A healthy greenhouse environment can produce more robust plant yields, extend the growing season, prepare delicate seedlings and even allow you to grow plants traditionally incompatible with your climate zone and humidity levels.
If you are a greenhouse gardener looking for simple ways to make your greenhouse more successful, here are the top 10 easiest ways to kick up your productivity.
If you are just starting your greenhouse, these tips will put you ahead of the curve and make your life a little easier down the road!
1. Beware of over-watering. One of the biggest mistakes new greenhouse gardeners make is over-watering. A drip irrigation system is ideal, but if you prefer to hand water, only do so when soil is legitimately dry and only using room temperature water. This means, you may not need to water every day.
2. Check your sunlight. Sunlight is fundamental to a successful greenhouse. Each year, be sure to examine possible sources for troublesome shadows, including buildings, trees (especially evergreen ones) or overhanging foliage. Trim away or remove any shadow-educing culprits. Also, be sure to take into consideration how the sun’s path may vary from season to season. In North America the sun will often lay lower on the horizon during winter months, casting longer shadows. If you are just starting out, start your greenhouse in an open space with the long side facing south.
3. Apply a garden disinfectant. Unfortunately, the moist, warm greenhouse environment can also be hospitable to unwanted algae, mold and fungi. A quality, natural garden disinfectant will kill these invaders without damaging the plants. How often you apply the disinfectant will depend on the humidity of your greenhouse.
4. Use only high grade soil. Using a high quality commercial potting soil is always a good starting point for your greenhouse garden. Soil mixtures vary, but often include a combination of sand, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite and fir bark. Mix in organic greenhouse fertilizer every so often to ensure you are maintaining an optimum soil environment. Many experts also recommend throwing in crushed egg shells (for calcium) and coffee grounds (for nitrogen) to enhance the soil. Be sure to wash eggshells prior to scattering them in the garden as lingering egg yolk can attract undesirable bugs.
5. Add Beneficial Microorganisms. Heat and moisture are the two key elements of a successful greenhouse environment. Unfortunately, warmer temperatures often dry out the soil. In some instances, dry soil call also lead to over-watering, as the soil is stripped away, water floods and overwhelms delicate plants. Adding a microbial inoculant product like EM1 to your greenhouse irrigation lines will help counter soil dehydration by establishing a healthy micro-ecology. The microbes naturally enhance the soil with antioxidants, vitamins, trace minerals, enzymes and organic acids. The end result is improved soil structure, texture and hydration.
6. Space your plants evenly. It’s tempting to try to crowd plants onto one or two benches, but if you space them out, you allow the air to circulate evenly. This means healthier plants and a more consistent room temperature.
7. Keep an eye on the temperature. Greenhouses can over-heat easily, so it is important to monitor temperature closely. Place thermometers in several locations to ensure temperature consistency. If you find that temperatures are too high, you will need to increase your ventilation. In many cases you can simply open some doors during the warmer hours of the day in order to correct high temperatures. Another quick fix includes hosing down the floor and allowing the water evaporation to cool the room. If these quick fixes don’t work, you may need to invest in a ventilation system. These systems will vary depending on your climate zone and particular needs, so it is best to go to a local gardening center and speak with a local pro.
8. Ensure the greenhouse has proper drainage. Standing and stagnant water can mean the death of sensitive plants. A quick and inexpensive trick for improving drainage includes placing broken clay pots, marbles, cracked walnuts or gravel in the bottom often planters and garden beds.
9. Add some herbs to the mix. Herbs act as a natural insecticide. Grow different herbs amongst your other plants. You can also mix some onions and garlic in a jar of water and let it stand in the greenhouse for about a week.
10. Deep clean your greenhouse two to three times a year. Remove all your plants and gear from the greenhouse, sweep out debris, clean the windows, mop the floor thoroughly with a natural garden disinfectant and treat both the floor and soil with a healthy shot of beneficial microorganisms to reestablish a good microbial environment in the greenhouse.