Setting Up A Greenhouse

If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse you will need to equip it. And even if you use the spare room to propagate and tend to plants, these hints will help you organize the working area.

old-greenhouse

The working area is generally used for several different purposes: plants can be propagated here from seeds or cuttings, and they can be overwintered or rested. Repotting, pruning and grooming should be done in the working area to avoid mess in the living room, and, finally, it is always an unexpected pleasure to use the area as a place for displaying plants, any of which can be brought into another room when required. It may be a greenhouse or a sunny bedroom, where warmth-loving plants will thrive, but an unheated room will house those plants that dislike central heating.

Staging and shelvinggreenhouse shelving

The serious plant grower’s term for the tiers of shelving in a greenhouse is ‘staging’. Any working area needs a well positioned work-top at roughly waist height. In a greenhouse, take advantage of one of the ready-made systems available and have as much staging as possible. It will soon be filled with plants in different stages of growth and can be used to store tools and equipment. There are several different types available.

Tubular framework aluminium alloy comes in single or multi-tiered staging, with aluminium or plastic tops. It is maintenance free and lightweight. Deal or cedar staging is attractive, especially in a wooden greenhouse. Cedar is longer lasting than deal, which may need maintenance.

Slatted or woven tops, of wood or metal, let excess water drain quickly, air and heat circulate, and light reach the area beneath them. They are the best choice for most greenhouses.

Gravel trays filled with shingle, gravel or horticultural aggregate are heavy and need strong staging. They are difficult to keep clean, but useful for ‘plunging’ plant pots, and for maintaining high humidity.

Capillary staging tops of metal or plastic have rims for holding capillary matting.

Water and wateringgreenhouse-watering

Another important consideration in a greenhouse is water supply and watering equipment. With a small, lean-to greenhouse, you can simply get water from the house, but with a free-standing greenhouse, a separate water supply is necessary.

  • Mains supply to a free-standing greenhouse is sensibly done through an alkathene pipe laid no less than 60cm (2ft) deep. You could fit it with a screw-thread tap, for a hose.
  • Guttering and down pipes leading to a butt provide rainwater for hand-watering or a semi-automatic watering system.
  • Hosepipes connected to greenhouse taps make watering and damping town easy. For more controlled water, buy a water lance fitting, with an ‘on/off’ trigger.
  • Automatic watering systems run off a header tank fed from mains water. They are useful in large greenhouses, and if you go on long holidays.
  • Semi-automatic systems work from manually filled header tanks, but can be left unattended for a few days.
  • Capillary matting, laid on shallow plastic trays, can be kept wet manually, or as part of an automatic or semi-automatic watering system.
  • Shelving for a plant display can be strictly functional or attractive enough for the home.

Storing equipment

Working on your plants is much more enjoyable it all tools and equipment are kept in one place, ready to hand. If using a spare room, try to provide adequate shelving, where clean pots and seed trays, canes and ties, pencils and labels, compost, chemicals, watering can and mist sprayer, tools and oil (to lubricate them) are all within reach.

  • In a greenhouse, some staging at a convenient height should be reserved for similar equipment.
  • Use a max/min thermometer to keep a check on the temperature fluctuation.

Shading and ventilating equipment

Whether you have a greenhouse or just a small working area in your home, you need to equip and organize it so that you can work there efficiently. It is important to keep a greenhouse cool and airy in summer.

Shading equipment

Liquid paste is mixed with water and painted on the outside of the glass in spring, then removed in autumn, to provide an effective protection for plants throughout the summer months. Adjustable external blinds are fixed to the greenhouse ridge. Internal blinds and screens are less effective, since the sun’s rays have already passed through the glass. They can also get in the way of shelves and plants.

Ventilating equipment

Ventilation provides vital fresh air and helps control excess humidity and heat. Every greenhouse needs at least two vents, one in the roof and one in the side. The more, the better.

  • Automatic ventilator arms are powered by natural heal.
  • Spray on a white paint to keep greenhouse temperatures down in summer.

Manual ventilation

  • Ridge vents, hinged at the roof ridge, should equal 1/6 of the floor area of the greenhouse. There should be a ridge vent every 1.8m (6ft).
  • Hinged side vents are placed near ground level, on side walls. Again, they can be spaced up to 1.8m (6ft).

Automatic ventilation

Ventilator arms can be fixed to hinged or louvered vents; and open and close according to pre-set temperatures. They are powered by natural heat. Electric extractor fans are fitted to the ends of greenhouses, usually opposite the door.

Electric circulating fans keep the air moving. Both types of electric fans only work effectively if there are also ridge and side vents.

Insulation to reduce winter heat loss

Line your greenhouse to reduce heat loss during cold weather. Permanent glass double glazing is the most effective form of insulation, but rigid clear plastic is a good, and cheaper alternative and will reduce heat loss by 50%.

Bubble plastic is a cheap and effective insulator, while clear plastic flexible sheeting is similar, but less good. Both can be removed in summer.

Polyester fabric screens or blinds reduce heat loss by 50%, but also considerably reduce the amount of light. They can be used in the home as well as in the greenhouse.

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