Managing a greenhouse can be a difficult task if you aren’t properly prepared, but the results are often worth it. Beycome, an innovative hub of real estate activity, lists greenhouses as a valuable addition to your home’s property value. So with some crucial knowledge, operating a full-sized greenhouse doesn’t have to be a stressful headache. From treating your glass to harvesting your plants, these tips can help you successfully manage your greenhouse.
Testing Your Soil
There are two main methods for testing the pH level of your soil: With a kit and without a kit. The kit is the simplest method, but it requires some upfront costs. Simply add soil and water to the test capsule and measure the color against the provided pH chart. Without a kit, the simplest method is to use vinegar and baking soda. Put a few spoonfuls of soil into two separate glass dishes or cups. Add vinegar to the first cup, if it begins to bubble and fizz then your soil is basic with a pH over 7. If nothing happens, add water and baking soda to the second cup. If the baking soda container fizzes, your soil is acidic with a pH under 7. If your soil does not react to either test, your soil is a neutral 7.
Glazing is the material that protects your greenhouse from the elements and allows sunlight to reach your plants. Traditionally, glass is the primary glazing material for greenhouses, but there are many other options. Other than glass, painter’s plastic is the most popular option for covering greenhouse frames. Also known as polyethylene film, painter’s plastic is relatively cheap. Polycarbonate plastic is another popular glazing material that is slightly stronger than the painter’s plastic. However, it is slightly more expensive.
Sometimes you need to re-pot saplings or plants that grow into larger containers. Start by slightly watering your plant, and then carefully remove the root ball by turning the pot on its side and slowly knocking out. Be careful not to pull on the stem and damage the plant. If there are any rotten or moldy sections of the root ball, carefully prune them from the main mass. After cleaning out the new pot, add a bit of soil, place the root ball on top, and add soil around the plant until it can sit comfortably. Finally, trim and prune any broken sections of the plant to encourage growth. Transplanting causes stress to your plants, so it may take a few days for your plants to return to their normal growth cycle. The plant’s root ball must be handled very carefully, as too much stress can shock the plant and quickly kill it.
Proper Storage and Handling of Pesticides
It’s important to limit the total amount of pesticides you store and handle to the bare minimum. Ensure your pesticides containers are properly sealed and away from possible flooding or groundwater contamination. Be cautious with the quantity and frequency of your pesticide use, as excessive pesticides can seriously harm your plant or stunt its growth.
Plant diseases that appear in greenhouses are caused by a handful of factors: Lack of air circulation, unbalanced heat levels, nutrient deficiency, and unbalanced humidity levels. If heat levels are too high in your greenhouse, your plants may be prone to disease. Similarly, if humidity levels are too high in your greenhouse, your plants may still be prone to developing diseases. Use thermometers and humidity meters to keep your greenhouse environment in check. Avoid adding extra nutrients to soils like Miracle-Gro that come pre-mixed with time-released nutritional supplements. Gardening is a balancing act, if all these factors are balanced well then your plants will thrive.
Providing shade is an essential component of managing your greenhouse. Some plants are prone to overheating and require shade to protect their leaves. Other plants require shade in order to induce a flowering period artificially. Additionally, proper shading can reduce the costs involved in cooling your greenhouse during the warm summer months. The most popular method for shading a greenhouse is to use shade cloth or shade fabric. This material goes over the primary glaze and protects your greenhouse from overheating.
Managing Trees Next to the Greenhouse
Nearby trees can pose an unexpected threat to your greenhouse plants. As tree roots grow and develop, they can grow into your greenhouse, damage your plant’s roots, and deprive them of water and essential nutrients. If there are trees next to your greenhouse, consider using containers that are separated from the ground and any creeping tree roots. If this isn’t feasible, be vigilant in checking your soil for any stray roots from nearby trees. Just one nearby tree can throw off the delivery of nutrients and water to your greenhouse plants. Beds and pots that are sealed on the bottom are ideal for protecting your plants from rogue roots. Ideally, a greenhouse that uses the ground soil should be far from any nearby trees. This also applies to greenhouses that use raised beds with open bottoms.
The best measure against weeds in your greenhouse is sanitizing your growing media and basic prevention. Ensure your growing media is clean as well as your growing containers, and ensure they are covered when not in use. Weed blocking fabric provides a useful physical barrier between your plants and weeds. If weeds do emerge in your greenhouse, you may be able to physically remove them. It’s best to use organic or natural herbicides, and these are most effective against small weeds or seedlings. Larger weeds will need to be physically removed. A larger weed may only be burned or partially damaged by herbicides, so physical removal is necessary. It’s better to prevent weeds from entering your greenhouse at all than to remove them, but it is almost inevitable that you will encounter weeds in your greenhouse garden.
Manually watering your plants provides an opportunity to consistently check on the health of your greenhouse, but it can be very time-consuming in the warmer months of the year. Because of this, irrigation systems offer a mostly hands-free method for watering your greenhouse plants. A boom irrigation system is one of the most popular methods, involving a pipe that sprays water as it moves across the top of your plants. Drip tape is another irrigation system that is laid across your soil and irrigates your plants through condensation. Lastly, irrigation wells can draw water from the ground, and deliver water to your soil via a widespread pipe sprinkler system. With a well-built irrigation system, managing a garden can be more of a pleasant activity.
Preparing for Storms
Storms can prove to be devastating to your greenhouse. However, with some storm preparations, you can protect yourself from any damage to your greenhouse. The most immediate threat to your greenhouse during a storm is wind damage. Heavy winds can bend, dislodge, and break crucial parts of your greenhouse structure. Wind loading is the process of preparing your greenhouse for heavy winds. The process starts by checking your greenhouse area for anything that could pose a threat during heavy winds. This includes loose materials, tree limbs that are near breaking point, and ventilation motor arms. Sealing ventilation and cranking exhaust fans will tighten a plastic covering against the frame of the greenhouse. Lastly, strategically placed trees such as pine, spruce, and other conifers can break strong gusts that can damage your greenhouse.
Aside from wind-proofing your greenhouse, snow loading is the process of preventing greenhouse damage from heavy snows. If you live in an area with heavy snow, consider using a pointed, gothic frame design as an alternative to the standard, rounded design. Heating systems can melt snow that accumulates on top of the greenhouse. Diagonal bracing is essential in areas that receive heavy snow, and there should be no barrier between the interior and the glazing in order to provide adequate heating. Lastly, allow at least 12 feet between greenhouse installations to prevent snow from accumulating to dangerous levels.
Harvesting your Plants
Harvesting your plants can be a very rewarding end to your greenhouse season, but improper harvesting techniques can have a negative impact on your yields. Information on handling and storing your harvest can be found in GAP and GHP manuals found online. These are also known as the Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices programs. These practices are enacted to prevent spoiling of your yields through microbial infections. Storing your produce in air-tight jars, creating preserves out of fruits and vegetables, and thoroughly washing your harvests are all methods for protecting your harvest.
As you can see, there are a variety of methods for properly managing your greenhouse. This article doesn’t cover everything, but it is a handy guide for outlining the essentials. A successful greenhouse has proper glazing, pH balanced soil, is free of weeds, is properly irrigated, prepared for storms, humidified, temperature balanced, free of rogue roots, and shaded appropriately. If you stick to these guidelines, you should encounter minimal problems while operating your greenhouse.