Vegetable Nursery Management

Vegetable Nursery

Types of Nurseries: Vegetable seedlings can be produced in containers (boxes or trays) or on seed beds.

Site Selection: The nursery should be readily accessible, close to a permanent source of clean water for irrigation, not prone to erosion and at least 50m away from vegetable farms to avoid spread of pests and diseases. Avoid sites very close to major roads and factories. For seedbed seedling production, sites with well drained and fertile soils free of soil borne diseases and pests including nuisance weeds are preferred.

Seed Source: Buy certified seeds from reputable seed companies.

Germination Test/ Seed Rate: To avoid seed wastage, conduct a germination test.

  • Pick 100 seeds from the lot.
  • Sow in a seed box or bed.
  • Count number of seeds germinated after 5-7 days.
  • 85%-95% means seeds are very good.
  • Below 85% increase seed rate to make up for losses.
  • Discard seeds with germination rate below 60%.

Seed Bed Preparation: Make beds 1.0m-1.2m wide x2m or more long. Water the beds, cover with 4cm thick dry grass, sawdust or rice straw; leave for 2-3 days to reactivate spores of disease pathogens then burn to sterilize soil or cover the seed bed with transparent plastic sheets for 5-8 weeks to sterilize the soil.

Soils/Media: For container grown seedlings, soils can be sterilized by steaming. For both seed bed and container grown seedlings, allow media to cool for 2-3 days before sowing.


  • Treat seeds with recommended seed dressing/hot water before planting.
  • Drill thinly in rows 10cm apart and cover with thin layer of soil.
  • For seed trays, sow 1 seed per cell and cover with newsprint.
  • Cover bed with dry grass (non-seeded), transparent plastic sheet or palm fronds and water.
  • Seeds emerge within 5-7 days.

Care after germination:

  • Remove cover after emergence and cover seedlings with insect proof lutracil nets.
  • Prick out seedlings at first true leaf stage (about 2 weeks after sowing) and thin out weak, malformed and oversized seedlings if seedlings are too overcrowded.

Nutrient Requirement: Fertile soils may not require fertilizer application. Observe seedlings as they grow and if leaves are pale yellow, apply a solution of NPK (5g/L) 1 week after germination. MAP application will promote sturdy root growth.

Irrigation: Water lightly and regularly.

Weed Control:

  • Good site selection.
  • Use of weedicides/herbicides.
  • Good seed bed preparation.
  • Hand pick weeds as they appear.

Pests and Diseases:

Major pests in the nursery are aphids, grasshoppers, whiteflies, crickets, leaf miners, beetles, mites, caterpillars, rats and mice.


  • Practice good sanitation.
  • Cover seedlings with insect proof lutracil nets.
  • Scout regularly to assess pest and disease incidence.
  • Where necessary spray seedlings with potassic soap (alata samina) at 5g/15L and vegetable oil 10ml/15L solution or apply approved insecticides.
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  • Use approved rodenticides at recommended rates or traps to control mice and rats.

Major Diseases:

Damping off: Caused by Pythium. Results in the death of seedlings before or shortly after emergence. This may be controlled by nursing seeds on well- drained soils and regulating irrigation. Solarizing the soil for 6-8 weeks before planting, or applying approved copper based fungicides.

Early blight: Caused by the airborne fungus Botrytis. Control by use of disease free seeds and thin out densely sown seedlings or prick out into individual containers. Avoid overcrowding.

Root Knot Nematode: Nematodes feed on young roots causing wilt. Control by solarization, application of spent neem seed granules or approved nematicides.

Seedling Maturity: Seedlings are ready for transplanting at five leaf stage. Harden seedlings by decreasing shade gradually until full exposure to sunlight and/or reduce irrigation before transplanting.

Packaging: The most suitable packaging materials are waxed cardboard boxes and plastic crates with openings that ensure seedlings are well ventilated and growing points remain intact.

Market Requirement: Seedlings should be sturdy, fresh and come with a ball of soil/medium protecting the roots.

Sample Operational Budget for one Ha test crop (tomato)*

Activity/Input Cost(Ghc)
Land rent 10.00
Land preparation 60.00
Seeds (100gx3) 180.00
Fertilizer 10.00
Pesticides 20.00
Lutracil net 60.00
Labour 120.00
Total estimated cost 460.00

*prices will change depending on the crop and variety


Estimated number of seedlings required for one ha = 56,000

Price/seedling (nursery gate) = Ghc 0.25

Income = 56000x Ghc0.25

= Ghc 1,400

Net income = Ghc1400-Ghc460


Note: This budget does not include fixed costs and overheads.


Developed by:

Horticulture Development Unit (HDU-DCS), MOFA

Printed by:

Export Marketing & Quality Awareness project (EMQAP)

For further information contact the nearest MOFA office or HDU.

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