Setting up your first greenhouse is always an exciting time. The possibilities can seem endless, opening up a whole new world of warmer-weather gardening for you. However, as eager as you may be to get started, it’s worth spending some time making sure that you’re familiar with the basics of greenhouse gardening. Here are some tips to set you on the right track:
Know What to Grow
You probably already have a few ideas of what you want to grow in your new greenhouse. That’s great, but it’s important to remember to keep things simple to begin with.
Some plants grow in a greenhouse with very little effort, while others need constant care and attention. Low-maintenance plants are the best way to get started, with some of your options including:
- Lettuces and other leafy greens
- Onions (both bulb and spring)
That being said, once you’ve decided on which low-maintenance crops you want to grow, don’t be afraid to add in something a little extra special. Pick something that you absolutely love that cannot be grown without a greenhouse, potting shed, or converted growing shed. This could be exotic flowers, tropical fruits, or anything else that catches your fancy.
Buy a Greenhouse Thermometer
A greenhouse can quickly turn uncomfortably hot during the summer months while dropping to below freezing over the winter. Most plants won’t tolerate such temperature extremes, making it key that you stay on top of temperature control.
Buying a greenhouse thermometer is the first step. This allows you to monitor fluctuating temperatures throughout the year.
After this, you’ll then need to take the necessary steps to keep your greenhouse temperature as stable as possible. This may mean investing in a cooling system for the summer months, along with a greenhouse heater for the winter. Mulching your plants and insulating your greenhouse are also great ways to keep the heat in during the colder months.
Wondering what the ideal temperature for a greenhouse is?
This all depends on what you’re growing. The temperature within your greenhouse is completely up to you. Tropical plants may love the heat of the summer, meaning that a cooling system won’t be necessary, whereas cool-weather crops will bolt in the heat and need to be kept at lower temperatures. Likewise, extremely hardy plants may not need any extra warmth in the winter, while young and delicate seedlings definitely will.
Ensure Good Ventilation
It’s easy for a greenhouse to end up feeling quite stuffy due to a lack of ventilation. This will make your plants much more vulnerable to pests, diseases, and other issues.
One of the easiest ways to improve ventilation in a greenhouse is by keeping the doors and windows open throughout the day. Many greenhouses also come with side vents that can be left open in the warmer months.
Of course, you need all of that fresh air to be circulating through your greenhouse, which is why greenhouse fan systems are a popular choice. Don’t worry if you don’t have an electricity supply in your greenhouse – many of the newer fan models can be powered by solar energy.
Manage Light Exposure
Most plants, especially vegetables, will love all of the sun that they receive in a greenhouse. However, once mid-summer rolls around, that sun can get excruciatingly hot, burning the delicate foliage of your plants and stunting their growth.
Even plants that thrive in full sun will often benefit from some midday shade during the summer months. There are a few ways in which you can provide this:
- Shade netting can be thrown over the sunniest side of your greenhouse and then removed when needed
- Shade paint can be applied to your greenhouse glass, but this will need to be washed off towards the end of summer
- Internal shade netting can be clipped into the interior of your greenhouse
- Strategic planting and planning can allow certain plants to provide shade to others
While you may need to try and minimise light exposure during the hottest parts of the summer, you’ll have the opposite problem in the winter months. There are numerous plants that you can grow in a greenhouse over the cold season, but they’ll all need plenty of light. A lack of natural light can be supplemented with grow lights, with simple fluorescent strips being one of the most popular options for greenhouse beginners.
Give Your Greenhouse Plants Enough Water
When growing plants outside, the rain will often take care of their water requirements. However, in a greenhouse, this is all left completely up to you.
Due to the extra heat, plants in a greenhouse tend to dry out much faster than those growing outside, meaning that they’ll need to be watered more often too. This doesn’t need to be complicated – it doesn’t take long to water a small greenhouse with a watering can or a garden hose. Make sure that you are regularly checking the soil to see how moist it is – it should never be allowed to fully dry out!
If you don’t have the time to regularly water your greenhouse, or if you simply keep forgetting, there are a number of greenhouse irrigation systems out there that you can look into. From overhead sprinklers to drip hoses, they each have their own pros and cons, so do some research before making your decision.
Regularly Check for Pests
Greenhouses are often rife with plant pests. These pests enter a greenhouse for some warmth and a quick snack, but then struggle to find their way out again.
Fortunately, many of these pests are easy to spot once you start looking. Red spider mites are one of the most common, and they leave a delicate webbing on the plants that they’ve been climbing over.
Whitefly is another common problem. These tiny white pests cause foliage to distort and wilt, but can clearly be seen clustering together on the undersides of leaves.
Staying in control over the growing conditions in your greenhouse, meaning ensuring that it isn’t too hot and that there’s proper ventilation, will help to prevent greenhouse pests from causing too much damage in the first place. Keeping your plants as healthy and as strong as possible will allow them to better defend themselves if any pests do start to attack.
However, if you notice an infestation, take note of all of the symptoms you spot. You’ll need to first identify the pest that you’re dealing with before looking into the different treatment options available. Don’t wait too long – greenhouse pests can quickly get out of hand and decimate all of the plants around them.
Ready to Get Growing?
It’s always important to take things slowly when you first start greenhouse gardening. Aim too high and you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed with all of the work that faces you throughout the growing season. Try to keep things as simple as possible for the first year or so – once you understand how to manage the different aspects of your greenhouse, from temperature and ventilation to pests and diseases, you can then branch out and take your greenhouse growing experience to the next level.