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Paths to Success in the First Hobby Greenhouse

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You've decided to take the plunge and purchase a hobby greenhouse. Once you’ve received and constructed it, it’s time to get it ready for plants and for making decisions on what you want to grow. It is likely that your list of plants to be grown and things to be done in the greenhouse can be unrealistically long. The information here is intended to help you take a realistic approach. There are many variables in what is realistic. These include the background and experience of the individual grower, the available time they have and what they expect from the project. The following guidelines and suggestions may help the new grower set realistic goals and expectations, which are more likely to result in a satisfying growing experience.

The Greenhouse: Growing Environment or Battleground?

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Changes in seasons bring about changes in the external and internal environments of the greenhouse. These changes compel the grower to view things inside and outside the greenhouse differently. Although the idea is to attempt to keep the environment inside the greenhouse uniform, the way to accomplish this will change from one season to the next. Things that were previously outside may suddenly want to migrate indoors. You or your friends may even want to move some outside plants into the greenhouse.

Greenhouse Plant Growing Systems

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Whatever the growing system used, plant roots need oxygen. Oxygen is used in the root for respiration of photosynthate – the process that releases the energy needed by the root to take in the water and nutrients and to send them up to the rest of the plant.
Some plants, like rice and cattails, have roots that can get enough oxygen while growing in standing water. However, most of the plants we grow in the greenhouse have higher oxygen requirements than what is available when the roots are submerged in stagnant water.

Bugs and Greenhouses: Keeping the Bugs Out

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The insects and mites that could become a problem in your greenhouse live on plants. If you bring plants into your greenhouse from a friend’s greenhouse or even your own yard, the pests could travel along with them. It is difficult to impossible to make sure there are no hitchhikers on plants that you bring in.

S/CEA vs. Traditional Agriculture

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A CropKing growing system requires lower labor costs, lower investment, and lower risk than traditional farming methods. Yet it offers higher productivity, higher return on investment, and higher net income! Major advantages of S/CEA include: freedom to schedule crops for seasonal demands, uniform, premium product, reduced energy costs, high density cropping, maximum yields, more efficient use of water and fertilizer, and suitability for mechanization and ecologically sound disease and insect control.

NFT Production of Lettuce

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History The nutrient film technique (NFT) was developed during the late 1960's by Dr Allan Cooper at the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute in the U.K. With the NFT system, a thin film of nutrient solution flows through plastic channels, which contain the plant roots with no solid planting media. The root mat develops partly in the shallow stream of recirculating solution and partly above it. It is extremely important to maintain this basic principle of a nutrient film because it ensures the root system has access to adequate oxygen levels. The key requirements in achieving a nutrient film situation are described by Cooper (1996) as being:

Non-Electric Greenhouse

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An area man has developed a new method to make modern hydroponic technology work - without using electricity - a system which would allow the Amish to make better use of their land without infringing on or their religious beliefs and customs. David R. Schlabach of Schlabach's Nursery, 3901 C.R. 135, southwest of Walnut Creek, not only created the non-electric hydroponic system which uses pneumatics and natural gas, but he also has built more than a half-dozen of the special greenhouses in the area. It all started three years ago when Schlabach and his wife, the parents of eight children, were looking for work that their oldest children could do at or near home. The Schlabachs have about four acres of land on C.R. 135 and on that property have a small fruit tree nursery, their own garden and some pasture. But there was no room for agricultural expansion and some of the property was not suitable for farming. "Our space was limited to pursue much agriculturally," David Schlabach said. "We became aware we'd have to do something on an intensive scale. That is when we started considering Greenhouse possibilities." Historically, it was always necessary to use electricity in order to have a greenhouse. Schlabach changed all that. At first, Schlabach became interested in hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil, through books and literature. He later attended a grower's workshop seminar sponsored by CropKing Inc., a hydroponic company located in Seville. CropKing sells a greenhouse package complete with equipment and growing supplies. Schlabach had to do some convincing to get CropKing to take notice of his interest in building a greenhouse, because the Schlabachs didn't have electricity. CropKing felt it would not be possible or practical to attempt hydroponics without the automation of electric timers, fans and computerized sensors. But after several discussions, CropKing agreed to eliminate all the electrical motors, solenoids and components in the package it sold to Schlabach. Air motors, thermostats and manual controls replaced them. Now CropKing is gung ho about the future of non-electrical greenhouses. "There is significant interest in hydroponic vegetable production among the Amish communities throughout the country as it offers a way of keeping their children involved in profitable, farm-related businesses that don't require the large amounts of land that conventional agriculture does," Dan Brentlinger, president of CropKing, said.

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