How to Operate a Greenhouse

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It is an incredible feeling to walk into a greenhouse and see the rows of growing plants. The operation of a successful greenhouse involves a great deal of knowledge. The simple joy of being able to dig your hands into rich soil, transplant seedlings and grow healthy plants will not be enough to operate a commercial or personal greenhouse. You will need more education or have the ability to hire someone who can be responsible for the areas in which you are weak. A greenhouse can provide food and flowering plants, but it is an investment that needs care.

Things You'll Need

  • Property with resources
  • Business plan
  • Suppliers
  • Study every greenhouse and planting manual or book you can get your hands on. Talk with retired greenhouse operators or search online to gather as much knowledge as possible. Consider working at a greenhouse if there is one nearby to gain experience during the busy spring season.

  • Write a business plan if you are going to operate a commercial greenhouse. Apply for state and municipal licensing at least three months before opening a business. Wholesalers must see proof of licensing before they can sell any greenhouse products to you.

  • Assess the property that you own or are considering buying to make sure it is a workable area for the greenhouse. Check to see if there is a steady and ample water source. Lack of water will be fatal for a greenhouse. The property must have access to a fuel source or a location that is easily accessible for heavy delivery trucks. Land with fertile soil will be an asset, as will space for a curving driveway for your customers.

  • Apply for a builder's permit in your municipality if you are constructing a new greenhouse. Build or purchase a greenhouse on property that has morning sunlight, which will help daily food production and provide maximum growth for the plants. The sun will produce up to a quarter of the heat needed for greenhouse operation. An additional heating system will be needed if you intend to operate the greenhouse in cold weather. Electricity, wood, natural gas or oil systems will provide heat through forced hot air, steam, hot water or radiant heat. Experiment with other heat sources to save money and fuel.

  • Price water distribution systems to decide which one works best for the size of your greenhouse. Water is the mainstay of a working greenhouse. You need a consistent source throughout the building. An irrigation system is ideal if you can find one that meets your budget.

  • Familiarize yourself with ventilation, circulation and fan equipment before making a purchase. This equipment is important to maintain conditions for your plants.

  • Order plants and seedlings from a reputable supplier. If you are going to grow plants from cuttings and seeds, purchase grow lights, starter soil, flats and other growing containers. You can build or purchase tables to set your trays of seedlings and plants on for easy access. It is important to have quality suppliers.

  • Open your business with a smile on your face. A colorful atmosphere filled with healthy plants and a friendly, knowledgeable greenhouse operator and staff will be the key to a successful business.

Tips & Warnings

  • Location is important for a successful greenhouse business.
  • Be aware that weather can be a major risk when operating a greenhouse. You will need to pay attention, particularly during the winter when a storm can shut down your power source and damage the plants. The economy may also cause damage to your business. Greenhouse operations have had to shut down due to high overheads due to rising fuel and supply costs.

References

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