Back to school means that the changing of the seasons is coming near. For greenhouse growers, maintenance is a key component to success, helping you get the last push of the cool season crops or if you will be growing through the winter. This is the perfect time to make a checklist of things that should be checked before the snow files (at least for us in Northeast Ohio!). I put four items on the top of my list that should never be taken for granted no matter where you are located.
- Heat: While it might be hot now it won’t be long before we start to lose the solar heat capacity of the sun. My rule of thumb is to make sure to have your heat source working properly two to three weeks before the first frost date. Being prepared to heat the greenhouse is always a smart move, and I try and make sure my heat source is properly running no matter what time of year. If you are using propane, now is a good time to check on fuel prices. If you are using alternative heating source make sure you have enough fuel to get you by. On the topic of heating, do you have or use over-wintering film? Has it been ordered? Make sure to reach out to your local supplier to place your order so it arrives in plenty of time.
- Lights, lights, lights…When the days get shorter, I find myself working in the dark more often, hence the need for lighting. Now is the time to check and make sure that not only your work lights are operational but also any supplement lighting you may need to use. Make sure to have good working ballast, clean off dust, and replace the bulbs as needed. Don’t forget to check the work lights in the greenhouse, Murphy ’s Law has a way of making lights go dark when it’s cold out! Also think about the light coming into the greenhouse through the glazing. If you get a chance make sure everything is nice and clean. You might be amazed at how much brighter a greenhouse can be when the sidewalls have been cleaned. As we all know, when the days get shorter light is very valuable and we need to make sure the plants get the most they can.
- Water. You may be wondering why I think of water at this time of year and it has to do a lot with keeping it out of the greenhouse in the coming months. Mainly, in this part of the country, the fall means cool rains which means that the gutters should be clear of debris and working properly. If there are any drains near or in the greenhouse to make sure they are functioning properly and make sure that you check the around the outside of the greenhouse. Also check to see if there are spots on the greenhouse that might leak, around door frames and equipment openings in particular. A little bit of sealant will help keep water out, and as a bonus, help keep the heat in as well. If you live in a location where the temperature drops below freezing, a pipe/or hose left with water in it will expand and could burst when frozen, potentially flooding the greenhouse or causing other damage. Flush out lines with air or let them drain completely before storing in spaces that could potentially reach freezing temperatures.
- Grease the equipment: This should be done more often, but usually in the fall I can find a day when the temperature is just right for a couple of hours so I can turn off the equipment to get in there and grease bearings and tighten belts. A little preventative labor now will reduce headaches when it gets colder and you are relying on properly functioning equipment to keep the crop happy and healthy.
A bonus to-do on my list, check the weather station to make sure it is functioning. This maybe a pet peeve of mine but I am a data junkie. I like being able to look at how the outdoor weather is affecting things in the greenhouse. The weather data lets me look at how much heating I need during cold spells, or how cold it is (so I can decided to stay in the greenhouse and not bear the elements). Also the weather station can provide information on how other crops outside of the greenhouse are handling the cooler months around you. Being on top of these few task will set you up to enjoy the fall season and be prepared for the months ahead.