These days there are a lot of variables to think about when setting up your garden. Between the rising prices of overhead to run your business and a cost-cutting competitive market one has to look carefully at both the quality and the expenditure comparisons between various methods of cultivation. The fall can be flooded with a cornucopia of the season’s abundant harvest. Driving the supply way up while profit margins plummet. Multiple harvests each year provide a constant supply of fresh crops keeping the farmer feeling more secure with a constant influx of wages and/or product. Though the regularity of a controlled indoor grow can prove to be convenient this type of environment can prove to be very INEFFECTIVE in relation to operating budgets and leave a large carbon footprint. Public utilities and fuel prices continue to go up. Though not often, if ever, addressed, the carbon footprint of running HID lights to cultivate plants that naturally grow under the sun is a massive side effect of the escalating number of indoor grow operations. All major agricultural industries are cultivated under the good ‘ol sun. There really aren’t many reasons to grow inside under high power-consuming lights when the sun is giving us free energy. However, the intensity of the sun directly on your plants could be somewhat damaging and so we look at how to soften the effects of the sun on the plant.
Quality greenhouse fabrics can provide an environment so that your plants can continue to grow and be healthy. When plants are stressed under harsh outdoor summer elements they transfer their focus from generating plant growth, photosynthesis, to ‘sweating’ out water to stay cool and survive, a process known as transpiration. Greenhouse films can produce ‘hot spots’ while greenhouse polyweave fabrics can diffuse the light. Diffused light tends to be just as productive but ‘softer’ on the plant. With diffused fabrics light penetrates deeper into the canopy of the plant giving overall higher yields. Plants in full sun and under ‘grow lights’ are mostly only receiving direct light from above leaving the lower levels of the plants in a darkened inferior growing situation. Choose fabrics that are thick (longer lasting), at least 10 MIL, UV stabilized and that have anti- fog/condensation coatings. A quality piece of greenhouse fabric can help you achieve outdoor quantities with indoor quality. A small investment with a huge return.
Be sure that the greenhouse you are about to purchase is durable and not made over seas. A lot of greenhouses manufactured overseas often promise more than they can deliver leaving a farmer with potential disastrous results after a heavy rain/wind/snow load. A quality greenhouse will comfortably give you years of a secure, controlled growing environment. In today’s flourishing agricultural industries the dynamics are somewhat different than they may have been in years past. The traditional ‘industry standards’ must be re-looked at to see what works and what needs to be fine tuned for today’s crops. For instance, traditionally greenhouses have been used to extend your growing season. Today, more and more people are using greenhouses to grow crops through the hot parts of the year. This poses a new dilemma. We are not only looking to heat the greenhouse in the cool months but now how to cool the greenhouse in the hot months. A little more difficult than it might sound. Solar gain (heat) in a greenhouse is often accumulated faster than most exhaust fans can push hot air out of the greenhouse. Solutions to this problem include retractable roof greenhouses in conjunction with roll-up side walls that allow hot air to passively escape, fan and pad type evaporative cooling systems and mister systems.
In a greenhouse, indoor flowering times can be replicated. With the combined use of light supplementation, heat and a farming practice known as LIGHT DEPRIVATION, light dep, the farmer can continue to flower year round. FOREVER FLOWERING. Supplementing light helps to fulfill the plant’s need of light strength and duration of hours. When the natural lighting is not optimal for your plant in that particular growing season you might just need to add a couple of hours of light on each end of the day to keep your plants in a vegetative stage. Or maybe you want to illuminate a cloudy day during the flowering stage of your plant. All this can be controlled with a lumen meter. Lumen meters allow you to program your desired light lumen levels and then supplement light when they are not achieved, automatically. When desired light levels are reached the meter triggers the system to shut the lights back off conserving your energy consumption. When the sun begins to wane in the fall and on foggy sunless mornings you can supplement light in your greenhouse keeping the growing environment optimal. When choosing a lighting system for your greenhouse keep in mind that not all light hoods are created equal. Though an extra large hood might do you good inside it will do nothing but block sunlight from your plants outside in your greenhouse. Be sure to choose a lighting system specially designed for use in a greenhouse. This will insure you get the light coverage you desire while not compromising your crop.
LIGHT DEPRIVATION allows you to block out the sun in your greenhouse inducing your plants into early maturation. Just like turning a light on and off inside a room you let the sun in and then shut it out when you want to ‘turn off the lights’. Just like a timer on a light the greenhouse must keep a regimented schedule of light and darkness. This can be achieved in a number of ways. The most common way is to pull a tarp over your crop enveloping it in darkness. Though this must be done on time, religiously, day in and day out until your crop is complete. Automated light dep systems keep your garden on schedule so that you don’t have to be. When choosing the material for your blackout tarp, I urge you to consider a fabric that will last not just multiple seasons but multiple years. Thin black plastic rolls from your local hardware store may potentially prove to be effective but should not be depended on as they tend to easily rip, quickly deteriorate and may not be in your desired dimensions. Not only compromising the environment but your work as well. Look towards polyweave fabrics available from Forever Flowering Greenhouses, FFG, for reliability and strength. FFG offers fabrics that provide complete darkness, customized dimensions and durability. Reducing the amount of cheap plastic being thrown away season after season. FFG also offers the only truly BREATHEABLE blackout fabric on the market. A breathable fabric allows excess heat and humidity to passively exhaust out of the garden. Fully automated and manually operated greenhouses and light deprivation systems are a few of the many durable and reliable products offered by FFG. Be sure that when purchasing a blackout system from a company that the result when ‘blacked out’ is zero lumens. Granted the eye is more sensitive than the plant and often what may look like light to the naked eye is not perceived as light by the plant. However, buyer beware as the ‘standard blackout system’ to this day, FFG EXCLUDED, allows enough light to enter the growing space to read a book and even take photos. These allowances of light levels are acceptable in most ag-related industries as ‘blacked out’. If this is suitable for your application then all you may really need is a shade system for your greenhouse as they both accomplish about the same thing. If you require higher levels of standards of darkness be prepared to invest a bit more for a secure, dark system. It might be disappointing to have saved a little money for a system not geared towards your market and find that it has lots of ‘light leaks’ and may wind up costing you a lot more in the end!
You can plan your ‘seasons’ accordingly and apply it to the growing schedule of your plants to maximize the amount of ‘cycles’ of a given crop per year in the same growing area, under the sun. Just like an indoor operation provides year round harvests in a bedroom/garage/warehouse so can a properly equipped greenhouse provide you with a constant stream of fresh produce/flowers/herbs. It just takes a little know how, proper preparation and a little investment to create an ideal growing environment that is super productive and efficient. From the standpoint of any business this makes sense.
As you are creating your ideal environment there are a few points to take into consideration. Air flow, done passively, thru retractable roofs, vents or sidewalls or electric powered fans. Again, remember that the solar gain is quick in greenhouses so plan to exhaust more quickly than you would in an indoor grow. Cooling. Fan and pad evaporative systems and misters are just a couple of ideas. Supplemental lighting. Heat. Plants need to stay warm and their root systems need to stay warm even more. Radiant heat both above your canopy and more importantly at the root zone is crucial when outside temperatures begin to drop and the vitality of your plant is compromised. By keeping the heat at the root zone and just above the canopy you negate the need to heat your entire growing space and just focus on the most important part, the plant. The most efficient way to do this is thru radiant heat systems. Hot water is heated in boilers and/or hot water tanks allowing for one of the most efficient heating methods in the industry. FFG offers a roll out radiant heating system. The mats are literally rolled out and you can put your plants right on top of it. Feel at ease knowing that you can walk on it and even roll wheelbarrows on it. In the summer months you can simply roll it up and put it away. When combined with their state of the art Starfin canopy heating you can employ the most efficient and effective type of heating for your greenhouse. This method is by far the most efficient way of growing through the fall and winter while keeping your plants in an ideal warm temperature.
We have found that growing in an environmentally controlled light dep capable greenhouse year round will save you at least 60% in operating budgets when compared to indoor growing and produce more than double your harvest when compared to a full season outdoor crop. Any way you look at it the sun provides the cleanest, free energy. In today’s market it is best to stay on top of your game and produce the highest quality products while having a low overhead and by leaving a minimal carbon footprint in your wake. Take it to the next level while staying conscious and compassionate. Both for yourself, the end user and the land from which we are all provided for.