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.

How to Select the Right Size Greenhouse for Your School

Gothic Arch Greenhouse SchoolsIncorporating gardening to supplement your traditional classroom learning is an exciting step, no matter the grade or higher education level.

Gothic Arch Greenhouses has long been an advocate of horticultural education and, more importantly, making greenhouses for schools accessible for elementary grades all the way up to sophisticated college-level research projects.

One of the first steps to adding a garden or a greenhouse to support your curriculum is to define how you will use it, what you will need and even the roles of teachers and students.

But to assist educators and administrators in that process, we have created greenhouse levels based on the number of students enrolled. Each “level” breaks down the equipment sizes and supplies needed to support each size group, from 10 to 25 students up to 100-plus.

Within each list, the equipment and supplies are further broken down in phases. For example, each one begins with horticultural basics, an introduction to plant germination, propagation, transplanting and potting soil mixes.

As the students grow in their grasp of horticulture, so can the greenhouse program. Additional phases can incorporate ornamentals and forestry, field irrigation, and garden center management, greenskeeping, landscaping and more.

Even at the most basic level, hands-on horticulture education can open up a new world of opportunities for students of any age. Perhaps a student may be inspired to start his or her own garden at home to pursuing an exciting career in research that may influence the very food we eat!

The impact of gardening—and horticulture education—is all around us. For decades, Gothic Arch Greenhouses has been a supportive partner of greenhouses in schools, and that’s why we’ve done the groundwork to help make getting started easier for teachers.

We’re available to assist with your questions and address your concerns. Call us today at 1-800-531-4769 and one of our friendly representatives will be happy to help you!

Best Coverings for Commercial Greenhouses

Greenhouse Coverings Gothic ArchSelecting the best greenhouse covering for your operation means more than simply choosing among glass, fiberglass, polycarbonate or film—the most commonly used options.

While each choice offers advantages and disadvantages, understanding specifics about your local climate, your budget and your site will help most accurately determine the greenhouse covering that is suited for your needs.

Two more factors to take into account when evaluating the greenhouse covering itself are both the R-value and U-value. R-value is a measurement of the material’s insulating ability. In other words, the higher the value, the more it insulates. U-value is the measurement of heat loss. The lower the U-value, the less heat that is escaping the greenhouse.

In general, greenhouses in cooler climates benefit from twin-walled polycarbonate and Solexx coverings for their insulation properties and ability to withstand substantial snow loads. Warmer climates should avoid glass and single-walled or twin-walled polycarbonate, which easily overheat, and instead select plastic film coverings for their light diffusion qualities.

Glass: Though expensive, glass greenhouse coverings are the most aesthetically pleasing. Available in single-pane and double-pane options, energy efficiency is one of the biggest concerns. Single-pane greenhouses aren’t recommended for northern growers because not only are they fragile, but also they have a low R-value (about 0.9). Double-pane structures can reduce energy costs (compared to single-pane) by half because they have a higher R-value (1.5 to 2.0). Often glass coverings are treated with a wash or film to help diffuse light and increase their insulation properties.

Fiberglass: Extremely strong and durable, fiberglass has an R-value similar to that of glass, but options, such as fiberglass reinforced plastic, are available that provide good diffusion and light transmission. If left untreated, UV rays can break down fiberglass panels, making them brittle and diminishing their efficiency. When the product is new and well-maintained, it can be extremely strong and long-lasting, with some manufacturers offering a 10-year guarantee against yellowing and structural failure. Low R-value indicates it provides insignificant insulation.

Polycarbonate: Available in corrugated and flat forms and single-, double- or multi-wall thicknesses, polycarbonate is stronger than fiberglass or acrylic and resistant to impact and fire. R-values range from around 1.5 up to 2.0 based on different thicknesses, so it offers slight light diffusion, but provides more insulation. Prized for its light weight and durability, polycarbonate can last for years in an outdoor application. If cost is a concern, know that polycarbonate is one of the most expensive materials on the market. It also tends to scratch easily, is difficult to cut and expensive to ship. Periodic cleaning with a soft cloth can help add to the longevity of polycarbonate greenhouse coverings and help keep them looking new.

Polyethylene Film: The least expensive and most commonly used greenhouse covering in North America, polyethylene film is easy to install, but not as permanent as other greenhouse coverings. High quality films are typically available in one or two layers. Being treated with any one of multiple coatings available may also provide added UV protection, thermal protection, anti-drip protection and protection from heat. Based on thickness, the R-value can range from 0.87 up to 1.7. Polyethylene film allows plants to breathe due to the porous or higher U-value of the material, but yields less heat loss than glass.  

Solexx: Highly recommended for its ability to diffuse light and its high R-value, which makes it easy to heat and cool, Solexx is similar to double-wall polycarbonate with a translucent tint. Available in thicknesses ranging from 3mm to 5mm, it comes in a variety of sizes. Solexx is flexible, so it can bend around corners and it is easy to cut. Engineered for prolonged outdoor use, this sturdy greenhouse covering is impact resistant as well. While Solexx is significantly more expensive than film, it costs less than polycarbonate.

Choosing the right greenhouse covering for your operation can make all the difference! If you have more questions and need more assistance making your selection, contact Gothic Arch Greenhouses at 1-800-531-4769 today!

 

What to Consider With Greenhouse Ventilation

Greenhouses are designed to trap heat, so learning to properly manage temperature inside helps create the ideal environment you want.

Ventilation is key in this process, specifically understanding the system that works best for you and how to most efficiently set it up.

Two types of greenhouse ventilation systems are available: natural and mechanical. Both work by using cold, dense air to push warmer air up and out of a building.

Mechanical systems consist of fans and louvers to press hot air out and pull cool air in. Natural systems simply employ a series of roof and sidewall vents to accomplish the same thing.

Both types of systems are comparable in terms of initial cost and installation. Natural ventilation systems are more energy efficient and cost-effective over the long term, but they will require more of an investment of your time because they aren’t electric.

Most growers take cost into consideration when selecting a ventilation system for their greenhouse. It’s important to evaluate the size of the greenhouse compared to the cost to operate it.

For example, a mechanical system would be too costly for a small greenhouse, less than 40 square feet. And for a larger structure, more than 100 square feet, a mechanical system wouldn’t have the power to help maintain optimal temperature at both ends.

Take into account the seasons where you are located. During winters cold enough to bring snow, automated systems are ideal when you can open vents due to ground cover build-up. But in really hot summers, you also don’t want to run fans when natural ventilation will do.

With natural systems, you are not simply at the mercy of the seasons. There are extra steps you can take to help reduce excess heat. One of the best ways to do that is by covering your greenhouse with shade cloth, which will significantly reduce temperatures.

If you are looking to install a mechanical system, do evaluate the structure frame to determine if it can support a fan. Ideally, exhaust fans are installed near the roof or at the highest point possible. The size of the fan you will need will be dependent on the size of your greenhouse.

Have questions about which ventilation system is right for you? Call us at 1-800-531-4769, and one of our friendly representatives will help you select what you need! You can also check out selection of ventilation equipment at www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com any time

6 Ways to Use Shade Cloth

Gothic Arch Greenhouse Shade Cloth UsesShade cloth is invaluable—particularly in the warmer months—to help manage the temperature in your greenhouse.

By keeping heat and humidity under control, that can not only result in a more ideal environment for your plants so they thrive, but also it can make your greenhouse more energy efficient.

Available in various densities and made of different materials, shade cloth is most commonly used in greenhouse applications.

But did you know it can have a wide variety of uses? As you can see on the list below, you can get creative with shade cloth while using it to reduce the intensity of sunlight!

Greenhouse. Again, shade cloth is most widely used to reduce the intensity of sunlight (and therefore heat) in greenhouses. Different densities (indicated by percentages) and materials may be recommended based on what or where you’re growing.

Garden Shade. If there aren’t a lot of tall trees in your garden to provide natural shade, you can use shade cloth to help prevent your plants from getting too much sun. Shade cloth is also available in many colors, so you are sure to find one that will complement your garden.

Patio, Pergola, Deck, Swimming Pool Cover. Adding extra protection from the sun can extend well beyond plants. These outdoor areas can get hot fast in the heat of summer. Shade cloth can help make entertaining or enjoying the outdoors a little more comfortable.

Carport/Shed Protection. Consider protecting your carport cover or outdoor shed or storage with shade cloth. This can add an extra layer (literally) of protection for the exterior from the harsh heat of the sun.

Livestock Shading. Shade cloth can help provide easy and cost-effective respite from the sun for outdoor animals, such as livestock and horses. It can also be used to improve the movement of penned animals, as well as for the protection of the handler.

Tennis Courts and Ball Diamonds. Installing shade cloth on tennis courts and ball diamonds can add privacy and wind protection to the field of play. It also provides a contrasting background so balls are more easily visible, and it upgrades the look of chain link fences.

Unsure if shade cloth is right for the application you have in mind? Let us know, and we’ll be happy to assist you! Our friendly representatives are available by calling 800-531-4769, or you can find more information on our website, www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com.

 

Summer Greenhouse Maintenance Checklist

Summer Greenhouse Maintenance Gothic ArchPlanning a deep greenhouse cleaning may be challenging, depending on the seasons you use it most.

But whether you use the greenhouse year-round or in the spring and fall, summer may likely be the best time to give it the most in-depth attention as it may house fewer plants then.

While greenhouse upkeep throughout the year is important, following a thorough cleaning and maintenance checklist in the summer can help set you up for growing success for the next season—or seasons!

Follow this step-by-step checklist to prep your greenhouse this summer:

Remove everything from the greenhouse. This includes all plants, all benches, all tools, all debris—get it as empty as possible.

Clean from the top down. Start up high with the roof and windows so the water drains down to the floor. Pay special attention to cleaning around windows, screens and vents where dirt tends to hide in crevices.

Get the floor as clean as possible. Use hot water and soap, focusing especially on the corners, under benches and other dark places to remove algae. Take a hose to cracks in concrete floors and grout lines, and pull weeds in soil and gravel floors.  

Sterilize the inside naturally. Especially if you are concerned about ridding the greenhouse of pests, maybe because of a recent infestation, consider “baking” the inside. Seal off any openings, vents, windows and doors, and let the temperature rise for about a week. This will kill anything that may be growing, especially insects you can’t see.

Inspect greenhouse framing. For wood frames, summer is the best time to repaint or stain. Check aluminum frames for signs of corrosion or wear and repair as needed.

Check the integrity of all openings. See that windows function properly and seal tightly when closed. Same thing for greenhouse locks, doors and screens. Examine the foundation to ensure small animals can’t get in.

Disinfect benches, shelves, containers and other surfaces. Clean all greenhouse surfaces to remove dirt buildup in corners and other hard-to-reach areas. For raised beds in the greenhouse, remove all soil and replace with a fresh supply.

Wash and inspect glazing. Check to see that the glazing is not loose or broken, and repair if needed. Replace any panes of glass or polycarbonate if they are cracked or damaged.

Test equipment. Put your fans, heaters, heat mats, propagation trays, thermostat and irrigation systems to the work. Inspect cords, turn them off and on, and have extra of the supplies that most often need replacement on hand.

Are you missing an item after you’ve gone through your summer maintenance checklist? Call us today at 800-531-4769 or visit us at www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com today so we can help you get your greenhouse in excellent shape for growing!

 

Greenhouse Supplies to Get Now

Gothic Arch Greenhouse SuppliesPreparing for the current season by stocking up on necessary supplies is an efficient approach to your growing efforts.  

More than likely, you may think of having such supplies on hand should an emergency crop up during the winter, but being prepared is smart all year long!

Of course, your needs will be different in the colder months, but these are some supplies you should think about getting before the weather starts heating up.

Containers. As your plants grow, you may need to move them into larger containers or pots—which will mean they will need more space to continue to thrive. To accommodate these larger containers, you might have to rearrange your greenhouse or move plants outside.

Oil. When warmer weather arrives, you’ll probably open and close vents more often. Notice whether they show signs of sticking or wearing, and oil as necessary. Vents that aren’t properly functioning can cause air leaks or allow the temperature inside to get too hot.

Fan. Based on the climate in your region, having an extra circulation fan at your disposal might be helpful. Keeping fresh air moving and evenly reaching every part of your greenhouse is important for the optimal health of your plants, so it’s worth it.

Thermostat. Don’t leave monitoring the conditions in your greenhouse to chance. If your thermostat goes out, you won’t be able to control temperature and humidity, which will put your plants at risk for overheating or worse.

Shade cloth repair kit. Ensure your shade cloth can continue to filter the desired amount of sunlight that flows into your greenhouse by being prepared to fix any tears. A shade cloth repair kit is ideal for correcting minor and even major rips that can protect your plants until or if a replacement is needed.

Need assistance getting these greenhouse supplies or advice on making the right selections? Call us today at 800-531-4769 or visit us online at www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com. We can help you get prepared for summer!

5 Strategies for Controlling Greenhouse Humidity

Control Humidity Greenhouse Gothic ArchWhen managing the environment in your greenhouse, don’t overlook the importance of controlling the humidity.

Just-watered plants do have a satisfying look, but be warned that moisture build-up from overly humid conditions can be dangerous.

For starters, bacteria, mold and other fungi love humidity, which leads to the proliferation of pests and disease if unmanaged.

Humidity can also affect how well plants absorb nutrients, which can pose a threat to overall health.

Properly managing humidity in your greenhouse is actually fairly easy. Follow these five strategies to help your plants thrive and ward off diseases and pests!

Increase Ventilation. The simplest step to controlling humidity is to ventilate, especially since most greenhouses have some ventilation equipment. That could mean everything from opening doors, vents, running fans, etc.

Control Temperature. Another easy option is to control the temperature because that influences relative humidity, the rate of moisture present and the total moisture-holding capacity at that temperature and pressure. Don’t rely on thermometers alone; humidity meters can add an extra layer of accuracy.

Proper Watering. Take care not to overwater. As the water evaporates, more moisture is released into the greenhouse. Water just enough so there is no excess on the floor, as well as water enough during the day so plant surfaces can dry before evening.

Plant Spacing. Give plants room to thrive! Moisture and humidity can easily be trapped where plant canopies form. And that’s often where the highest relative humidity is in a greenhouse, all because of insufficient air movement. Create more space between plants or use mesh benches to improve circulation.

Air Movement. You won’t be able to rely on natural forces to help circulate the air in your greenhouse. Heaters and fans will sometimes need to be used to help you control humidity. Important considerations with whichever combination or type (fan-jet system or horizontal air flow (HAF) system) is that the air is always circulated evenly and enough (as in the leaves should move slightly).

Questions about what you need or how to address the humidity in your greenhouse? Let us know! Call our friendly representatives at 800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com today!