised slab, 4 inchesthick and 3 x 5 yards (2.7 x 4.6 m) will accommodate3

Archival copy: for current recommendations see or your local extension office.Layout and Design Considerations for a Wholesale Container NurseryTransporting container plants efficiently to andfrom the field requires a well-designed road system.Roads should be crowned or sloped to one side andsurfaced with gravel, seashells, or other materials tosupport equipment during wet periods. Firm roadsurfaces also prevent traffic from splashing mud anddebris on plants.Figure 6.approximately 3 yd 3 (2.3 m 3 ) of media. The raisedconcrete slab prevents incorporation of field soil intothe media during mixing, and eliminatescontamination from diseases, weed seeds, andnematodes transported by runoff water.Motorized media mixing and transportingsystems, and potting machines should be covered by astructure that houses a permanent potting area for thenursery. The permanent potting area may or may notbe sheltered if commercial soil mixers and pottingmachines are not used, but in this case nurseriesusually erect a permanent V-shaped hopper fromwhich media falls onto a potting bench. Advantagesand disadvantages of potting machines will depend onthe particular operation; however, most nurseryoperators agree that potting machines pace theworkers.Number and size of production areas, roads, andwalkways may vary depending upon equipment usedand type of production. Road widths will depend onthe equipment, but when farm tractors and trailers areused, the perimeter roads should be about 30 ft (9.1m) wide to allow for turns from the narrower roadsbetween plant beds.The production area designs in Figure 7 , Figure8 , and Figure 9 have walkways that are 2 ft (0.6 m)wide and plant beds that are 8 ft (2.4 m) wide. Thedesigns contain the same amount of area in which toplace plants; however, the walkways and length ofbeds are 50% less for the design in Figure 8 thanthose in Figure 7 , and 50% less for the design inFigure 9 than in Figure 8 . The maximum distance aplant must be carried is 100 ft (30.5 m), 50 ft (15.2m) and 25 ft (7.6 m) for designs inLocating the media mixing area and the pottingarea adjacent to each other minimizes mediahandling. A very large nursery may have soil mixingand pottings areas located throughout the nursery.This reduces the distance traveled when placingnewly potted plants in the field.Production AreasProduction or plant growing areas will occupythe largest percentage of nursery land and should beadjacent to the potting area to ease the orderlymovement and placement of plants in the field. Asmall part of the production area may be used forevaluating new plant materials with market potential.Figure 7.4

Archival copy: for current recommendations see or your local extension office.Layout and Design Considerations for a Wholesale Container Nursery5Another advantage of the Figure 9 design is thatroads perpendicular to walk-ways are not flanked bydrainage ditches that must be crossed by personneland graded periodically for rapid drainage of water.When growing plants in 5 gallon or larger containers,design efficiency becomes more significant.Production beds in Figure 9 should slopeapproximately 3% to 4% from the edge of the 10-ft(3.0 m) wide road to the center of the 50-ft (15.2 m)wide production area that slopes toward one end.Runoff water flows on the surface material down thecenter of the 50-ft (15.2 m) wide production area intoa drainage ditch located parallel and beside the 30-ft(9.1 m) wide road. This design may be modified bycrowning the 50-ft (15.2 m) wide production area inthe center and placing a drainage ditch down thecenter of the 10-ft (3.0 m) wide road for runoff.Severe washing of the road may result if precautionsare not taken.Figure 8.Figure 9.Figure7, Figure 8 , and Figure 9 , respectively,with averagewalking distances of 50 ft (15.2 m), 25 ft (7.6m) and 12.5 ft (3.8 m), respectively. Thus, movingplants in or out of the production beds can be donemore efficiently with a design such as Figure 9 .Production areas in Figure 7 and Figure 8should be crowned 3% to 4% to the center along the200-ft (61.0 m) length so that runoff flows toward a20-ft (6.1 m) wide road on either side of theproduction area. Ditches between the roads andproduction areas drain the runoff.An alternative to crowning the production area isto slope the area to one side. The slope begins at theleft side and progresses to the right so the runoffflows into the ditch on the right side of the productionarea. The road on the right side of a production areaslopes toward the ditch on the left side of the road.The ditch may slope to either end of the productionarea. Production areas are commonly surfaced withgravel, seashells, porous polypropylene, or blackplastic. Gravel consisting of a particle mixture of0.25 to 0.75 inches (0.6 to 2.0 cm) makes anexcellent surface to place plants, but is expensivesince 100 tons of gravel will only cover about onehalf acre. Smaller gravels wash away easily, and1-gallon containers do not set level on larger gravel.Polypropylene and black plastic must be securedaround the edges to prevent wind displacement, andequipment driven on these materials may result intears. Despite precautions, black plastic usually doesnot last more than 2 years in Florida.

Archival copy: for current recommendations see or your local extension office.Layout and Design Considerations for a Wholesale Container NurseryNatural shade areas on the nursery site may beused as production space. Shade may also beprovided by shade structures. Roads and drainageditches for production areas where shade houses areconstructed are usuallysimilar to those of nonshaded areas. Naturalshade areas cannot be graded because of possibledamage to existing tree roots, so care must be takento select areas with a 1% to 2% slope. Avoid areassubject to flooding.protective wrap of paper or polyethylene around theperimeter of the crowded containers ( Figure 10 ).Plants from 1 or 2 beds are usually crowded togetherwith the long axis of the group oriented in anorth-south direction for minimum plant exposure tonortherly winter winds. Placing groups north andsouth is simplified if plant beds are oriented in anorth-south direction.Shade structures should accommodate tall piecesof equipment and provide adequate turning space.This aspect is often overlooked. Limbs and/or treesshould be removed in natural shade areas to aidaccessibility.The layout and dimension of production areasmust be known when designing the irrigation system.Production areas and roads may be modified tomaximize irrigation efficiency. Most irrigationsystems used in nurseries are permanent overheaddelivery systems with impulse nozzles which deliverwater in a circular pattern. It may be desirable tolocate roads where water distribution patterns meet toensure elimination of dry spots. Aluminum irrigationpipes placed on the production area surface areoccasionally used. These pipes should be placedparallel with roads for minimal interference withequipment.The use of drip irrigation systems for containerproduction has increased in the last few years due towater shortages. Drip systems efficiently deliver aspecified amount of water to each container. A dripsystem must be properly designed to ensure adequatedelivery rates and may require a specific productionarea design. Details of drip irrigation design areavailable in OH Commercial Fact Sheet 5, andirrigation design plans are available from theExtension Agriculture Engineer's office. Theirrigation design of your nursery should be filed forfuture reference should irrigation system repairs benecessary.Provisions for winter protection should beconsidered when designing container productionareas. Winter protection may be provided by pushingcontainers together during cold periods and placing aFigure 10.Location in the production area of quonsethouses constructed for cold protection should bebased on house capacity and size of container plants.For example, approximately 400 one-gallon plantsare placed on an 8 x 50-ft (2.4 x 15.2 m) productionbed (spaced 1 ft (0.3 m) on center) and could becrowded together inside a quonset 8 x 12.5-ft (2.4 x3.8 m). Therefore, an 8 x 25-ft quonset frame iserected for two 8 x 50-ft beds of plants. The use ofwider quonset structures, which remain in placethroughout the year, could interfere with aisle trafficor equipment designed to pass over the tops of plants.Small portable quonset houses, usually 6 to 8 ft (1.8to 2.4 m) wide, with variable lengths and constructedof light-weight materials, can be moved to aid intraffic flow.Sprinkling for cold protection does not require aspecial size production area. However, manynurseries plan for only a portion of the productionarea to receive sprinkling for cold protection. Widthand length of production areas might be adjusted toensure proper irrigation delivery rates and adequatecoverage when sprinkling.6

Archival copy: for current recommendations see or your local extension office.Layout and Design Considerations for a Wholesale Container NurseryService AreaEquipment storage and repair facilities, alongwith pesticide, petroleum, and fertilizer storagefacilities, comprise the nursery service area ( Figure 1). They are usually located close to the nursery officeyet accessible to supply trucks servicing thesefacilities. The type of equipment and supplies needingshelter or storage determines the size and type offacilities. Enclosed metal buildings are excellent forrepair and maintenance shops, and may be used forstorage of small pieces of equipment such as handsprayers, chain saws and lawn mowers. Equipmentrepairs by commercial businesses may be lessexpensive, and an equipment repair facility in thenursery would be unnecessary. Storage facilities forlarge pieces of equipment, i.e., tractors, forklifts andsprayers, are often open sided "pole barn" typestructures.Pesticide storage facilities should be located inthe service area and have a water source which candeliver 20 to 50 gallons per minute to permit rapidfilling of pesticide tanks. This capacity may not beavailable directly from a pressurized water source butcan be achieved by a raised storage tank from whichwater flows through a 2-to 3-inch (5 to 7.5 cm)opening into the spray tank. A pesticide storagebuilding must be properly designed and identified ascontaining poisons. Pesticide storage building plansare available from the Extension AgricultureEngineer's office.Employee FacilitiesEmployee facilities are usually located adjacentto the service area but should be positioned as far aspossible from the pesticide storage area ( Figure 1 ).Restrooms, showers, personal lockers, refrigeratorsand dining tables are usually provided for employees.Employee parking between the service area and theemployee facilities is a convenient arrangement.Shipping AreaSome nurseries load plants directly fromproduction areas while other operations havedesignated loading areas within the nursery whereplants are placed prior to shipment. Shipping areaswithin the nursery require access roads 20-to 25-ft(6.1 to 7.6 m) wide with firm surface material andturning space to accommodate 30-ft (9.1 m) longtrucks. Placing plants in this area before customerarrival reduces loading time, but irrigation and shademust be provided. Another loading alternative is tobuild a loading dock. A covered loading dock ispreferable since it would permit loading trucksduring inclement weather. Most loading docks are 4ft (1.2 m) high and constructed of concrete. Thedocks should be large enough to accommodatetractors, conveyors, plant racks and other equipmentused in the loading process. Loading docks should beaccessible from the public highway and adjacent tothe office ( Figure 1 ) due to the interaction betweenthe shipping foreman and sales personnel.Once the nursery layout design has beenimplemented, adjustments in the system that wouldexpedite certain production processes is notuncommon. Alterations of the system should only bedone after careful examination of the availableoptions, since corrections in the existing layoutdesign are often difficult to accomplish withoutinterrupting existing production practices. Examinethe cost-benefit relationship of the alteration beforetaking action, and if alterations are not feasible at thetime, make written notes of the suggested changesand incorporate them at a later date in the existingoperation or in the next phase of nursery expansion.7

sold by the nursery. The entrance planting should contain any special plant materials offered by the nursery, or plant materials that need to be introduced or emphasized. Nursery Office and Sales Area The nursery office should be clearly identified and located close to the nursery entrance ( Figure 1 ). Customer parking for cars must be .

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