Almost 9 years into setting up the farm, I felt it was time to have a nursery of our own for the following reasons.
Our farm help had a tendency to sow seeds directly into the ground, and then lose track of them. For example, it would be like, "Yes I have planted cucumber here" and then a few weeks later "It seems like none of them germinated"! This was resulting in lost opportunity in terms of starting seasonal plants in time and losing precious seed too. By starting seeds in a nursery, I felt we would have more control over the saplings, and I was right! See how nicely the saplings are doing before we transplanted them into the ground. This way we have accountability for every single seed!
2. We now have innumerable wild tree saplings sprouting all over the farm. We needed to transplant all of them into sapling bags, and store them in a common place where they could be watered regularly, before we planted them elsewhere. In addition to these, we wanted to make at least 1000 more saplings of various native trees from which we could gather seed. And lastly, we now had the confidence and know how to make our own grafted mango saplings. All these saplings needed to be housed in a nursery to be attended to daily.
3. And lastly, we started seedlings or paneeri (in hindi) for many crops like Ragi, Onions and Rice and this was usually done in a random plot of land. The problem was that the dogs would like to sleep on it most of the time, crushing the seedlings in the process. It was important to keep the seedlings in a gated area.
So for the above reasons we created a nursery. It's a small area, which we have cordoned off with a wire fence, and made a makeshift gate which we secure with a rope. The nursery is located in Zone 1, right next to the Cow Shed, the Chicken Coop and the Store room - basically near the nerve centre of the farm, where the farm help spends a few hours every day. The location of the nursery is important, as the saplings & seedlings need to be inspected and watered on a daily basis.
Speaking of which, we also chose this area because it has a good water supply - it has two shallow tanks which are always kept full. Even on the rare occasion that our water supply is disrupted, we still have enough to water the sensitive saplings. Especially in the months of May & June, you can lose your saplings in a day or two if you don't water them.
The third reason for choosing this location is that it is right next to the walking path - so we cross it several times a day, and can keep an eye on any animal trying to destroy our plants.
Lastly, the nursery has a good combination of shade and sun. We have built a small shack with a thatched roof. Here we can sit and do all our potting. There is a Gulmohar tree under which we keep all our seedling trees - they get the dappled sunlight here; not too much shade or too much sun, just right for the seedlings. And there is enough area with full sunlight for the seedlings of crops like onions, ragi and rice.
All in all, our nursery is doing pretty well, and we are much more efficient with our seeds, saplings and sowing calendar. Strongly recommend you make one too!
If you have a good nursery growing, watch this video to learn how to avoid getting leggy saplings!