It may seem intimidating, but even as beginners, you can grow almost any vegetable you want inside your greenhouse. Some plants will thrive more than others but don’t let that discourage you. Start with simple vegetables and gain experience and you can grow complex veggies in no time. That’s how I started and let me tell you, it’s not as difficult as some people make it out to be.
What You Can Grow Inside The Greenhouse
Just sowing some seeds in a greenhouse and waiting will not make anything grow. Before you choose the crops you want to grow, you need to determine what you want to grow as well as the environment, temperature and humidity levels they can thrive in. As such, you need to determine the veggies you can grow in each growing season in your greenhouse or risk ruining your crop. Here are some tips that can help beginners get a good start:
Winter to Early Spring Vegetables
During the winter, grow plants in your greenhouse that can tolerate the cold, such as spinach, broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage. These can withstand drops in temperature and since you will use your greenhouse to grow them, they can be planted before your last frost date (https://www.almanac.com/gardening/frostdates). Once the temperature in the evenings drops to 30 degrees, you can take the plants from your greenhouse outside and grow them there rather than in the greenhouse.
Spring is the official planting season and a good opportunity for beginners to sow tender plants in a greenhouse. These vegetables are deemed ‘tender’ because they can only grow in controlled environments and require at least eight hours of sun exposure and air circulation to thrive.
Growing cucumbers and squash during this time in a greenhouse is a good idea. You can transplant them early in summer as well but make sure frost doesn’t get to them (https://homeguides.sfgate.com/keep-vegetable-plants-dying-cold-weather-58673.html). They won’t survive otherwise.
Growing in the summer for a greenhouse can be challenging if you live somewhere where temperatures run quite high during this time. But it is also the best growing season to transplant the last season’s plants outside so you can have more space for midsummer vegetables in your greenhouse. As the temperature rises, grow plants that can thrive in the heat, such as hot peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes.
However, make sure you don’t allow the temperature to rise to levels that can kill your plants. The heat can also increase the humidity level in the greenhouse, which can rest in mildew (https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/plant-disease/powdery-mildew/). This is quite damaging to plants. Since you cannot turn off the sun, consider installing a vent kit in your greenhouse to encourage airflow. That way your summer plants will thrive even if it is sweltering in the shade.
Your greenhouse will thrive in autumn if you plant vegetables that can thrive in the chill. However, first, you need to make room by taking out and using your summer plants. The best part about growing plants during this season is the fact that you won’t need to heat your greenhouse. That’s because these veggies are quite hardy and can withstand drops in temperature almost indefinitely.
Some of the vegetables that beginners can plant in a greenhouse during fall include turnips, snow peas, and kale. These can be slow to grow but with patience and the right conditions, you can have a thriving crop.
Basic Necessities For A Greenhouse
As with any new venture, greenhouse growing requires a strong foundation to ensure success. Besides ensuring your plants thrive, you can have a pleasant experience each time you work there and tend to them. Here are some basic greenhouse tips that you should keep in mind:
Get a Thermometer
As mentioned before, you need to ensure the temperature inside your greenhouse is optimal year-round and set according to the plants you are growing. Rather than trying to figure that out yourself, get a greenhouse thermometer, such as this one (https://www.amazon.com/Max-Min-Thermometer-Digital-Greenhouse/dp/B006C0NI6A). These are designed to let you know when you should shade, heat up, cool down and ventilate your greenhouse.
To get accurate temperatures, make sure it is installed away from doors, windows, shade and direct sunlight. Otherwise, you will get a false reading, which can prove catastrophic for your plants. At best, it should be installed as close to the plants as possible so you know if they are getting too warm or cold.
Start with Seeds, not Cuttings or Seedlings
Your greenhouse growing efforts will be rewarded if you start with seeds. That’s because unlike cuttings and seedlings, these don’t come with pests and disease since they are available in packets. Plus, you should sow more seeds than you plan to plant since not all of them will germinate. This a cheaper alternative as well so it should be perfect for a beginner who wants to determine his/her greenhouse needs before growing a variety of plants.
Make Sure There Is Plenty Of Light And Space
Your greenhouse should have sufficient natural light to ensure your plants and crops grow throughout the year. Since you cannot control natural light, invest in grow lights instead. LED ones are highly popular but only for large greenhouses that have rows of crops. As a beginner, you probably have a small setup so you should stick with a small fluorescent strip instead. Install these grow lights over three to seven inches above your plants but make sure they are spaced evenly.
Keep The Bugs Away
If you plan on growing healthy plants in your greenhouse or greenhouses, you need to keep them safe from pests. Every time you open that greenhouse door, you give insects an opportunity to invade. While you cannot barricade the door indefinitely, you can thwart that invasion by installing screens and traps at every opening.
Plus, make sure all of the windows and vents are closed or use floating row covers to protect your plants. If you see flying insects, such as fruit flies and moths inside, place sticky traps on surfaces to trap them. Your tools should also be cleaned before and after use or they will attract pests.
Wash each tool with hot water and bleach it before you store it away. Plus, don’t allow water to pool in your greenhouse or it will attract bugs. Even if you think a new plant is pest-free, don’t bring it inside immediately. Place it in an isolated area away from your greenhouse till you are sure it doesn’t have any insects. You can also use an aquarium that has a tight lid to do this.
Ventilate the Greenhouse
When it comes to growing plants in greenhouses, seasonality can play a significant role in determining the health of your crop. For instance, high temperatures in summer are usually sufficient in creating convection currents (http://sunshine.chpc.utah.edu/Labs/OurAtmosphere/atm_heating3.html) to circulate air. Encourage this by ensuring the wall and roof vents remain open to allow hot air to escape and allow fresh air to come in.
Similarly, while you cannot allow cold air to enter your greenhouse during winter, you can ensure optimal air circulation by installing an oscillating fan. This should run throughout the season to ensure the best internal temperature for the plants in your greenhouse.
Don’t Drown Your Plants!
Depending on the types of plant or the type of plant you are growing in your greenhouse, you need to understand their water requirements or risk ruining them. The worst thing you can do is over or underwater them. Your plants’ appearance and growth will help you determine whether you are doing a good job or not.
If you don’t water them correctly by following a schedule, you will risk drying them out or growing plants that have a bad shelf life. With time, you may have to use harmful pesticides and growth measures to compensate. The fact is that not every plant can be watered the same way if it is to thrive.
Most beginners make the mistake of thinking that the more they water their plants, the healthier they will be. Overwatering can happen if more water is added to a plant before the soil drained from the last watering. This can be remedied with a drip system complete wit a timer and drip gauge, which can direct streams of water right to your plants (https://ag.umass.edu/greenhouse-floriculture/fact-sheets/few-pointers-for-better-irrigation). The system will prove invaluable during the summer when watering greenhouses can become a chore because of the heat.
So, we have learned that as a greenhouse newbie, you need to:
- Determine the types of plants and vegetables you want to grow in your greenhouse.
- Ensure that it is protected from the elements with appropriate measures and tools.
- Start with seeds, don’t overwater and make sure there is sufficient ventilation in your greenhouse.
- Don’t be afraid to invest in solutions that can maintain the health of the plants inside your greenhouse even if it means splurging a bit.
If you want to maintain a number of greenhouses, use this guide to start your first one. Once your primary greenhouse begins to thrive, you can move on to the next and grow your crops. If you have any questions, ask them in the comments below and I will help any way I can.