How Hydroponic Gardening Works

Hydroponic Gardening Gothic Arch Greenhouse Hydroponics, a soil-less form of gardening, has grown in popularity in recent years. But it dates back to the famous Hanging Gardens of Ancient Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, which are believed to have been maintained through a hydroponic system.

In more modern times, hydroponic gardening has gained favor for their many benefits—one of the most important being that it’s a viable conservation alternative to shrinking supply of agricultural land. This system of gardening is also well-known for producing higher yields (up to 25 percent more) and higher quality vegetables that grow faster and are considered tastier than those grown in soil.

But how does it work? If you’ve ever placed a plant clipping inside a glass of water, that will give you a basic visual of how hydroponics works. Take that image and imagine a system of anywhere from a small number of plants to a large-scale hydroponic farm. The plants within the system don’t rely on soil as their growing medium, and instead the nutrients they need are in the water that recirculates among them.

The absence of soil in a hydroponic system means there is no danger of disease or pests, so pesticides can be cut back or eliminated altogether. It also means that plants have smaller root systems, yet greater flowering potential, which leads to that increased yield.

Hydroponic systems can function passively or actively, which refers to how the water and nutrients are supplied to the plants. Each have their advantages based on the scale of plants grown, types of plants grown, etc.

The underlying theory behind hydroponics is to remove as many barriers as possible between a plant’s roots and oxygen, water and nutrients—everything it needs to thrive. Various herbs, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and peppers are best suited for hydroponic systems.

Hydroponic growing has wide applications, including urban areas where there is little land for agricultural use, remote areas where residents or business can grow their own vegetables without having to import them or any areas where water supply may be scarce. Some even call it the gardening of the future!

Interested in hydroponic gardening? We have a number of systems available. If you have questions about what you need or which one may be right for you, just give us a call at 1-800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com.

The Impact of Urban Farming

Urban Farming Impact Gothic Arch GreenhousesUrban farming is not a new concept, but it has gained renewed attention in recent years. Once, this practice of producing food in heavily populated areas was driven by water shortages and scarcity of agricultural land.

Though that is not the case in the United States, urban farms are on the rise, even in unexpected places. Think rooftops, abandoned buildings and neglected plots of land.

Restaurant rooftop gardens have become a recent trend. By growing herbs and vegetables literally steps away from their customers, chefs can provide some of the freshest locally-sourced dishes.

But more than maximizing space or giving new life to abandoned areas, urban farming has environmental, economic, social and health benefits.

Environmental. Urban farming is good for the environment. Because food can be produced closer to home, it doesn’t have to be transported from thousands of miles away. Rooftop farms can also help cool buildings. Both of these can help reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, rooftop farms can help enhance the urban landscape and improve well-being. They can literally help cities go greener.

Economic. Keeping food production local can help stimulate the economy. According to the Community Food Security Coalition, every $1 invested in a community garden generates $6 worth of vegetables. Through the help of urban gardening, localizing production can help stabilize food costs.

Social. Urban farming can help strengthen the bonds of the community. Through establishing or working in the garden, people become more involved in their neighborhood and each other. Through the attention and care the garden receives, the appearance of the neighborhood improves.

Health. Nurturing a garden can help those who work in it eat healthier because of their close contact with production. In urban areas, such gardens can provide some families with an additional source of low-cost produce. Studies have confirmed that exposure to nature and vegetation can help reduce anxiety and increase productivity.

Want to start your own urban garden? Whether it’s in a container, a greenhouse or you need the tools to support an outdoor garden, call us at 1-800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com, and we can help!

How to Heat a Greenhouse on a Budget

Gothic Arch Greenhouse snow runoffWorried about the cost of heating your greenhouse this winter? Rising fuel prices and extreme cold weather can add up quickly if you don’t know how to maximize every strategy that could help you cut your energy bill.

Depending on your zone, you may be able to employ some of these options longer than others. But with their help, you may only have to supplement with heaters rather than solely relying on them.

These are some of the best low-tech tips available to help you heat a greenhouse while trying to reduce your energy costs.

Paint It Black. Paint the outside of 55-gallon plastic containers with flat black enamel. Fill them with water and locate it in areas where they can absorb the most sunlight throughout the day. When the temperatures fall at night, heat emitted from the water will help keep your greenhouse warm. This technique—whether for growers with little extra space or those with smaller greenhouses (they can use gallon jugs and paint buckets)—can maintain an average of 20-30 degrees warmer in your greenhouse than outside temperatures!

Gimme Compost. Get the most out of your organic waste by creating a compost pile. Tea bags, fruit and vegetable scraps, dryer lint, newspaper, grass clippings and more can help not only provide essential nutrients to your plants, but also they can provide heat that is released during their chemical breakdown. Place your scraps and trimmings in 55-gallon drums or a ring of wire mesh. Be warned that they can create immense amounts of heat—well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit—so be aware that you use this option with safety in mind.

It’s All Over Row Covers. Garden fabric, also known as row covers, is a simple way to help turn up the heat when the weather outside demands it. Not only can row covers protect plants from cold and wind, but also they shield them from insects and prevent overheating in the summer. This fabric can be draped over hoops or secured to the ground. Row covers can be reused if handled with care, though certain styles can last much longer. Even if yours last one or two seasons, row covers are easily repurposed as weed barriers or covers during milder weather.

Seal It Up. Retain as much heat in your greenhouse by preventing as much warm air as possible from escaping. Seal all joints and gaps in the greenhouse with silicone caulking or installing weatherstripping around doors, seams of glass and at the foundation. Repair any tears in film, coverings or cracks in glass to hold on to all of your hard-earned heat! Regular maintenance like this is one of the simplest ways to help you improve the energy efficiency of your greenhouse.

Heat What You Need. Particularly for larger greenhouses, heating the entire space can get expensive quickly, but the good news is that it might not all be necessary. Separating plants into zones inside the greenhouse with partitions makes it possible to heat the needed space more efficiently. Not only is this a more economical approach, but also it provides the grower with more control over the temperatures, which helps create a more ideal environment for each plant that is grown.

Got questions about preparing your greenhouse for the winter or what works best in your zone? Let us know! Call Gothic Arch Greenhouses at 1-800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com.

Best DIY Gifts for Gardeners

Gothic Arch Greenhouse greenhouses durable affordableGardeners can be some of the best do-it-yourselfers around, so they of all people would appreciate a considerate DIY project—or gift—during this time of year!

If you’re not crafty, creating a DIY gift can seem pretty intimidating, but we’ve put together a list of what we think are the best do-it-yourself gifts for gardeners out there.

The best part? They span all crafting abilities so anyone can give their favorite gardener a thoughtful gift this year.

Here are seven DIY gifts for gardeners that made our “best of” holiday wish list:

Antique Spoon Plant Markers: Any gardener could use a little signage in his or her garden, putting plant markers at the top of our recommendations. Using antique spoons—whether culled from your extra stuff or a secondhand store—can add a vintage flair to any garden. Stamp them or paint them with plant names; you can even create a collection!

Decorative Watering Cans: Functional and fun, personalized watering cans can add a bright spot to an otherwise everyday gardening accessory. Make your selection from dollar stores or thrift stores, if you like. Create or use a stencil if you don’t consider yourself much of a painter, and paint your design. Your gardener can use your gift to water plants or even as a planter.

Gardeners Gift Basket: If crafting isn’t your thing, you can still put together a thoughtful and useful gift by collecting gardening essentials and presenting them in a unique gift basket. Find a pot (you can go the inexpensive route and paint it), then fill it with small tools, gloves, seed packets and more! The bonus is that you can truly personalize it to your recipient.

Seed Tape: What’s a great do-it-yourself gift for a gardener to DIY? Seed tape! Again, if you know your gardener well, you can use the seeds of plants you know he or she will love. Especially if you have a budding gardener on your shopping list, seed tape is a great way for them to get started because it’s so easy to plant and get practice nurturing the sprouts.

Fresh Garden Gift Tags: Is your gardener one to share his or her bounty? If so, you can help them customize their gift with these Fresh From The Garden gift tags. Ideal for the person who preserves their harvest by canning or making jams, these homemade gift tags make a great gift for gardeners who use the fruits of their labor to keep on giving.

Gardener’s Soap: Gardeners are known to get their hands dirty, so it helps to have an extra bar of soap around. But you can make it extra special by making it yourself! This orange and clove recipe makes several bars that you can give to one lucky recipient or split it up among several gardeners on your list. Ideal for cleaning dirt of your hands and keeping them moisturized too!

Garden Glove Rack: If you’ve got some time but maybe not much of a budget, transform leftover plywood and metal clips into an upcycled garden glove rack. It’s a great way for gardeners to keep track of their gloves, plus you can paint it and customize it. This one will take a couple of hours to complete based on how detailed you might get with the painting.

Gothic Arch Greenhouse: Get your gardener what he or she really wants—a greenhouse! So maybe it’s not a traditional DIY gift project, but for your favorite grower, it just supports their own DIY efforts in their garden. Just in time for the holidays, our signature greenhouse is on sale, so you can get a great deal on a great gift!

If you’ve got a greenhouse or greenhouse supplies on your shopping list this year, let us know! Our friendly representatives are happy to help you. Call us at 1-800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com.

 

How to Improve Commercial Greenhouse Operations

Optimize Commercial Greenhouse Operations Gothic Arch GreenhouseThe greenhouse industry in the United States has steadily grown—and is expected to reach $4 billion in sales by 2020. The increased demand for production is challenged by limited resources, namely labor, land and water.

With a greenhouse operation, commercial growers can manage and optimize this supply and demand dilemma with the help of automation, conservation and efficiency.

For commercial growers to improve upon and streamline their operations, they need to be especially mindful of the following:

Energy Efficiency: Help improve the energy efficiency of your commercial greenhouse simply by minimizing leaks to the structure. That means: weatherstripping doors, windows and ventilation openings; sealing the foundation—a major source of air loss; and ensuring windows and doors close and fit properly. Additionally, exhaust devices should be shut off when not in use, and automated device openings should be adjusted and lubricated.

Ventilation: Creating an ideal environment starts with proper greenhouse ventilation. Smaller greenhouses can get adequate ventilation with passive means, but larger commercial operations depend on mechanical systems to help regulate temperature and humidity. Bigger structures face a challenge in ridding excess water, which can mean higher humidity. To best address this challenge, commercial greenhouse combine dehumidifiers and fans to pull excess moisture out and replace it with cooler, drier air.

Lighting: Commercial growers should be aware that the lighting options they use meet the needs of their plants at every stage. For example, younger plants thrive under higher intensity light, which creates greater photosynthesis. Plants that don’t require full intensity light can provide an energy-saving advantage by reducing the use of artificial light and substituting inefficient incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights.

Sustainability: Moving commercial crop production indoors is one way to reduce an operation’s environmental footprint. By giving growers more control over the conditions inside, they can maximize what Mother Nature is providing—natural light and heat, for example. Hydroponic gardening is another way to reduce soil use and water for the same sustainable effect.

Maintenance: Due to their size, commercial greenhouse operations rely more heavily on mechanical equipment, which requires routine maintenance and repair. Proper and regular upkeep of pumps, heaters, fans and ventilation systems can not only extend their life span, but also improve the efficiency of the operation.

For the best equipment for your commercial greenhouse, call us at 1-800-531-4769 or visit us at www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com today!

Greenhouse Innovations You Need to Know About

Greenhouse Innovations Gothic Arch GreenhousesFor larger operations, automation can significantly improve efficiency and reduce the cost of labor—which is the biggest production concern. Thanks to innovations, from software and sensors to robotics, water and lighting, greenhouse gardening can be more efficient and effective.

These technological advances in gardening tend to have their roots in Europe before they make their way to North America. Based on what was featured in one of the latest greenhouse technology showcases this year, this is what U.S. growers have to look forward to.

Pointed Microclimate Sensor: Wireless sensor that captures dew point, vapor pressure deficit, temperature and humidity to help monitor heating needs. This tool helps growers cut unnecessary energy costs and reduces the risk of plant disease.

Service Engine (Royal Brinkman): Software that helps managers identify everything in the greenhouse that requires service or maintenance and keeps those tasks on schedule. Streamlines management of greenhouse upkeep and provides up-to-date and easily accessible maintenance records.

Moisture Balance Module (Priva): Automated module that constantly monitors water evaporation and plant water usage, then schedules irrigation and duration that automatically adjusts based on the environment and plant needs. Encourages not minimal, but optimal amounts of water usage.

SmartPAR Wireless Control System (Lumigrow): Wireless platform that can be used to automate lighting zones and adjust LED lighting remotely. Adjustments can be tailored to crop types and growth stages. Lighting modes can be changed between grow and view modes.

IRIS! Scout Robot (Metazet FormFlex): Robotic system detects crop stress, so pest, diseases or other deficiencies can be treated early on. This robot is is also equipped to measure humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide levels to assist growers in managing an ideal environment in their greenhouse.

Wondering how to innovate your greenhouse? Let us help! Call our friendly staff at 1-800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com to learn more.

Selecting Fans for Optimal Air Flow

Greenhouse Fans Gothic Arch Greenhouse Selecting FansThough your greenhouse will help you extend the growing season, you’ll still have to monitor and maintain optimal growing conditions inside as the temperatures change outside.

Your plants will thrive in an environment where the temperature, humidity and air quality is controlled, and that starts with proper ventilation, both natural and automatic.

Fans are a common automated ventilation option. But using them to help create an ideal environment isn’t as simple as just installing them and turning them on.

To create the most successful conditions for your plants, you should keep these suggestions in mind when selecting fans for optimal air flow.

Choosing a Fan Type

When selecting fans, consider their efficiency. For example, circulating fans with blades that operate against zero static pressure are more efficient than exhaust fans designed to force air. Look for high-efficiency fans because they will be carrying a heavy workload. Fans with efficiencies of 14 to 16 are about average; better fans have efficiencies of 18 or higher. Tall plants and hanging baskets will reduce air flow, but fans with shrouds will help spread the flow of air over a greater distance.

Selecting Your Fan Layout

There are two types of layouts you can choose for your greenhouse fans, parallel or series. In a parallel layout, all fans are located at one end of the greenhouse and the air is pulled back, creating a loop. A series layout features fans in an alternating pattern, moving in toward the center. Because greenhouses may vary in size or located on uneven land, a series layout prevents fluctuations in heat or cold collecting in the higher or lower points.

Determining Fan Location

Locate fans near the center of the air mass that they are helping to move. For example, in greenhouses with floor or bench crops, place fans seven feet to eight feet above the floor. If there are hanging baskets in a greenhouse, fans should be located above or below basket level, where the air circulating will meet the least resistance. This will also prevent foliage from drying out by getting too much direct air.

Controlling Air Flow

Ideally, fans move air evenly throughout the greenhouse to help create the controlled environment you want for your plants. To do this, avoid erratic bursts of speed, such as when plants are “moving” as a result of the flow of air. Instead, generate a momentum of flow with the installation of multi-speed fans that are managed by a thermostat.

Directing Air Flow

Achieving horizontal air flow has long been a popular concept in greenhouse management. In recent years, vertical fans have gained more interest. Though they do level out temperatures from top to bottom, vertical fans don’t have the same effect across the entire growing area, which creates inconsistencies in plant growth. Horizontal fans are still prized for their ability to move air evenly and promote the movement of water through plants for their optimal health. 

Maintaining Your Performance

Simple preventive maintenance can help improve the flow of air in your greenhouse. Clean fan blades and the motor frequently to reduce dirt and dust buildup and prevent overheating. Inspect belts, particularly if you hear squeals and squeaks on startup. Replace belts with any cracks or frayed edges. Also check to see that fans are held securely in place with brackets or chains to keep them from moving out of place.

We can help you select the fans you need for your greenhouse application. Call us at 1-800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com!

7 (More) Crops That Grow Best in Winter Gardens

Gothic Arch - Winter GardenIf you love gardening, there’s no reason to let the cooler weather interrupt you! There are plenty of crops that thrive when the temperatures fall, so don’t think you have to take a break until the spring.

Depending on your local climate, you can plant outdoors or in a greenhouse. If you’re in the South, outdoor gardens will work for you throughout most of the winter. But if you’re in the northern zones, your best bet is to rely on a greenhouse to help you extend the growing season.

A couple of years ago, we discussed the “7 Best Cold Weather Crops.” But now we’re going to detail seven more that will grow best in your winter gardens!

Radishes: Don’t limit yourself to the typical radishes you may see in the produce aisle at your local grocery store. Varieties like French Breakfast, White Icicle, Pink Beauties and Easter Eggs yield interesting shades of purple, pink and white. And they grow fast! Some are ready within a month or less of seeding.

Peas: Plan to plant these in November or February, as those are the best months for this plant to flourish. Shelling or snap pea seeds should be placed an inch or two deep into rich soil, but give them a stake or something tall to wind around as they grow. Be mindful that birds like to feed on pea shoots, so you’ll want to protect them, yet allow sunshine and rain in.

Potatoes: Ideal for planting in February, potatoes are harvested usually three months after planting. They can also thrive as a late-season crop, particularly in the South, where there are only a couple of frosts per year. Potatoes can be successful for northern growers; they just have to ensure that the ground is well insulated for the crop to survive the cooler season.

Turnip Greens: For crisper, sweeter turnip greens, plant them in the fall. If the weather gets too hot—even if just for a few days—they can taste strong and bitter. Plant from late August to October for a fall crop in most areas. They don’t need much room, but at least six inches apart, and make sure they get plenty of water, especially during drier fall weather.

Cauliflower: Cauliflower can be temperamental, making it one of the best late-season crops. Not recommended for spring, unless summers are cool. Start seeds indoors ealy in summer otherwise. For early harvests, particularly where fall weather doesn’t last long, select varieties like Snow Crown, Denali and green-headed Panther. For larger, more dense and sweet yields that mature in the main season, opt for Candid Charm, Skywalker and Graffiti.

Brussels Sprouts: Plant in early autumn to late winter for an early spring harvest. Some varieties mature earlier if you want to enjoy these veggies even earlier. These include: Prince Marvel, Jade Cross, and Lunet, which mature within 80-125 days from seed. Though they can be planted directly in the ground, your chances of success increases if you start them indoors.

Broccoli: Excels when planted outdoors in the fall, especially in warmer climates. A mid- to late-summer planting is recommended everywhere else unless you are using a greenhouse to extend your season. Be sure to give your plants 1 to 2 feet apart depending on the size of the heads you want to harvest. If you overseed, you’ll have to thin seedlings later to allow for growth.

Wondering what you need to get your winter garden going? Gothic Arch Greenhouses can help! Call our friendly representatives at 1-800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com. We’ll be happy to help you get growing!

 

Designing a Retail Garden Center

Retail Garden Center Design Gothic Arch GreenhousesGarden centers are uniquely designed for retail sales, though they may have areas for living plants, hard good products, storage, and shipping and receiving.

But a garden center’s approach and design must be methodical to be successful—from the big picture even down to the small details.

So whether you’re starting a retail garden center or you plan to update an existing one, keeping these design guidelines in mind will help you create an environment in which your business can thrive:

  • Include a greenhouse as part of your garden center design. Not only will this help keep plants healthier in an environment over which you have control, but also this will help customers associate you as being a grower or as an expert they can trust.
  • Keep retail areas separate from all other areas for various functions of the garden center. Your retail space serves a different purpose from production or shipping, for example, so this will help you invest more in the customer experience.
  • High-roof structures are ideal for garden centers, as they create a better environment for customers and plants. By adjusting trusses, you can still make use of space, while allowing customers the ability to reach hanging baskets.
  • Typically located on high-traffic streets, garden centers must have some curb appeal. Using glass—at least on the front of your building—is recommended so potential customers can get a peek at what you’re selling, even as they are driving by.
  • You have the first 20 feet from the entrance to make your impression on shoppers. Change displays regularly and seasonally to engage interest in various products. Some recommend making these changes every two to three weeks. Bench systems should be flexible so they can be used for such displays as they can be moved around to create different looks.
  • Choose an appropriate greenhouse structure. For example, hoop houses can be used year ‘round or even temporarily. Sometimes, they function as both a production and retail area. Gutter-connected greenhouses are typically used by larger operations, and polycarbonate structures have the advantages of permanence and less maintenance.
  • Lay out your space with the customer in mind. Aisles should be wide to allow for foot traffic to flow easily, as well as space for wagons and carts if provided. Multiple doors may also be an options, as they can also assist in this flow.
  • Design specifics can also help direct customers through your space. Signage provides direction, but you want to route shoppers through as many categories of items—plants, pots, potting soil, garden decor, etc.—as possible as this can help boost sales. Stock heavier items at waist-level as customers are more apt to select from middle or higher locations than picking up from the floor.
  • Retail garden center floors are ideally paved, providing convenience for customers and level surfaces for benches that support your displays. Concrete or asphalt is recommended, but asphalt should be painted a light color to reflect heat. Appropriate placement of drains helps keep floors dry to help minimize hazards that come with slippery, wet floors.
  • Promote products in bundles, such as containers with potting soil, shrubs, flowers, fertilizer, garden tools, etc. These can provide ideas for your displays or specials that you want to advertise.
  • Last, but not least, be unique! Approach your garden center design as creating a memorable experience that your customers will not only enjoy, but also share with others to generate invaluable word-of-mouth recommendations.

Our experienced team is ready to help you create your garden center design! We start by evaluating the technical aspects of your project in terms of equipment, interior layout and your specific needs. The possibilities within our range of structures and products are endless, whether your approach is classic or modern. Call us today at 800-531-4769 to begin!

Greenhouse Safety Checklist for Commercial Growers

Being vigilant about greenhouse safety is a must for any commercial grower. Multiple potential electrical, chemical and equipment dangers exist in commercial greenhouse settings, so growers must take steps to protect their structures, plants and, of course, employees.

Many of the most common safety hazards can be managed with proper training, maintenance and vigilance. Adherence to this approach is important since very often greenhouse operations may not always be convenient to fire stations and water sources to extinguish a blaze, for example.

For commercial growers, educating employees on equipment safety, chemical safety, fire prevention, personal protective equipment and more is one of the most proactive ways to prevent downtime due to injury or damage.

With that in mind, here are some safety tips to consider as you take precautions to protect the most important assets that contribute to the success of your commercial growing operation.

  • Keep aisles and walkways clear and even or level to prevent accidental slips, trips and falls.
  • Ensure adequate clearance of exits, breaker boxes, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, etc., so in the event of an evacuation safety equipment can be easily identified.
  • Encourage employees to: hydrate regularly when working in hot conditions, even when they aren’t thirsty; wear hats and light-colored clothing; keep an eye on fellow workers; and be mindful of their location in case they need to call for assistance.
  • Work in teams in the greenhouse so no one is alone in case assistance is needed or an emergency occurs.
  • Wear closed-toe footwear and safety glasses or eye protection, particularly when using chemicals, pruning or using machinery.
  • Be cautious when using tools, as many used in the greenhouse are sharp. The same goes for benches or shelves, which typically have sharp corners.
  • Monitor weather conditions, and in the event of lightning, hail or high winds, move from the greenhouse to a sturdier structure.
  • Compartmentalize your greenhouse into as many fire zones as possible. Use non-combustible materials for walkways and partitions, as well as firebreaks in glazing and shade cloth.
  • Protect boilers from glazing by using non-combustible materials to provide a protective barrier.
  • Locate electrical panels, switches, heating pipes, CO2 generators, etc. a safe distance away from glazing materials or shade cloth.
  • Separate storage rooms, utility rooms and heating plants from the main greenhouse floor when possible.
  • Evacuate the greenhouse immediately if there is a fire. Set off the alarm and notify authorities. Acrylic greenhouse coverings are highly flammable and the fumes are hazardous. Acrylic should only be installed using polycarbonate as a firebreak.
  • Use electrical equipment that is well-grounded and power is supplied by extension cords that can adequately support the current. Do not use electrical equipment if the floors are wet or it is near moisture pads.
  • Greenhouse floors become slippery when wet, particularly when algae forms on floors in propagation areas. Stay on rubber mats as much as possible, and plan to treat floors to treat algae growth.
  • Conduct regular walk-throughs with other team members to identify and address hazards proactively.