Getting started is as easy as talking to a friend or neighbor who has a greenhouse. Asking an experienced group of folkssuch as the Master Gardeners, who give advice and provide direction. For those wanting to join the ranks of folks who want to add to the joy of growing and propagating their starts for their gardens or Community Supported Agriculture groups these are great sources of experience. One of the most often listed sources of information, “The Greenhouse Growers Companion” by Shane Smith is full of useful information and while Author Smith realizes the limits to writing one book for so many types of seasons, his aim overall is good. We don’t see eye to eye on every item, we believe in using the same type of materials and methods the big greenhouse user follows. In this case value follows form.
One item that concerns us is when people are advised to attach their greenhouse or cold frame to their home, problems with moisture and humidity are not addressed fully enough. When advising people who want to add a LeanTo style of greenhouse to a south facing wall and then removing a large patio door into their homes, we advise a bit of caution. While solar gain can help heat a house, the conditions for forcing starts and keeping a home warm and free of humidity caused problems can be at cross purposes.
Location is often the most crucial decision in the difference between robust results and frustration. While some plots prevent less than ideal location, whenever possible locate your greenhouse to take advantage of the sun primarily.
If your using a small poly carbonate model with a small door and sky vents, taking advantage of the prevailing breezes will help ventilate. We find that a trellis system is needed to shade small poly carbonate greenhouses, to allow the skyvents to operate.
With all greenhouses having a source of water close by is needed. Using a garden hose to fill the greenhouse water barrel works very well, doesn’t freeze in winter, makes adding fertilizer or compost tea a snap. Larger models make it worthwhile to bring a insulated hose faucet into the greenhouse.
Commercial models require a dedicated source of clean, filtered, water available year round regardless of outside temperatures.
We recommend having a close source of safe AC power for all greenhouses, and here’s why. Even the smallest models with no climate controls benefit by having fans inside to move the air around. Moving air promotes sturdy starts, helps with dead zones of stagnant air, and helps with cooling.
In all three of the small models offered, AC power (15-20 amps) is needed to power the exhaust fan, box fan, pedestal fan, heat mats, and florescent full spectrum lighting. Often customers will hang a work light (cold start) in the ridge to allow work after dark when things are cooler.
Heating in the winter for this region is a balance of propane or natural gas greenhouse heaters, oil filled AC heaters, and solar. Solar exhaust and interior fans are now available. What is new is 4’X10’X5” black heavy neoprene water filled, steel supported, solar beds, that attach to the side walls of your greenhouse on the north side interior. The sun heats the water during all but the darkest of days, and releases the heat at night. As fuel prices escalate the speed in which these will pay for themselves will make them attractive to many more greenhouse growers.
Commercial growers often have a crop(s) in mind and design the heating and cooling to fit their needs. Climate controls for the commercial greenhouse can (short list) consist of temperature and humidity controlled exhaust fans, intake shutters, timer controlled misters, hydroponic pumps, large interior fans, Gas heat, quite large propagation areas using heat to force starts etc) Mortality rates to the commercial grower are the driver between profit and loss.