Greenhouse agriculture is a true ally of conventional farming. But in order to fully function we need to take into account a few things. As beneficial as these structures are and more positive for gardeners, having our plants indoors requires knowledge of some of the characteristics of cultivation.
For this reason, and before considering greenhouse cultivation, it is necessary to fully understand all aspects of greenhouse cultivation, and to know the problems that may face us.
Conditions for successful cultivation in greenhouses
1. The location, and its importance for greenhouse cultivation
It is well known that the key element of any planting is the chosen site, especially in the case of greenhouse cultivation, the process of building a special structure depends on the correct selection of the site. This is logical because, in the end, a greenhouse only protects plants from external factors, but nevertheless, it has similar requirements for growing in the soil.
To function properly, the upper axis is ideally oriented east-west. In this way, the greenhouse will be fully exposed to the sun.
2. Irrigation, which is the most sensitive aspect of greenhouse farming
Probably the most sensitive point in greenhouse cultivation is the irrigation process. And because the planting process is done in a safe, controlled setting, it also tends not to let moisture escape from our plants. This is positive for their development but can also harm them.
Therefore, we will have to take utmost precautions when it comes to irrigation. If the irrigation process gets out of control and the atmosphere inside a greenhouse varies, our plants will drown. And if we fail to water, especially on hot days, it will dry up. For this reason and for the irrigation process to be accurate, it is ideal to adjust our irrigation systems so that the substrate is always wet.
We will also have to control the environmental humidity, which should be between 50 and 60%.
3. Pest control to protect our crops
A greenhouse can be an ideal space for pest infestation. For this reason, and before thinking about how to eliminate pests naturally, it is best to avoid their appearance.
4. Daily ventilation
Daily ventilation for at least one hour is necessary to avoid excess moisture. They are the best preventive way to ward off those pests or diseases that develop in hot and humid environments.
But the work of ventilation is not limited to just that. Rather, it helps improve the air quality in the greenhouse. And by the way, replenishing the air that our plants are exposed to. But for this process to be beneficial for growing the greenhouse during the cold months, we must do it at the hottest hours of the day.
As important as everything we just saw, there is another side. Opening the greenhouse panels or doors will attract pollinating insects, thus helping the plants in the pollination process.
5. Cleanliness of the structure, important for the development of our plants
There is another important aspect, although it may seem secondary. Keeping our greenhouse covers clean will allow the correct passage of sunlight.
The most important vegetables and herbs that can be grown in a greenhouse
As we mentioned greenhouse cultivation, it is an advanced technology that helps to obtain some types of plants outside their seasons and enjoy them, especially in the cold months. But it is worth paying attention to the quality of the seeds used, because some crops, such as tomatoes, have clear lighting requirements. And if we can’t achieve this, our garden plants will not thrive.
Let’s take a look at our suggestion for greenhouse vegetables and herbs.
1. Swiss chard
Chard is a greenhouse crop that grows in extremely cold climates and is a delicious winter dish rich in fiber.
Swiss chard is a classic in the cooler months. There are a large number of dishes that combine with them, in addition to being rich in vitamins and minerals. However, despite its popularity, it is an almost obligatory greenhouse crop in cold climates. Thanks to this type of planting, we will be able to grow chard because the chard seeds require very little heat to germinate in these conditions.
A delicious crop that you cannot miss in your garden. It is another vegetable that cannot be lost in any kitchen. Due to its temperature needs, onions are a crop that we have to germinate in a greenhouse. Only in this way will our seedlings be able to succeed. And one tip: Be careful with watering. Onions do not require high moisture content as they do with other crops.
3. Broccoli is a healthy greenhouse crop
An ideal crop for vegetable lovers that, despite their simplicity in cultivation, are distinguished by their distinctive characteristics. First of all, it does not tolerate excessively cold, so it should be transferred to the garden at the end of winter. He also does not like strong sun.
4. Watercress, the perfect companion to salads
Herb with a peculiar aroma and flavor is perfect for salads. As a good plant from the Mediterranean, it does not tolerate cold at all. As for the period of germination, it needs between 15 and 18 degrees.
5. Basil, an irresistible aromatic herb
A delicious flavor that we can enjoy all year round. We all tend to think basil is just an aromatic plant. However, picking a variety that is somewhat more resistant and choosing to grow it in a greenhouse can make it easier for us to enjoy it.
It is also widely used in the plant production of all types of horticultural crops in seed ponds, where the environmental conditions for germination must be controlled and guaranteed within a set of values that depend on each type.
Currently, the horticultural crops that are produced in greenhouses in the Mediterranean are:
- the strawberry.
We can also grow in greenhouses for other types of vegetables such as:
The development of agricultural technology has led to the inclusion of production systems that increase yields such as hydroponics.
Some techniques should be highlighted
The hydroponic technique consisting of planting in plastic bags with an inert substrate, which acts as a support for the roots, is anchored by means of a support system suspended on the greenhouse net.
It is a production system with water irrigation in which the cultivation is arranged in containers so that they are placed on a hierarchical structure.
Cultivation at the table:
It is performed on tables so that pure hydroponics can be done using floating trays or cultivation on the substrate directly on the table or through containers.
What are the components of a greenhouse?
Although the greenhouse implementation offers wide advantages compared to open field production, its disadvantages must be mentioned. That is why it is necessary to know both sides of the coin and in this article we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of greenhouses.
The greenhouse consists of a metal or plastic structure covered with transparent materials to achieve the maximum illumination inside. Inside this greenhouse, we will get artificial conditions (microclimate) that give the highest plant productivity at the lowest cost and in less time. It also protects indoor plants or crops from environmental damages such as frost , strong winds, hail, insect pests, etc.
As with any company, there is no risk, or zero impact, in a greenhouse, there is a series of advantages and disadvantages that must be taken into account when deciding to build a greenhouse or continue to grow in the open field.
Advantages or advantages of cultivation in greenhouses
Regarding the advantages provided by growing plants under greenhouses, regarding their cultivation in the open field, we explain some of the advantages below:
Greenhouses are an element of intensive cultivation for various reasons, firstly because it is possible to create conditions for the proper development of plants, due to the presence of a certain isolation from the outside; Also because more plants can be placed per unit area compared to open ground; The final aspect, which is also relevant, is the possibility of using climate control facilities, which improve the growing conditions to the optimum point.
It has been proven after a long period of study that yield per unit area of crop increases by 2 to 3 times under a greenhouse compared to open ground, and if hydroponics is used, the yields can be several times higher than those obtained by relying on traditional methods. To be ten times higher if due diligence is applied.
Less production risk:
If climate change is natural or human induced, then it cannot be dealt with here, but it must be recognized that it affects everything equally, including crop production; Because crops are protected with structures like greenhouses, the damage they may suffer is reduced.
More efficient use of modern technologies:
Using techniques like fertilization and hydroponics, it is possible to provide plants with only the elements they need during each stage of their development, so only necessary fertilizers are spent to reduce waste, which ultimately means a loss of money. The same thing happens with water, since modern formulations of irrigation systems allow it to be used more efficiently, and in this sense I refer to local or micro-irrigation (drip, micro-sprinkler, sprinkler).
Increase control of pests, weeds, and diseases:
In order for the greenhouse to facilitate the control of pests, diseases and weeds, it must be properly designed and constructed, as many of them fail in this regard, because its sealing is the key to successful control. In addition, greenhouse farming facilitates application programming, as it is possible to control who has access to the farming.
The possibility of cultivation throughout the year:
Due to the fact that inside the greenhouse there is relative independence from the external environment, it is possible that production can be at any time of the year, regardless of whether it is very cold winters or summer that lead to high temperatures, since heating can be carried out in the first case and provide ventilation and cooling . In this way, when using greenhouses, it is possible to produce them without interruption due to weather conditions.
Get products out of season:
As a result of year-round production capacity, there is also the advantage of getting products out of season, with which better marketing markets can be found due to lack of competition and because the markets are not saturated as it happens in high season. For this, it is necessary to know the times that are handled in open field crops in order for the products to be marketed to avoid high competition.
You may also be interested: How can hydroponics products be marketed in the commercial market?
Obtaining products in areas with restrictive conditions:
Environmental conditions are not always suitable for creating crops or they significantly restrict the species that can be grown only for those adapted to local conditions. In this way, with the help of greenhouses, the plants enjoy complete isolation from the outside and thus are not affected by severe external conditions, such as water scarcity, etc.
Get high quality products:
Inside the greenhouse, the plants are not exposed to damage or frost caused by environmental elements such as rain, strong winds, hail storms or high solar radiation, which is why the quality of the products obtained is higher, which is shown in their presentation to the final consumer and in their internal composition. This allows for greater profits when selling our products, or finding better markets, and the ability to export if high quality is obtained.
Greater comfort and safety:
Inside the greenhouse, not only plants are protected, because workers also find shelter from bad weather, which is that in the open fields the worker or farmer suffers from solar radiation that causes high temperatures, or that at any time rain and hail can begin. While inside the greenhouse, pre-programmed planting activities can be carried out without the weather being an obstacle to leaving them for another day.
Easily study plant behavior:
Greenhouses, especially those that have automatic control of environmental variables, allow to study the behavior of production elements without being subjected to the distorting influence of climatic factors. Thus it is possible to study the productive potential, according to the genetic information, and for the cultivated species and to determine the optimal factors for its development. This aspect becomes relevant in agronomy schools and institutes devoted to conducting research on developing and understanding the behavior of plants and agricultural crops.
Disadvantages or disadvantages of planting in greenhouses
There are some flaws in the construction and management of greenhouses that must be taken into account and thus prepare to counter or minimize negative impacts.
However, it is easy to get carried away by the positive things that these structures offer us and to implement a project without stopping by analyzing the negative issues in it. For this reason, below we shall undertake an analysis of the main disadvantages that one can face when deciding to start production in which greenhouse construction is expected. This is not with the aim of discouraging projects of this kind, but quite the opposite, because knowing potential weaknesses will allow us to pay more attention to them to avoid company failure.
Initial investments are costly:
Greenhouses are structures that have a relatively high construction cost, so the initial investment required is high and the main objective of the product should be to recover these expenses, and for this reason it is recommended to use them only to produce crops of high economic value, such as some vegetables and ornamental plants, because it is economically Unjustified for staple crops or of little commercial value.
The difficulty of determining the type of structure:
The greenhouse should be designed and built based on various aspects, among which the environmental conditions of the area and the climatic requirements of the crop or crops to be produced stand out. In this way, the fact that the type of structure the project requires is not specified implies more expenditures in the future for the renovation of the spaces.
High production costs:
The operating costs in a greenhouse are higher than in the open field, which is logical because there are much higher costs due to the fact that the crop is provided with ideal conditions for its development. If the outside temperatures are low, then spending on electricity or gas for heating will increase the cost of production, the same way it would if you had high temperatures and you want to cool the environment.
Requires a high level of training:
Inside the greenhouses, workers bear full responsibility for the plants, because the fact that they are able to control all environmental variables means that any problem presented makes a person responsible immediately. For this reason, workers must be constantly trained in order to be prepared for any problem that may arise that could kill the plants. This training implies higher production costs.
Provides optimum conditions for the development of pathogens:
One of the goals of greenhouses is to keep plants in optimal conditions for their development, and this means pathogens will have the same benefits. It is true that these structures allow crops to be isolated from pests and diseases found outside, but if proper phytosanitary measures are not implemented and introduced, their growth is likely to be accelerated and their effects will be immediate, representing losses. In production.
Problems with product marketing process:
Last but not least, the marketing of greenhouse crops requires a safe market with pre-verified marketing channels, as there is no point in obtaining high returns if the products are ultimately sold at low prices or at the same cost as open field products. Let’s remember that horticultural products such as flowers and vegetables are highly perishable, and the longer they are stored, the lower their selling price will be due to the lower quality.