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Some Great Additions To Improve Your Greenhouse

Dec 6, 2007
Here are some things you will need to add to your greenhouse over the months:

Benches and Shelves

Unless you have planned this greenhouse for a long time and have a supply of good soil ready, the soil required for your first year's planting may have to be included in your budget. More than just plain garden soil is needed for potting most greenhouse-grown plants. Garden or field loam can make up as much as a third of the mixture, but it should be enriched with another third of organic material.

Vermiculite or sand is the other third. With an established compost pile or a heap of leaf-mold, you will find it necessary to purchase only such organics as sphagnum moss, peatmoss, or peat. Sphagnum moss wholesales at a few dollars a bale plus shipping charges; granulated peatmoss and horticultural peat. Leafmold is priced at cheaply per bushel. Special potting materials such as osmunda fiber (an old-time medium for orchids ) can cost a fair amount, shredded wood and bark, used increasingly of late in orchid culture, is (or was) priced very reasonably.

An asbestos bench 3 feet wide, up to 49 feet long, with 6-inch sides, including pipe and fittings, retails for about $4.00 per linear foot (or at least it did when I bought one a while ago).

Shelves can be of glass or wood. You can purchase ready-made ones, or start out by making a few of your own and adding more as your operation expands.

Greenhouse Walk

For a walk between the benches, use a cement slab, flagstone, wooden slats, pebbles, or gravel. My walk is a cement slab, and I find it satisfactory since it is easy to wash down.

Potting Bench and Storage Cabinets

You must decide on some form of potting bench, and it will be easier if you allow room for it in your original plans. If you cannot bear to give up greenhouse space for working instead of growing, and if your greenhouse is attached to your house, you can probably do as I have.

The greenhouse door opens into our utility room, in which I have a cabinet with a 5/2-foot base.

The counter of this cabinet is used for potting, the shelves hold pots and potting equipment. In the greenhouse annex (between the utility room and the greenhouse proper), I have another cabinet for supplies such as fungicides, insecticides, labels, and fertilizers.

Some growers use a garage area for potting and storing materials.

This works out fine if your garage is heated or you live in one of the warmer areas; otherwise, it may prove impractical since much potting must be done in winter.

If your greenhouse does not have room for a potting bench, the basement of your home may offer a convenient area.

In any case, make the potting bench as strong as possible for it is destined for hard usage. Transite makes an excellent table top; or you can construct a top of -, 1-, or 2-inch lumber. Actually, even if you expect to be dumping a bushel or two of soil on the counter at a time, the -inch top will serve you well.

About Electricity

Be sure to include enough electrical outlets in your greenhouse. You may need extra lights, soil cables, or emergency heating, and it is provoking--and possibly dangerous--to have to run an extension cord to an outlet in your house to get adequate power or light.

In the small greenhouse the cost of electricity can usually be held to a minimum. By operating without growing lights (artificial lighting units) and soil cables you will have only the cost of a light or two for working after dark. If you install fluorescent lights, you can figure this additional operating cost --varying with the locality--at approximately 1/4 cent per hour for two 40-watt tubes. A 100-watt incandescent bulb burns at about 1/3 cent per hour.

Propagating Cases

You can convert one end of your growing bench into a propagating case by installing an electric soil cable. And in this area you can raise any plants requiring bottom heat for growth. To create the "case," place a piece of glass over the planting; or you can have a glass frame made to fit over the cuttings. A plastic propagating case would also be good.

About Water

Include hot as well as cold water in the plumbing plans for your greenhouse. A mixing faucet will make it possible for you to draw water of proper temperature at any time for your plants.

There is no need to pipe softened water into your greenhouse, unless you want it for hand-washing. Most types of artificially softened water should not be used on plants. While it may do them no immediate harm, it may gradually weaken cell structure and lead to plant collapse.

Copper piping is satisfactory for use in the greenhouse. I have some in mine, and it has never caused any "copper poisoning." Experts at the University of Minnesota assure me that water passing through copper pipes is perfectly safe to use on all types of plants.

Where to Get Soil

Benches and shelves are other greenhouse requisites. Benches can be built of redwood, cypress, or asbestos with slatted or solid surfaces. Some growers set their plants directly on the bench. In my benches I use galvanized tray-inserts holding a 2-inch layer of pea rock on which I set the potted plants.

Some growers construct a wooden tray for the bench and put soil in this tray so that plants can be grown directly in the bench. You may prefer to place sand in the tray and plunge pots into the sand. If the sand is kept moist, it provides extra humidity and keeps pots cool.
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