Long before the first crocuses and daffodils poke their heads up from the ground, growers are already thinking about what they’re going to do in spring.
The cold winter months really are a perfect time to relax, stay inside, reflect on the accomplishments of last year, and plan for the future. Seed catalogues are ordered, planting lists are made, and clean-up chores for spring are well underway, sometimes long before the snow even starts to melt!
But if you’re a greenhouse grower, getting ready for spring can mean wrangling a whole different set of tasks before the warmer times arrive.
It’s important to plan ahead for spring. If you have a greenhouse though, you’ll want to think about certain prep tasks long before spring even arrives – and there’s no better time to do this than winter, before the season picks up!
So how can you get your greenhouse ready?
Let’s take a look at the smartest ways to prep your setup while there’s still time, and ensure you’ve got a covered growing space that runs like a dream!
WHAT TO GROW?
It’s the age-old question of any grower when spring is on the horizon: “what should I grow?”
Planning what you’ll grow in your greenhouse ahead of time is a great way to get fully prepared for spring.
Winter is an especially great time to peruse seed catalogues and make those monumental decisions. (Well, maybe not so monumental.) Still – what are your options?
With your greenhouse fully set up (hopefully!), you can be proud of the expanded options and versatility you’ll have compared to other growers. This is because these structures afford you the ability to get plants started far earlier than normal than if you didn’t have coverings for them!
COOL WEATHER PLANTS
If you want to grow cool weather crops and flowers – such as lettuce, spinach, or ornamental kale – you can order seeds and even plant straight into the ground of greenhouse beds, containers, or other mediums if you desire.
It’s one of the greatest advantages of greenhouses: they give cool weather plants a kick start, thus effectively expanding your seasonal window.
Such plants will receive protection from frost and snow under plastic cover, and still be hardy enough in their mature stages to handle cool weather. They’ll even flourish through the last legs of winter, and without the need for much temperature control!
Best of all, you can reap amazing harvests earlier in spring than ever before. So when planning what to grow under cover for the upcoming season, make sure to keep cool weather crops in your line of choices.
HOT WEATHER PLANTS
You can also use greenhouses to get a jump start on heat-loving plants that need tons of care, attention, and sizing up before going in the ground. Tomatoes, peppers, and even some perennial flowers are common choices.
While they cannot be direct seeded in the ground right away (as is the case with cool weather plants), you can still size them up in containers or trays in the warmth of your greenhouse – whether for eventual transplant outside or under the cover itself.
If you have climate and temperature controls for these plants in advance, all the better! You can really expand your seasonal window this way, though a plastic cover can do a lot on its own.
As with cool weather plants too, choosing your greenhouse to get hot weather crops jumping in advance is a great way to ensure the earliest harvests possible.
TRANSPLANTS OR SEED STARTING?
Beyond what types of beautiful plants or tasty vegetables you’ll choose, you might want to think about how you’ll want to grow them.
Do you want to transplant straight into the beds prepped in your greenhouse? Or do you want to nurse seed starts there very early on, and possibly for transplant later?
For transplanting, keep in mind that you’ll want to start your seeds in another warm place – and the earlier, the better.
Further, cool weather crops can be popped in (or even direct seeded) as early as late winter, while you’ll have to wait to transplant those more cold-sensitive ones.
A lot of growers do use their greenhouses as seed starting houses in and of themselves, since they can protect tender seedlings from the weather so well (and provide quite a bit of room for them, too).
They will also allow you to size up cold-sensitive plants much earlier than usual in containers, due to the protection they provide.
If you’re wanting to grow starts from seed as early as possible, think about bringing tables and benches into your structure upon which your seed trays or pots can rest.
Make sure that they don’t rest on top of or compact any beds or other prepped areas that you would want to transplant them into later – soil compaction is the enemy of all gardeners!
Last but not least, besides seed starting or transplanting, you can always direct seed straight away into raised beds under your covered structure – cold weather crops very early on, while hot weather ones can come in later.
Of course, this hinges on having your beds ready, too!
ARE YOUR BEDS READY?
What are you planning on planting in?
Whatever your choice – raised bed, tilled bed, even growing benches or hydroponic flood tables – you’ll have to make sure these are ready at the same time your plants are, too.
Soils must be amended to ensure that they are fertile enough to feed your plants, and pH may need some checking as well. Weeds should be cleared, and beds should be properly shaped and constructed for easy access and planting.
Do soils or water need replacing in beds or flood tables? Replace them with a fresh medium, and even do some cleaning or sanitizing beforehand to prevent soil illness cross-contamination.
Planting in containers or raised beds? If repairs or replacing needs to happen, wintertime – long before the growing season even begins – is a great time to do it, way before you get plants or soil in there. It’s common sense.
Flood tables and benches ready to go? Again, long before spring is an excellent time to prepare these in advance, and make sure everything is in working order way ahead of time.
Clearing out weeds and dead plants from last year is an obvious task to complete within your greenhouse, and well before you get your start on the next season.
Pulled plants also make excellent additions to that compost pile you’ve been working on, if you have one. (Of course, make sure you’re not tossing any seedy weeds in there!)
Beyond clearing out dead plants to make way for the living, cleanup can also apply to simple organization and actual cleaning of the structure itself or its tools.
Mess from last year? Do some picking up and reorganizing. Don’t be afraid to trash greenhouse equipment you no longer need – it will make room for more things to grow.
If you especially want to focus on the aesthetics of your growing setup, consider rearranging your layout or even touching up on paint and other decorative elements.
Form is just as important as function. Make that greenhouse look good on the inside, and get organized – it will make all the difference once the season gets busy.
WHAT ABOUT MAINTENANCE?
What about the actual greenhouse itself?
Both form and function of the structure are smart to upkeep and maintain long before spring, and before anything is growing in it yet.
After all, you won’t want to invest in maintenance in the middle of the busiest time of the growing season – summer! You also won’t want to take apart or replace parts during the times when you need it to be in commission the most.
You’ll want your setup to not only look good and be organized for easy use, but to also look at the actual sum of its parts: are they working correctly? Or are they damaged?
If there are warm spells in winter, you can even dedicate yourself to replacing and repairing certain parts.
If you have wooden parts of your greenhouse – most likely baseboards – these may need some replacing eventually. Before spring is a good time to give a check for damage, wear, tear, and rot.
As is the case with all kinds of wood, over time the material biodegrades. It’s only natural.
Before springtime, adding baseboard checks and replacements to your list of winter tasks is a smart move – and will also improve the structure and integrity of your growing system.
Doors made of wood? These will likewise need checking and replacing, especially if some of its wooden parts are rotting or not staying together.
On the other hand, it’s also a very wise step to double check that your doors are working properly in the first place!
Do they keep air inside the greenhouse and seal outside air out? Are there cracks in the doorframe and around the edges that have developed?
If so, repairs to the door and doorframe itself (or even the end walls) – no matter the material – should be made, or your structure’s function will be compromised.
Keep in mind that fixing and maintaining doors won’t just be about cosmetic appearance. Make sure it’s also doing what it’s made for: sealing out drafts and furthering the function of your growing system!
BENT RIBS AND SUPPORTS
What about the actual supportive skeleton of your greenhouse: its ribs, trusses, supports, and more?
Long before you start on bed prep or even decide what to grow, taking a close look at the actual framework of your growing system is very important. Take note of bent ribs, broken supports, and other damage, wear, and tear to the frame.
Once you’ve taken a damage report, get these items replaced before you get growing! You won’t want a greenhouse that falls apart and sets you back in the middle of a busy season.
Instead, get it done before spring begins.
Examining, maintaining, and fixing your greenhouse plastic is a very important step to include in your greenhouse prep.
Do a lookover of your covering. If there are numerous tears, punctures, rips, and loose edges, some repairing of your plastic is in order.
If damage is excessive, you may want to invest in a new covering entirely. If coverings can’t do their job with too many holes or cracks, than you don’t have a working greenhouse, it’s as simple as that!
CHECK YOUR ACCESSORIES
While plastic is incredibly important, accessories are really what make (or break) a greenhouse.
After the winding down of a busy season come fall, the various implements and functions of your structure should be checked and maintained – especially if they have been sitting unused for a couple months in winter.
So before the busy season in spring picks up, do yourself a favor: check to see if they work! And repair or replace them, if you must.
This includes temperature and humidity controls, sensors, actuators, and even timers, such as you would find in a light deprivation setup.
Have roll-up sides, lighting fixtures, and even ventilation systems? Make sure that these are working, too. There’s no better time to fix them than when they aren’t housing your precious plants.
If you have a smart greenhouse that is run with computers at all, double-check that all their programming and software is running correctly and up-to-date.
SPRING IS COMING – GET READY!
Do you think your greenhouse is ready for the upcoming spring?
What do you think you will you grow?
Don’t delay! Use the cold months before spring to keep things ship-shape.
Before you get your season kicked off, you’ll want to make sure that your greenhouse is in top form and ready to run smoothly, all season long – and there’s no better time than winter, and no better way to do it than planning ahead.