How Will You Grow?

growing and planting techniques for greenhouses

Greenhouse Growing Techniques

greenhouse growing, while an advanced system of gardening and agriculture, is truly simple in its genius technology. once you get your hands dirty though and try many greenhouse growing techniques, you’ll realize that growing in them isn’t just a one-dimensional journey

In fact, there are plenty of roads you can go down, and many different paths you might take with how your operation is run and what you grow, what medium it grows in, and how you grow it. This gives the greenhouse grower a myriad of options and techniques to choose from when starting their business or hobby, and to experience the successes these structures create.

But where to start? How do you know that your greenhouse growing techniques are right for what you want to plant – or how to decide on what techniques to use in the first place?

WHAT WILL YOU PLANT?

Before deciding on your method, you’ll obviously want to choose what you’re growing first. Then, and only then, can you decide the best greenhouse growing method for these chosen plants. As such, planning exactly what next year’s crop will be is an excellent first step. There are tons of options for plants you may grow under a covered structure, and just as many approaches to each of these plants to make them a success.

Many different kinds of plants will actually fare much better with a greenhouse than without, so choosing from among these is the wisest way to go. Do your research and acquaint yourself with which crop would be best for your business (or your hobby), and even what works best in your particular region. What you opt for will, in turn, determine the greenhouse growing techniques or methods you should use.

WHAT METHOD WILL YOU USE?

Paired with the plants you want to grow, you have tons of options on how to grow them. Certain techniques work great with certain plants and not so well with others, so choose well. But how to know what methods are right for your plants? Growing greenhouse tomatoes or cannabis, for example, is going to be far different from how you’ll grow lettuce, flowers, or squash. We’ll take a look at the different methods you might use in a greenhouse, and even for what crops they would be the most ideal for.

CONTAINER PLANTING

Depending on the plants you choose, going for container planting can be an ideal starting point and one of the best greenhouse growing techniques for some of the most popular greenhouse crops. The advantages? It certainly cuts down on the surface area and amount you have to weed (that is, if you are growing organically in a greenhouse). It might be arguable that you don’t even have to weed at all, while pathogens and diseases are also reduced.

You also get to choose what soil goes into your greenhouse and avoid getting stuck soil building with what’s under your cover. At that, you will even optimize and organize space in your structure if containers are movable – and use shelves to make more vertical room for plantings (another greenhouse growing method we’ll get to later). The easy transporting of containers may also help you optimize light in your structure, and not just space, by being able to place your plants in areas with the most exposure. However, container planting will up the costs of your operation if outside soil needs to be purchased.

Another limitation of containers: they obviously won’t hold large, unwieldy, top-heavy, vining, or heavy-fruited plants (though not always), and especially very deep-rooted plants as well, unless you find specialized containers. That is, unless you want to combine container growing with a vertical system (which we’ll get to later). To solve this problem though, instead of single containers for each plant, you may also opt for larger raised bed containers to house larger plants. These may be less movable in most cases, but you can plant large crops, traditional row crops, or even intense spacing for efficiency production methods – such as square foot gardening – in much less space.

Container planting is amazing for many kinds of vegetables and herbs, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, rosemary, mint, cannabis, and rhubarb. Perennial flowers could also benefit: such as begonias, gladiolis, mums, and more. Larger raised beds in greenhouses, on the other hand, may be more appropriate for different kinds of greens, such as lettuce, spinach, kale, and root crops like beets, turnips, and parsnips. For larger plants like squashes and melons, they could also make a great home.

Container_Planting

BENCHES

Want to have easier access to plants within your structure and maximize space use? Then growing benches may be the option for you, paired with the right greenhouse growing techniques. Some models are movable, which are very convenient for reorganizing or moving your crop. Plus, benches at waist level will be ergonomic and easier on the body.

You can grow plants in containers or seed flats on moving benches within your structure, thus making your setup very customizable. Benches are especially ideal for seed starts, nursery plants, or anything that will need frequent transplanting, sizing up, or harvesting, as they make for very suitable work stations. A hydroponic system with flood tables may also be successfully used in combination with growing benches. All sorts of greens (spinach, lettuce, arugula), flowers, kitchen herbs, seedling flats, and more make for excellent bench-growing candidates. But really, this setup benefits anything, as long as it’s not too tall of a plant.

Benches

HYDROPONICS

For certain plants, hydroponics can be an amazing growing medium and one of the most rewarding greenhouse growing techniques. There are even different sub-methods of hydroponics that could be fitting for your operation, depending on what you grow. So what are the advantages? Ask hydroponics growers, and they’ll tell you that plants grown this way are happier, healthier, grow faster, and absorb nutrients quicker. Setups tend to be very clean, organized, and aesthetically beautiful if done right, too – especially when used in combination with benches, shelves, or a vertical system. Additionally, you skip out on soil costs and weeding time.

Really simple, rudimentary hydroponic setups may grow a wide variety of veggies, herbs, and flowers to start with: including spinach, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs in the mint family (like basil, thyme, and lemon balm). More complex systems could even help produce larger plants like cucumbers, beets, and even deep-rooted veggies. What about flowers? Yes, you can grow those with hydroponics, too. Orchids, African violets, and even roses number among the many that are possible.

VERTICAL SYSTEMS

Growing with a vertical system is an amazing way to make your greenhouse setup more space efficient. If you do it right, you can grow a lot more in a whole lot less space – and even boost the quality and harvesting capabilities of certain vegetables and vining plants. Vertical set ups work exceptionally well for those vining, leggy, and indeterminate flowers and crops. Think melons, squashes, legumes, and even vining flower species.

Better yet, you may combine vertical growing with any other greenhouse growing method: container gardening, hydroponics, and greenhouse bench growing can all be tied into a vertical system. Vegetables like beans, peas, winter squash, summer squash, zucchini, indeterminate tomatoes, hops, watermelons, cantaloupe, cucumbers, and more may be planted individually in containers and/or on benches, and harvested vertically. You can also accomplish the same with vining flowers like wisteria, clematis, and bougainvillea.

Some hydroponic systems, on the other hand, allow the grower to plant anything vertically in hydroponic containers: including carrots, lettuce, herbs, flowers, and a whole lot more. However, you don’t need a container system, growing bench, or hydroponic setup to use a vertical system. All seasoned farmers and gardeners know that you can create a vertical system out of what you plant straight from mother earth.

Vertical_Systems_Copy

DIRECT TO SOIL – THE GOOD OL’-FASHIONED WAY

Beyond all these fancy options, you could also choose to simply plant straight into the earth underneath your covered structure. A fair warning: this conventional method does take the most work. On the other hand, however, it’s one of the only greenhouse growing techniques that will combine exceptionally well with machinery if you want to go the mechanized agriculture route – very ideal for large operations or mass production.

Before you sow even a single plant or row, you’ll most likely need to do some soil building beforehand, and create a medium that’s workable (which can depend on what region you’re growing in). You may also find yourself having to add amendments, adjust pH, or clear out weeds long before the ground under your covered structure can be used. While this may take a lot of work and patience to start out, direct growing is the only greenhouse growing method that jives well with mechanized growing: i.e. tillers, transplanters, tractors, and other large growing machinery.

For a grower that wants to produce a large amount of plants (particularly row-planted vegetables), this can be the quick and easiest technique for a large wholesale business. You’ll just have to make sure that you invest in a greenhouse or other growing structure that can allow the entrance and exit of such large equipment!

DIRECT SEEDING OR TRANSPLANTS?

If you’re going the au-naturale route of direct planting or row cropping, this in turn splits into two sub-categories of how you can cultivate your crops: either by direct seeding or transplanting from starts. As its title describes, direct seeding calls for a grower to plant seeds straight into the earth at the very start. The whole life cycle of the plant begins and ends right there in the greenhouse bed. Transplanting, on the other hand, involves the nurturing of seeds in smaller containers first, as they are sized up through different phases finally to an ideal size for them to finish out and reach maturity in the greenhouse bed.

Direct_Seeding_Or_Transplanting

Which approach should you use? Well, it depends on which plants you want to grow. If close spacing is not an issue – or this is a crop that can easily be thinned out later – most root crops do exceptionally well when closely direct seeded, such as radishes, turnips, parnsips, rutabagas, beets, and more. Many annual flowers thrive well being direct seeded, such as cosmos, marigolds, or zinnias. You can also grow a whole lot more greens in a single space if you direct seed them in rows: including lettuce, arugula, endive, and mesclun greens.

If space is an important issue to the livelihood of your crops as you plant them, then sizing up over time in containers prior to planting in beds is wise. Crops great for this approach are peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, kale, broccoli, cabbage, some perennial flowers, cannabis, perennials herbs, and more. With either method – direct seeding or transplanting – if you are wanting to mechanize your growing operation, you’ll have to plant in accordance to your tractor, tiller, transplanter, harvester, or cultivator implement’s spacing. This often demands that you plant in straight, conventional rows set a certain distance apart.

If you don’t want mechanization to direct plant in worked garden beds under your cover, however, you can ascribe to more space-efficient methods of planting, like biointensive or square foot gardening. Just remember that the job of weeding, cultivating, and harvesting will have to be by hand.

WHAT GREENHOUSE GROWING TECHNIQUES WILL YOU USE?

As you see, the different paths you can take with your greenhouse growing business or hobby are many. Will you grow vertically or with grow benches to maximize space and customizing capability? Or will you use containers to have more control over weeds and disease?

Hydroponics, on the other hand, might boost your plant health in ways you’ve never seen before. Conventional mechanized growing might be a better answer, however, if you want to produce very large amounts of product in the shortest amount of time possible.

Regardless of the technique, choose wisely and do your research for what’s best for your plant choices. Match the right greenhouse growing techniques with the right plant, and you can’t go wrong.

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Adrian White is an organic farmer of near a decade, and a food, health, and sustainable ag writer of 6 years. Her writing can be found in publications like The Guardian and Civil Eats, and she is also a regular contributor to Rodale's Organic Life and Healthline. She lives in Iowa as co-owner of organic farm Jupiter Ridge Mushrooms and Veg, fueled by her passion as a next-generation farmer.

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Adrian White is an organic farmer of near a decade, and a food, health, and sustainable ag writer of 6 years. Her writing can be found in publications like The Guardian and Civil Eats, and she is also a regular contributor to Rodale's Organic Life and Healthline. She lives in Iowa as co-owner of organic farm Jupiter Ridge Mushrooms and Veg, fueled by her passion as a next-generation farmer.

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