Today, no one would be surprised to find a greenhouse in a cottage or home backyard plot. They differ not only in design but also in the area they occupy – from miniature to giant. In any greenhouse in the garden, the gardener will try to use every 40inch (1 meter) of the area to cultivate crops.
However, over-occupying greenhouse space with a large number of plants can lead to negative results. Plants will begin to get sick, infecting nearby growing crops, accumulating negative microflora in the soil,… Within a week, a greenhouse can turn into a pile of dead plants.
Therefore, when considering the construction and use of a greenhouse, it is necessary to carefully consider and plan its structure and internal arrangements.
Greenhouse interior layout
The layout of the interior of a greenhouse depends on its purpose and size. For the greenhouse itself, choose a location that allows sunlight to shine into the greenhouse for all or most of the day. When planting low-growing plants (seedlings, peppers, shrub tomatoes, herbs), the greenhouse should be placed with the bed facing north to south. For mixed plantings with some plants on trellises (cucumbers, tall tomatoes, zucchini), it is best to place the beds from west to east so that the crop receives even light.
Layout of beds in the greenhouse
The beds in the greenhouse should have dimensions that are easy to work with. Wide beds with narrow paths not only complicate plant care but also create conditions for the development of fungal-bacterial and viral diseases. In multiple row thickening plantings, plants can begin to press against each other as they compete for light, water, and other environmental benefits.
When 70-80inch (1.8-2 m) wide greenhouses are usually divided into 2 rows along 28-30inch (70-80 cm) wide walls or with processing equipment at arm’s length, aisles of at least 15inch (40 cm) are left between the beds on which auxiliary equipment, trays with seedlings, and other materials are placed. Usually, greenhouse aisles are covered with sand, gravel, and tiles so that they do not slip on the dirt while watering, processing plants, and other tasks.
The sides and along the beds are enclosed with boards or other materials to form a curb 8-12inch (20-30 cm) in height so that the soil does not crumble onto the path. The curb should be well secured so that it will not collapse under the weight of the soil.
In a 10-12 foot (3-3.5 m) wide greenhouse, the best arrangement for beds is 3 aisles and 2 paths. Side beds are placed along the long side or along the perimeter of the greenhouse. The width of the beds is mainly determined by the type of plants to be grown. Thus, under greenhouse crops, the side beds can be only 15-18inch (40-45 cm), under shrub crops – wider, but no more than 28-30inch (70-80 cm). The limitation in width is connected with the possibility of tillage only on one side.
In the center of the greenhouse, there is a double bed, the width of which can reach 60inch (1.5 m) due to processing from both sides. The width of the path allows easy access to any plant and does not damage it while carrying out work – watering, removing waste, processing, harvesting.
For safety reasons, paths must be covered with any mulching material to avoid slipping on wet ground. In large greenhouses, paths are sometimes completely covered with concrete (preferably with reinforcements) or separate tiles laid with wooden boards.
Types of greenhouse beds
Greenhouse beds are subdivided into above-ground, elevated, in the form of individual boxes, and on tables. All types of beds can be insulated, except for beds on tables.
Above-ground beds are the easiest to maintain. They are often made into small greenhouses for growing seedlings, bunches of vegetables, or a few clumps of tomatoes and cucumbers. In these beds, soil conditions do not provide for the normal development of vegetables and other crops, and in large buildings are not used closed.
Table beds are laid on specially prepared shelves. They are most convenient when growing seedlings, radishes, propagated greens, indoor flowers in pots.
The most common and convenient for plant care in large greenhouses are raised beds. They can be 8-12-20inch (20-30-50 cm) high. Performing earthworks (changing and sterilizing the soil), it is easier to take care of plants in such beds. They will soon warm up. A layer of soil will create an additional thermal mat in cold areas, insulated from the cold natural soil layer. With an insulated bed, it is easier to take care of the path. Beds can be made from bulk soil of the desired height in individual boxes.
Sometimes large greenhouses are equipped with removable racks on which seedlings can be raised while in the bed. After the seedlings are harvested, the racks are removed, and the basic crop (cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.) is planted in the bed.
Fill the bed
If the natural soil in the greenhouse is heavy and dense, it is necessary to remove the top layer and make a well-drained floor with gravel, broken bricks, and other waste. On top, fill with a prepared or purchased soil mixture. Such beds are usually arranged in warm areas or structures for temporary use. In colder areas, it is better to make insulated beds.
In such an insulated bed, only the top nutrient layer consisting of a few parts should be replaced annually. The owner of the greenhouse can choose any method of insulated beds.
In greenhouses where it is planned to grow 4-6 and more types of vegetable products, it is better to divide the long bed into several zones, especially if the grown crops require different light, humidity, and air temperature.
How to divide the greenhouse zones correctly for different plants?
Each type of plant needs certain conditions to develop and flower and fruit properly. From this perspective, placing plants differently from their environment in an enclosed space can be quite a challenge. In order to facilitate the selection of plants and to create normal conditions for their growth, development, and yield formation, it would be most correct to delineate the greenhouse.
Practical – Measure temperatures along the longitudinal walls of the greenhouse and highlight areas of temperature variation. Separate these zones with any material that highlights the hotter and cooler zones. Typically, greenhouses are divided into 3 zones. If the greenhouse is heated, the warmest zone will be in the middle of the room, the warmest zone at the end, and the coldest zone at the beginning, where the doors of the Tempel are constantly opened while certain work is done.
If the greenhouse is large, the zones are separated by more durable materials (plywood, plastic), and temporary doors are installed. In greenhouses with an area of 10x33foot (3x10m), it is common to divide the zones with a plastic film or tarp screen with slits. Insulation will help to raise the humidity level in the zone, maintain the desired temperature and ventilate the allocated area. Depending on the conditions in each area, select the main/base crop and companion crops to be grown together.
Vegetable crop compatibility in the greenhouse
Most of the major crops to be grown in the greenhouse are tomatoes and cucumbers, and companion vegetables are grown with them. The placement of vegetables in the greenhouse needs to be considered well in advance. Thus, tomatoes need moderate watering, average humidity, ventilation, and mineral fertilizers, while cucumbers, on the contrary, need high temperatures, humidity, organic matter, no wind, and falling temperatures.
In other words, for cold-resistant crops, an area close to the tempura would be the best choice, while for cucumbers it would be an area in the middle or even far away. In order to use the greenhouse 100% of the time, it is necessary to provide a list of other vegetables and green cultures needed by the family. Thus, in addition to tomatoes, other nightshades can be grown – bell peppers, eggplants. Not bad neighbors may be lettuce, onions, radishes, pungent herbs, other greens that do not require heat, humidity, and other special conditions (Table 1).
The table below lists only the most common staple crops and those with which there is good compatibility. They are often used for replanting on both sides of the bed or as an early crop (radish) before sowing seedlings. By the way, you can make a separate pre-made bed and use it several times. After harvesting the first crop, plant new prepared seedlings (lettuce), onions for green feathering, or sowing green plants.
Table 1. compatibility of vegetable crops in greenhouse cultivation
|Major crops||Crops with excellent and good compatibility||Cultivars incompatible with major crops|
|Tomatoes||Cabbage, onion, garlic, beans, lettuce, radish, spinach, celery for herbs, parsley, sweet pepper, eggplant||Cucumbers, dill|
|Cucumbers||Zucchini, squash, Peking cabbage, kohlrabi, onions for herbs, garlic, beans, salads, beets, celery for herbs, spinach, mint||Tomatoes, radishes|
|Cabbage||Tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, lettuce, beans, dill, celery for herbs, spinach, mint||Onions, parsley|
|Prefabricated bed||Onions for green feathers, parsley, and dill for herbs, salads, mint, spinach, radishes, celery for herbs, etc.||Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and other tall crops or crops on a trellis|
For cucumbers, zucchini, squash, likewise, greens (dill, parsley, mint, watercress, etc.) can be sown as thickeners on the edges. But keep in mind that with such a combination of crop choices, there is a risk of over-pollination of cucumbers with other squash plants.
In such cases, consider in advance what crops to plant toward the base in the greenhouse and choose varieties that are resistant to over pollination, diseases, and environmental requirements. For example, dill cannot be seeded with tomatoes, but cucumbers can. Cucumbers do not tolerate radishes, while cabbage does not tolerate parsley.
It is more practical to transplant and replant foundation crops with different cultivars so that the most appropriate variety can be selected over time. Cultivars that are incompatible in terms of environmental requirements should be planted in different areas of the greenhouse.
How to arrange crops in greenhouses
The main conditions for proper crop growth and development in an indoor environment are lighting, air and soil moisture, ventilation, and shade tolerance. It isn’t easy to adjust these requirements for different crops in the same room. By carefully studying the technical requirements and biology of the crop, it is possible to select a crop for a particular area based on the main limiting factors.
Plants that need bright light are planted on the south side of the greenhouse, plants that need ventilation near vents and doors, and plants with high humidity are planted in more isolated areas. Under greenhouse conditions, alternating top shoots and stubble plants is optimal, meaning that crops are alternated by nutrient removal at harvest.
In large greenhouses, the main factor limiting plant growth and development is the height of the crop. If high-growing tomatoes are planted in marginal beds, cucumbers and beans on trellises, and low-growing ones (bell peppers, eggplants, salads, beets, cabbage) are placed in intermediate beds, the latter will suffer from lack of light. As a result, diseases will appear, and pests will multiply. The same result is expected from too intensive planting. The best option is to put high-growing crops in the middle bed and on the sides of the greenhouse – low-growing crops.
How to increase the productivity of the greenhouse
In small greenhouses, usually with 2 beds, some novice greenhouse growers grow tomatoes in one bed and cucumbers in the other. In this case, both cultures suffer because they need different conditions for growth and development. Therefore, it is advisable to divide the interior space into 2 zones with isolation curtains to reduce the interdependence on the growing conditions of neighboring crops.
The productivity of the small greenhouse is improved by replanting low compatible plants with shallow root systems and compacting the base crop. Several crops can be harvested. Start by sowing a few radish varieties in the greenhouse (in April). After harvesting, plant tomato or cucumber seedlings in May. After sowing and harvesting early cold-resistant vegetables (radishes and dill for vegetables, onions for feathers), plant cabbage, salad or tomatoes, and cucumbers.
It is better to plant different stages of maturity (early and middle) of the same variety of vegetables in one area of the greenhouse. After harvesting the early ones, plant the next early crop with the same environmental requirements (cabbage, lettuce, rape, radish, onion). To increase the productivity of a single-bed greenhouse, mixed, compacted, and replanted planting can be used.
Thus, cucumbers and dill, cabbage, and radishes can be planted simultaneously in the bed. Tomatoes and bell peppers can be compacted together with herbs, leeks, and radishes. The beds for repeated sowing can be mastered in different ways. First, sow early varieties of radishes and plant salads and vegetables after harvest. After cutting the harvest, sow late radishes or onions and other green crops again. Finally, you can plant early cold-resistant greens in the bed, cut and plant early cabbage and beans.
Using greenhouses to grow young vegetable crops
Greenhouses with fixed heating units are commonly used in the north, in areas with short cold summers. As a rule, they are used all year round. In the south, central regions, and other areas with sufficiently long warm periods, greenhouses are frozen for the winter (with the roof open) or get a break and are put into production from February for raising seedlings of vegetable crops.
Seedlings for small greenhouses are easy to grow at home. For raising a large number of seedlings of different vegetable crops, it is more practical to use one area of the greenhouse. After selecting seedlings, the vacated area is occupied by vegetable crops. Removable seedling racks can be used. 10.
Using the greenhouse as a starter house
In areas where cold weather arrives early in the fall, some vegetable crops do not have time to mature in the open field and die in unfavorable temperature jumps. Growing in a greenhouse can extend the growing season of the crop and yield a bumper crop. Cauliflower, leeks, celery, parsley, and other immature vegetable crops need to be raised more often.
Plants intended for planting are carefully dug out of the root ball and transferred to a pre-prepared planting hole. Before planting in the greenhouse, damaged and yellow leaves are removed, and the main roots of parsley and celery are shortened. Fill the holes with fertilizer (nitrate fertilizer), water, and plant the crop.