#1 Install the right infrastructure
In all the excitement to move plants into a new greenhouse, sometimes the basic shelves, benches, and potting tables are a bit of an afterthought. In reality, these installations should be the absolute first consideration when planning out how the space inside a greenhouse is to be used.
Additionally, it’s vital to have a convenient and accessible source of water, whether that is a connection to the domestic system, or a dedicated rain barrel.
#2 Think “versatility”
Modular or easily-moved internal infrastructure is best: this includes things like shelves that clip into place or can be ratcheted up, planting tables with wheels, and adjustable grow lights, which allow for a level of freedom in terms of making adjustments to the layout as things grow. Most plants go through a number of changes in size and shape throughout their life cycles, so accordingly, the space in a greenhouse needs to be flexible.
#3 Consider your interests
An aficionado of cacti and succulents needs a different kind of greenhouse space compared to an aquaponics engineer seeking to cultivate tomatoes. Think of the sort of conditions the plants you’re planning on growing will require, and cater to their needs. This may mean investing in means to provide heating, cooling, insulation, artificial lighting, shading, humidifying, dehumidifying, and ventilation, depending on what is to be grown.
#4 Measure and monitor the climate
The art of cultivating unseasonable plants requires more than just a simple glasshouse: attention must also be paid to climate factors like temperature and humidity after installation. Having both a thermometer and hygrometer installed in the greenhouse is essential.
#5 Invest in pest protection
Greenhouses are ideal breeding grounds for plant pests like fungus gnats, aphids, mealybugs, thrips, leafminers, and scale insects. A little yellow fly paper goes a long way in terms of catching the worst insect offenders, but other measures can be taken to guard against difficult-to-eradicate infestations of all kinds.
Firstly, having an area where newly-purchased or introduced plants can be slightly quarantined is vital, as pests that don’t fly will have a harder time spreading without first being observed.
Secondly, introducing a population of biological pest controls, like ladybugs against aphids, can help keep undesirable insects in check.
#6 Remember to clean
Keeping the greenhouse space clean, orderly, and occasionally wiping down surfaces with a natural cleaner like vinegar can keep insect eggs, spores, and bacteria at bay. While it’s important to practice good hygiene at all times, a scrub down of the whole space once or twice a year helps prevent diseases from spreading, and also helps the physical components of the greenhouse like the glass and framing last longer.
#7 Make a seasonal use plan
A greenhouse can be a place to both start seedlings in spring, and store bulbs over winter: the use of the space can change with the seasons, so it helps to have a calendar on hand to keep priorities for the space on schedule. Having a plan is essential to make the very most of the growing season and maximise the amount of lovely fresh food you get from your greenhouse. A growing calendar or greenhouse growing guide are very handy to help plan out your seedlings and harvesting schedule.
#8 Fix problems as they crop up
A small crack in a glass panel isn’t an absolute catastrophe, but a completely shattered glass panel that lets in a draught to a heated greenhouse in winter can destroy months of growing progress, as well as seriously impacting the heating bill. Small problems can snowball into larger ones that get more and more expensive to fix as time goes on, so it’s best to nip any developing problems in the bud.
#9 Have a plan for extreme weather
A single strong windstorm can wreak havoc on greenhouse, especially if there are tall trees with weak branches in the area, or really any debris that can be picked up and cast at the glass walls by a strong gust. Accordingly, a high priority for a new greenhouse owner should be in creating a clean and sturdy environment surrounding the greenhouse.
For unforeseeable accidents, it’s also a good idea to make sure any home insurance also extends to cover the greenhouse.
Additionally, it’s also ideal to have a way to “batten down the hatches”, whether that means being able to seal and lock windows and doors, or (in extreme cases) board them up to ride out extreme weather conditions.
#10 Don’t get ahead of yourself
It’s tempting in a new greenhouse to try to do a hundred new projects all at once, and while hundreds of seedling plants are easy enough to care for, hundreds of full-sized plants require space, water, and care that can be a little overwhelming for a non-commercial grower. It’s better to grow a few things and grow them well than to have dozens of leggy and wilting specimens.