I wrote a blog which was titled ‘Overcoming Obstacles To Present Opportunities,’ well, if that is true, then now is the time to test it, or rather, it test me!
Our mist propagator, which we just bought, doesn’t work, so its been sent back and a refund is in the waiting, but in the mean time, with me working full time, I will not be able to water the seeds we sowed as often as is needed (plug plants dry out quicker as they have less compost) and so no plug plants will be available this year.
I say ‘potential problems,’ as it sounds more positive, but believe me, it is a BIG PROBLEM!
As I mentioned at the start of this blog, if you read ‘Overcoming Obstacles To Present Opportunities,’ then you will see how crucial growing from seed was for us, not just this year, but next year as well.
So what’s the solution? Well, first, despite putting a positive spin on things by saying, ‘Potential Problem,’ we need to face up to reality. There’s no point being positive for positive sake, we need to look at the problem as it is and work out the possible ramifications going forwards, if at all!
Our plan was to grow wildlife friendly perennial plants from seed as plug plants. The thinking behind it was that apart from the initial cost of the mist propagation unit (video example here) which would be amortised and pay itself back, it would allow us to grow plants for a lot less than they would cost to buy, be produced at larger volumes and even provide an early cash flow boost by being able sell earlier in the season to grow on at home. The money made would have then funded future stocks of wildlife friendly plants.
The trade off is that space would be tied up for longer than ready grown, bought plants, and would result in more handling/labour costs, which though is not crucial at this stage of the business, is still an issue when you work full time, have a wife and two kids, and would certainly become an issue in the future when the business grows, so it’s good to be mindful of these things from the start, because they’d have to be worked towards as the business scales up. One other trade off is that not many well known, good reliable wildlife friendly perennial plants can be grown from seed, with some having plant breeders rights (PBR) protecting them from commercial propagation without a license.
Another issue not having a mist propagation unit presents us with is that not only does is our money tied up in it till we get a refund, it also prevents the potential for generating yet more money from sales of the plug plants we may/may not of got from our seeds.
One last issue, but not a major one, is the fact that if we had not sold all of the plug plants, then we would of potted them on into 9cm pots, either for sale at a higher price, (factoring in labour and time spent growing) or at the very least to use as stock plants for the following year, so that we weren’t as reliant on plant providers or cash flow.
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A summary of the problems then
- Money on seed is wasted
- Early cash flow is hindered
- Increasing stock levels for next year is potentially lost/reduced
- Money is held in broken equipment till a refund is given
- Money refunded will not buy as many plants
- Variety of plants offered for sale is reduced considerably
The question now is – how do we turn a BIG PROBLEM, into only a ‘potential problem?’
We will buy plants with the money to be refunded to offer some plants for immediate sale, use some plants as stock plants to propagate and make new plants from, which we hope will build up stock levels for next year, reducing the number of plants we need to buy, and use some of the money made to buy more wildlife friendly perennial plants.
If this sounds easy, it is not! It requires we sell the plants, so we’ll need you to help us and help nature, by buying our wildlife friendly perennial plants. We will also have to limit the variety of plants that we offer as most places have minimum orders on plant varieties and volume overall. So, for example, if we have to buy 24 Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradoona’ then that is more money used to purchase a single variety of plant. Thankfully this isn’t a problem with a plants as beautiful and useful as Salvia nemoros ‘Caradonna’ as you’re sure to want it in your garden, not only for adding height, with its stunning, vertical, rich purple flower spikes, but for its ability to attract both honey bees and bumble bees, as well as our beautiful butterflies. Was that a good enough a plug?
Potentially we could still have a problem with stock and variety issues going into next year, but I hope, if nothing else, this shows the thinking involved in having a business? Hopefully this will be an encouragement to others, not at our expense, but by being honest and open about our situation you may at least not feel on your own with whatever issues you’re having/could have.
So, if this is you, take a step back, assess the situation and get the most out of a bad situation as possible and adapt to potential issues!
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