When to Upgrade Your Commercial Greenhouse

Commercial Greenhouse Upgrade When to Upgrade Gothic Arch Greenhouse Mobile ALMaintaining your greenhouse can mean more than sealing doors, greasing hinges, and repairing tears or cracks in coverings. For commercial greenhouses, proper maintenance also means making necessary upgrades to keep your operation efficient and your workforce effective. Not only can this result in healthier plants, but also better profit margins.

Greenhouse technology changes quickly. For that reason, consider that a greenhouse has about 10-15 years of useful life in it in terms of its systems, such as heating, cooling, etc. The structure itself may last a lot longer, but planning to upgrade the working parts of your greenhouse operation is necessary to stay competitive.

Whether your greenhouse upgrade is imminent or still potentially several years away, take inventory of the following and the upgraded options so you’ll be prepared to make investments in your greenhouse when the time comes.

Benching. Need more space? If you have stationary benches, making the switch to movable or rolling benches can help you increase your production area by up to 25 percent.

Glazing. Manage heating costs by reviewing your glazing. It’s likely you regularly reglaze, but be especially mindful of acrylic and glass, which dulls easily. A greenhouse grade glaze that diffuses light, coupled with an infrared layer that adds energy efficiency is ideal.

Heating. High efficiency, condensing type gas systems are among the most efficient options available. To improve heating efficiency, also install horizontal air flow fans to improve heat distribution. Alternative fuels can also help reduce energy costs.

Ventilation. Making the move to natural ventilation will have a significant impact on your energy costs as well. Roll-up side walls, large roof vents and open roof designs make this a widely available option. If you must use fans, switch to those with a ventilation efficiency rating of 16 and up.

Controls. Another option to help cut your energy costs is to upgrade your control system. Some of the latest technology now combines heating and cooling in one device. By streamlining the monitoring, this helps the systems work more efficiently, ensuring they don’t overlap.

Irrigation. Manage water usage and labor and energy costs by upgrading your irrigation system to an automatic one. Ebb-and-flood benches and flood-floor recycle systems can also help conserve water and help save on fertilizer.

Materials Handling. Increase productivity by automating the way you move plants. Many automated options are available, including rotating basket systems, container filling, potting and labeling, etc. Also consider conveyors and carts to move plants, as they offer the most inexpensive option.

Have questions about a particular system or upgrade cost? We’re greenhouse experts! Call us at 1-800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com.

 

Which Hydroponic System Is Right for You?

Choosing a Hydroponics System Gothic Arch Greenhouses Hydroponic GardeningThere’s no denying that hydroponic gardening is growing—and is expected to continue to grow—in popularity because of its convenience, efficiency and eco-friendliness. But if you wanted to get in on this hot gardening trend, where do you begin?

Determining which hydroponic growing system you will use is one of the most important decisions you will make. That decision will be guided by how much you want to spend, what plants you want to grow and your level of gardening experience.

Keep that information in mind when reviewing the six main types of hydroponic gardening systems to see which one could be the best fit for you.

Basic Wick: For beginners who want to get their feet wet with hydroponics, this simple, low-cost system is a great way to try. Ideal for small plants, such as herbs, the basic wick system can even be assembled very easily. Basically, it’s a container holding your plants over a container holding water and nutrients that is connected by a wick, such as a nylon, cotton or fibrous rope to draw the nutrients to the plants. Not recommended for larger plants, the wick system is less efficient than other systems, but it serves its purpose as a way to get started.

Deep Water Culture (DWC): Lik the basic wick system, a deep water culture system is very simple and beginner-friendly. Unlike the basic wick system, it does require moving parts, namely an air pump, which provides oxygen to the nutrient solution. Essentially, plants are held in place on styrofoam or plastic and suspended into water. Ideal for lettuce and other types of greens, the deep water culture system is a favorite among teachers to introduce their students to hydroponics in the classroom. While it is an easy system to maintain, deep water culture systems do rely on electricity, and without it, plants can rapidly decline.

Drip System: Very popular among commercial and home growers, the drip system is scalable, meaning it can accommodate larger plants that the basic wick and deep water culture systems can’t, such as melons, zucchini, onions and cucumbers. They drip system setup is similar to that of a basic wick system with containers on top of each other, but it does use a pump and a timer to circulate (or recirculate) the water and nutrients. In this case, monitor the pH to ensure it is consistent and healthy. Inspect drip lines to ensure there is no clogging. Though the drip system is more complex and requires more maintenance, it is still suitable for all, from beginner to advanced!

Ebb and Flow: A classic hydroponic system that uses a pump and timer like the drip system does, but an ebb and flow system floods the plants with nutrient solution, then slowly drains back into a reservoir to be reused. Such a system is ideal for plants with low water exposure tolerance and need periods of dryness to help with root expansion. Strawberries, tomatoes, beans, spinach and carrots are among the plants that can thrive in this system. Setup can range from simple to more sophisticated, but common concerns, such as pH balance, power outages and drain clogging remain regardless.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT): Though this system can require more time setting up, it’s popular for the fast growth rate it helps plants achieve in limited space. Easy to maintain, a nutrient film technique system conserves both water and nutrients. It utilizes no growing medium—which can help save money. Instead, plants are suspended in a tray with roots dangling in a nutrient solution, allowing plants to receive high levels of oxygen. When given enough room and support, cucumbers, spinach, tomatoes, peppers and herbs can thrive! Monitor pump function to ensure the roots don’t dry out due to lack of nutrients in the event of a power failure or other breakdown.

Aeroponic: Similar to the nutrient film technique, an aeroponic system uses no growing medium. But instead of being suspended in a nutrient solution, plants are merely suspended in air and receive a misting of solution instead. Aeroponic systems can be very simple or elaborate, and solution can be administered manually or automatically. In each, the constant high levels of oxygen plants receive makes varieties such as tomatoes, eggplant, melons, herbs, lettuce, squash and edible flowers flourish. There is less room for error in this method. In the event of a power failure, plants will be completely dependent on you to mist them. Also, plants can grow quickly and may outgrow the system, so be prepared to transplant them.

Still have questions on which direction to go with hydroponics? Call us at 800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com to get the answers you need to get growing!

How to Use Ground Cover

Transitions between seasons can be a challenge for gardeners who aren’t prepared for a late cold snap or an early heat wave, for example.

But fortunately, ground cover fabrics and high tunnels make it easier to manage these changes, as well as offer other benefits.

Ground covers and high tunnels can easily be used to extend growing conditions for warm or cool season crops.

If you need more time for warm season crops, heavy weight row covers designed to trap heat will protect plants, but be aware of how you use them.

For example, short-term protection may simply require you to loosely cover plants (so they have room to grow) and secure the perimeter of the fabric using anchors, such as staples, soil or rock.

But if long-term protection is needed, a supported structure is recommended. This will allow for optimal air flow and room for your plants to thrive. In this case, pull the cover tautly over the hoops to keep fabric secure. That will also help reduce damage that can potentially be caused by unsupported fabric blowing in the wind.

When using ground covers and high tunnels, check in on your plants often to ensure they aren’t overheating. If you see signs of wilting, leaf damage or blossom drop, remove the covering or open the ends to help regulate the microenvironment you’ve created.

Some plants require insect pollination, so that may be another reason to temporarily lift or completely remove the covering to allow nature to do its work. Hand-pollination is an option, but can be time-consuming.

Lighter weight fabric can be used to protect your plants from insects until they are ready for harvest. But the use of such garden fabrics will require monitoring as well. If insects or their eggs become trapped inside, the cover can provide an environment for them to spread and concentrate damage to plants underneath.

Inspect the leaves of plants for any signs of insect activity. If insects are present, treat the plants with pesticide or remove infected ones. It’s recommended to also replace your covers. When used properly, garden fabrics can break insect life cycles and prevent infestations.

Row covers are available in multiple widths, lengths and thicknesses to suit a variety of needs. Many last one to two seasons depending on how often they are used. They can last longer if their edges are properly secured.

To help extend their life, store them when dry up away from the ground. This will also discourage rodents from making nests in them.

When stored, take a little extra time to make notes about each piece of cover that includes lengths, widths and other details, such as their condition or level of wear. Before discarding well-used covers, consider repurposing them as weed barriers or to protect newly seeded lawns from erosion.

Whatever your reason for using ground cover, we can help! Contact us at 1-800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com so we can assist you with your order.

How Light Color Affects Greenhouse Plants

How Light Affects Plants Greenhouse Gothic ArchLight is essential for plants to survive, but the color of that light can have a significant impact on how they develop.

With the help of LED grow light technology, multiple experiments have been conducted to determine how plants react to light when exposed to different colors of the spectrum in terms of height, weight, color, texture and more.

Additionally, colored shade cloths can have the same effect on plants, and colored films are being used on the growing areas of the International Space Station as well!

Below is the general performance of plants when exposed to a particular color of light:

Ultraviolet: Prolonged exposure to UV light can be harmful to plants, just as it is to humans. A study confirmed that when UV light exposure is eliminated, plants experience enhanced growth.
Violet: Violet light exposure has been found to intensify the color, aroma and taste of plants. It also improves the antioxidant functions of plants, which naturally helps prevent cell damage.

Blue: The most influential of all hues, blue light has the most powerful effect on plants. It encourages plants to accept more energy, reduces their water loss, and increases their growth and maturity rates. At least a minimal intensity of blue light is needed indoors for normal plant growth. In general, plants grown under blue light are shorter and have darker, thicker and greener leaves than those not exposed to blue light. These attributes may be desirable when growing ornamentals, for example.

Green: Not surprising, since most plants are green, this color has the least effect on a plant’s growth. Green light does, however, enhance the production of chlorophyll and gives plants a greener color. Yet, some research indicates green light can have positive effects on growth and flowering. That is impacted by the intensity of the green light, whether any other colors and intensities are present and the type of crop.

Yellow: Because yellow isn’t far off from green in terms of wavelength, it also doesn’t have much effect on plants. It has no influence on photosynthesis and, as a result, growth is reduced.

Red: By itself, red light can help plants yield more leaves than blue light alone. But together, the combination of red and blue significantly improves plant growth, making it an optimal choice for development.

Far Red: Like red light, far red light plays an important role in plant development. Specifically, far red light affects germination and flowering. Essentially, this light encourages flowering because plants require less time in darkness.

Green light does play an important role in gardening, particularly as it relates to people. Without the presence of green light, plants do not appear green to the naked eye. Not only is green light needed to reduce eye strain for employees, but also it helps more easily detect any problems or pest issues. The good news is that white LEDs combine green, red and blue light, which provides the benefits of all three colors.

Questions about light in your greenhouse or other growing settings? Let us know! When you call Gothic Arch Greenhouses at 800-531-4769, you’ll always get a friendly representative ready to help you. You can also visit our website at www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com for more information as well.

How to Make Natural Ventilation Work in Your Greenhouse

Natural ventilation has become a preferred option for larger growers, in particular, as energy costs of fan cooling rise.

Natural ventilation works by supplying cooler air, such as through vents or an open-roof design, to allow the lighter, warmer air to be pushed out. All greenhouses built prior to the 1950s featured a system of louvers and vents to help allow excess heat to escape by pulling cooler air in.

More and more, new greenhouse construction is utilizing these same methods, but retrofitting an existing greenhouse is not significantly more than installing fans and shutters. In many cases, it can be about the same or even less.

Relying on natural ventilation alone will not work if the quantity of heat to be removed is too great. In that case, evaporative cooling systems are a simple and relatively inexpensive alternative.

Both, however, will require mechanical ventilation through the use of pads and fans, or a fogger system utilizing nozzles through the greenhouse. Mechanical systems may be employed in smaller greenhouses, but the larger structures will benefit from natural ventilation methods as much as possible.

Besides the energy efficiency and reduced costs it offers, natural ventilation allows for more even crop cooling. Crops can be spread evenly throughout the greenhouse, and the grower can adjust the vent openings as needed. This will result in a more consistent crop, which in turn can improve sales and the bottom line.

Naturally cooling large gutter-roof greenhouses has traditionally been a challenge in Southern climates, specifically due to lack of sidewall space and relying on roof vents alone can result in uneven cooling.

Open-roof greenhouse designs eliminate this issue, though to combat the heat on particularly hot, sunny days, a shade system can help control the amount of heat that can escape can be controlled.

A few additional considerations to keep in mind with new greenhouse construction or retrofits:

Size of Vents. The total combined area of roof and sidewall vents should be the same and should be at least 15 percent to 20 percent of the floor area. Gutter-connected designs will need larger roof vents or otherwise an open-roof cooling option.

Location of Vents. Sidewall vents are recommended to be located above bench height to allow outside and inside air to mix before it reaches plants. Again, for gutter-connected designs, roof vent location is more important.

Greenhouse Height. The trend toward taller greenhouses helps improve natural ventilation. Not only does this create the buoyancy effect, where lighter, hotter air rises, but also it helps keep this air well above plant level.

Greenhouse Orientation. If possible, greenhouses should be located where the summer wind follows along the sidewall. That helps utilize the natural flow of air. To make that more effective, ensure that trees, buildings and other greenhouses obstruct it as little as possible.

Have questions about your greenhouse’s ventilation system? We can help! Call us at 1-800-531-4769, and you’ll reach a friendly, knowledgeable representative every time.

Seed Starting Tips for Greenhouses

Taking the first steps in the seed-starting process tends to mean spring is not far away. But with greenhouses, growers can start that process any time.

Thanks to the controlled environment they offer, greenhouses not only extend the growing season, but they also offer the right conditions for starting seeds in them year round.

If you plan to transfer seeds to an outdoor garden, for example, start this process about six to eight weeks before the first frost in your growing region.

Get your seed-starting supplies together and follow these tips to prepare your plants for success!

Seed. Beginning with fresh seed is the simplest way to get started. You can use leftover seeds, but you’ll want to test them for germination. To do so, place a specific number on a wet paper towel. Fold it over the seeds and place it in a plastic bag in a warm place. Inspect the seeds and add moisture as needed. After the germination period, count the number of germinated seeds to determine the percentage of germination.

Growing Media. Balance the amount of air and water content in the mix you use. While air space is important to create healthy seedlings, too much water can create swelling and result in too much air when your mix is dry and not enough when it settles. Avoid compacting your mix by lightly filling trays with your growing medium and brush the excess away. To ensure the right amount of hydration, add water to your mix before adding it to your containers. It’s just right when it is damp to the touch, but not wet.

Containers. Trays and cell flats make ideal seed-starting containers—particularly for large vegetable growers—because they can be filled quickly, are easily moved and are reusable. But they do need to be cleaned before use the next season, and if the plant becomes root-bound in the container, it can lead to transplant shock when transferred. Biodegradable containers eliminate this concern, but they do need to be restocked every season and take up more space in the greenhouse. For hobby gardeners, commercial trays (if that is your preference) are recommended because they are more durable and available in more options than what you might find at a local garden center. They cost more, but last longer.

Sowing. When planting your seed, please note that the placement of it is important to its success. For example, if planted too close to the edge of the tray, it is likely to dry out. Typically, it is recommended to cover the seed once placed (ideally in the middle of the container) with a light layer of soil. Others suggest simply pressing the seed down into the soil without an extra covering. Either way, once the seeds are planted, water them evenly and gently. Plan to group your seedlings by their temperature needs, so you can use mats if needed to efficiently provide heat if required.

Ready to start your seeds? We’ve got the supplies you need—containers, trays, propagation mats and more! Call us at 1-800-531-4769 or visit our website at www.GothicArchGreenhouses for more information.

How to Control Pests in Your Greenhouse

Gothic Arch Greenhouse SuppliesManaging the environment in your greenhouse is crucial, but just as important is keeping pests out of it.

The warm, humid conditions of a greenhouse help extend growing seasons or create an ideal setting for plants to thrive. Unfortunately, those same conditions make for the perfect breeding ground for pests.

Because they can flourish without the presence of their natural predators inside the greenhouse, pests can inflict severe damage very quickly if not detected and controlled early on.

Fortunately, before it gets to that stage, there are many things you can do to minimize the threat of pests in your greenhouse. Prevention is the best way to control pests in your greenhouse, so keep these helpful tips in mind.

Thoroughly inspect new plants introduced in the greenhouse. This is the most common way pests get in your controlled space, and if they go undetected, they have the potential to create devastating damage.

Check and secure all greenhouse openings. That means doors, screens and vents. Repair any holes or tears, replace seals, etc. Proper maintenance now can prevent bigger problems later.

Always use clean equipment and materials. Everything in the greenhouse must be free from the threat of pests. Make sure potting material, containers, tools and other equipment are clean or sterile.

Prevent pools of standing water. The resulting algae and moss growth can lead to development of pests. Avoid overwatering, ensure proper drainage and good ventilation in your greenhouse.

Keep the greenhouse area clean. Remove all trash and plant debris regularly, and give your greenhouse a thorough cleaning after each production cycle. Also mow the area around the outside of the greenhouse to control weeds.

Taking these steps can set you up for growing success in your greenhouse, and we are your source for all the supplies you need. Please call us at 800 -531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com, and we’ll be happy to help!

Growing for Efficiency: Potting Technology

Potting Technology Soil Mixing Gardening Containers PotsPotting your plants is time-consuming, but manageable if you are a hobby gardener.

But as an operation increases, improving efficiency of labor and controlling costs takes on greater importance.

Depending on the size of your operation, a potting machine may be the answer.

This technology enhances productivity and helps achieve greater uniformity (which also impacts efficiency and quality) of your plants.

Manufacturers of these machines suggest them for operations that grow 100,000 planting flats per year. With that volume, the ROI comes in two to three years.

Potting machines work by holding gardening containers in place, filling it with soil and punching a hole for the plant. Workers may simply replenish the pots and refill potting mix to keep the streamlined operation moving.

Though machines can automatically fill a range of pots, it’s best for consistency to do a large run of the same size pot. This uniformity allows each container to be filled with the same amount of potting soil, compressed to the same level and for the plant to be centered. This not only allows for plants to have the same food and water requirements, but also the fact that they are centered ensures there is ample space between them on growing benches so they can equally thrive.

Machines can typically handle a range of container sizes. Some are easily adapted to accommodate these sizes, while others may need the whole set of of pot holders to be replaced to meet your operation’s needs.

Keep in mind that the potting machine should be able to manage your soil mix. For example, it should be light, moist and free of clumps so it can move through the machine with ease.

Various accessories are available to enhance productivity, such as increasing output or to accommodate different container sizes.

Maintenance typically requires no more than lubricating bearings, tightening belts or cleaning. It’s recommended to keep spare parts on hand so when needed your operation doesn’t suffer from much downtime.

Need supplies for your operation? Whether you pot your plants manually or using automation, we can help outfit you with what you need. Give us a call at 800-531-4769 or visit www.GothicArchGreenhouses.com.

 

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!