Is Your Greenhouse Winter Ready?
Fall is in full effect, which means old man winter will be arriving soon. Now is the time to ask yourself if your greenhouse is ready for the chilly months ahead. Whether you plan to close up shop in your greenhouse altogether or keep growing despite the weather outside, you will be able to use some of these helpful hints.
Insulate then hibernate
Since we all know money doesn’t grow on trees, it is important to take some time and invest the necessary funds to insulate your greenhouse correctly. Holiday shopping gets expensive, so by keeping the cold weather outside the greenhouse, you won’t be spending money unnecessarily. To insulate your greenhouse, I recommend Handi-Foam, Silicone Caulk and Foam Weather Stripping.
The heat inside your greenhouse should remain at plant level. Heating the plants rather than the air will help you save big on heating costs. Why pay to heat the air above your plants when you don’t have to? Insulate north facing and any other solid walls with TekFoil Reflective Insulation and make sure to cover any unused fans both inside and out, if possible. Installing bubble wrap on the inside of your greenhouse is also a great way to help keep the heat where it belongs and is very cost effective.
Inspect your heating system
Right before winter, it is a good idea to “tune up” your heaters and double check that you have plenty of fuel. More often than not, your propane or natural gas supplier will come out and do a check of your heating system for a small fee or at no charge. Take them up on this offer!
Don’t be tricked into believing that just because everything was in good working order when you shut your heater down in the spring, it is good to go now. It is always recommended that a professional do a thorough once over on your heater prior to you using it. A test run can ensure that no parts need to be replaced before the cold weather hits. Your heater should also be cleaned well and moving parts should be oiled according to manufacturer recommendations.
Power loss is always a possibility during harsh winter weather. A back up plan, such as a portable heater, should always be in place. To rest assured that you will be notified of a power outage, keep your greenhouse alarm system up and running. Greenhouse alarms and monitors will protect your investment and give you peace of mind.
Before you run your heating system for the first time, check to see that all thermostats are calibrated and functioning, inspect the flue, double check all connections to the heater and test your alarm. These simple tasks will keep plants protected!
Inspect your structure
Greenhouse inspection before winter is key. There should be no cracks or leaks in the glazing, and it should be tightly secured to the structure. If you are using poly film, check for steel springs that may have come loose. If your greenhouse is covered in polycarbonate, be sure that all screws are tight, but not too tight because this can crack the polycarbonate. This is the time to look for problems before they occur in the middle of the blizzard of the century!
If you are in an area with heavy snow, make sure your greenhouse is structurally sound and that bracings are secure. If you don’t plan to grow throughout the winter, it may be a good idea to remove the film from your structure if necessary. This will prevent damage and extend its useful life.
Roll-up or drop-down sides should be checked to make sure that they are easily secured. Sometimes, there are record high temperatures during the winter, and you want to be able to roll up or drop down the sides to keep the heat out if possible.
Prepare your lighting and irrigation systems
For those of you who are growing throughout the winter, this is also a great time to check your grow lights. There will be much less natural light this time of year, so supplementing with artificial light is crucial. LED grow lights are a great option for economically and efficiently providing light to plants. They will last for years and do not heat up.
Frozen pipes can be just as much of an issue in the greenhouse as it can in any other building. If you aren’t growing, make sure that you blow out your irrigation lines to prevent freezing. Most drip irrigation systems have flush valves at the end of lines to make this process easy and efficient.
Relax! You’ve earned it.
Growers know that the greenhouse can be an oasis away from the rest of the world. It can still be your peaceful escape in the winter, whether or not you are still growing. If you are still growing, choose cool-weather crops for best results. If you aren’t growing until the spring, go hang out in the greenhouse and choose some seeds for next season and create a growing game plan. Remember, don’t be afraid to head out into your structure, close your eyes and day dream of the beautiful summer days ahead!
Do you have other helpful winterizing tips? Share them here.