SPECIALIZING IN COMPLETE GREENHOUSE Information, Supplies, New Products, Start up kits, Building Plans and Free help with selling your crops for retail and wholesale greenhouse growers.
Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies Wholesale & Retail
Green Earth Co. Melbourne, Florida
Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies Wholesale with start to finish product buying information and Wholesale Supplies prices to retail greenhouses and Growers.
Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies .
Aarons Creek Farms, 380 Greenhouse Drive, Buffalo Jct., VA 24529, 1-800-487-8502, www.acfplugs.com. Sells hobby greenhouses and strawberry plants
for, Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and greenhouse production.
Alternative Garden Supply. Inc., P.O. Box 662, Cary IL 1-800-444-2837, www.altgarden.com Carries hydroponic and lighting supplies, Greenhouse and
Hydroponic Supplies and pest-controls..
Arbico, P.O. Box 4247 CRB, Tucson, AZ 85738. 1-800-827-2847, www.arbico-organics.com. Known mostly for beneficial insects but also has a selection of
fertilizers, pest traps, and sustainable agricultural supplies.
Charley's Greenhouse Supplies, 17979 State Route 536, Mount Vernon, WA 98273, 1-800-322-4707, www.charleysgreenhouse.com One of the most
complete sources of greenhouse supplies Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and accessories. Large selection of quality greenhouses and other products
specifically for the home greenhouse. Great informative catalog. Good folks!
Co-Ex Corporation, 41 Hammer Mill Road, Rocky Hill CT 06067, 1-800-888-5364, www.co-excorp.com. Manufactures polycarbonate glazings. They are a
wholesaler but they are informative and helpful when shopping for a glazing.
Cool-off, http://www.cool-off.com/ Carries a wide range of Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and mist and fogging systems for cooling your
greenhouse. Most systems are packaged for DIY easy assembly and operation. 800-504-MIST (6478)
CropKing, Inc., 5050 Greenwich Road, Seville, OH 44273 1-330-769-2002, www.cropking.com. Carries indoor hydroponic kits, greenhouses, lights,
growing mediums, books, Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and more for large and small growers.
Deglas, http://www.deglasamericas.com/ At last a viable alternative to polycarbonate with a longer life in the sun. Greenhouse and Hydroponic
Dickson, 930 S Westwood Avenue, Addison, IL 60101 800-323-2448, www.dicksonweb.com, Manufacturer of temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide
Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and pressure chart recorders, dataloggers, and hand-held indicators.
Garden Under Glass, 40 Huron Rd., Bellerose, NY 11001, 1-516-775-0866, www.gardenunderglass.com. Sells greenhouse kits Greenhouse and
Hydroponic Supplies and supplies.
Garden.com, www.garden.com, Carries a wide variety of tools, fertilizer, books Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and other supplies along with seeds,
plants and more.
Garden Composer, http://www.gardencomposer.com/, sells garden design software. 3D Garden Composer is a garden software kit on CD-ROM for garden
design, planning, landscaping. It includes plant encyclopedia pictures, plant care calendar, gardening tools, plant diseases, pests info
Gardener’s Supply Company, 128 Intervale Rd., Burlington, VT 05401-2850, 1-800-863-1700, www.gardeners.com. Carries greenhouses, tools, growing
supplies, and more.
Gempler’s 100 Countryside Drive, P.O. Box 270, Belleville, WI 53508, 1-800-382-8473, www.gemplers.com. Carries gardening tools, Greenhouse and
Hydroponic Supplies and clothing, protective equipment, pest management supplies, and more.
Greenfire, 2527A Hwy 32 West, Chico CA 95973, 1-800-859-8307, www.greenfire.net. These folks carry quality organic hydroponic fertilizer supplies,
Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and lighting materials, variety of pest control materials, growing mediums, and more.
Growing Spaces, P.O. Box 5518, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147, 1-800-753-9333. www.growingspaces.com. These folks specialize in quality, Greenhouse and
Hydroponic Supplies and solar heated dome greenhouses. They have varying sizes and prices from which to choose.
Harmony Farm Supply, P.O. Box 460, Graton CA 95444, 1-707-823-9125, www.harmonyfarm.com. Carries a wide variety of growing supplies, pest
controls Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and beneficial insects.
Hobby Gardens, P.O. Box 83, Grand Isle, Vermont 05458, 1-802-372-4041, www.hobbygardens.com. Sells greenhouse kits Greenhouse and Hydroponic
Supplies and supplies.
Home Home Harvest Garden Supply, Inc., 995 Potosi Road, Glen Rock, PA 17327, 1-800-348-4769, 717-235-6653 http://HomeHarvest.com. They sell
books, fertilizers, pest controls, beneficial insects, lighting systems, hydroponic systems, greenhouse accessories, Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies
Hoop House Sructures, 1358 Route 28, South Yarmouth, MA 02664, 1-800-760-5192, www.hoophouse.com. Sells greenhouse kits Greenhouse and
Hydroponic Supplies and more.
Hummerts Seed Co., 4510 Earth City Expressway, Earth City, MO 63045, 1-800-325-3055, www.hummert.com . Carries a wide variety of seeds, growing
supplies and more. Has a wholesale division for larger growers and division for smaller, hobby greenhouse needs.
Hydrofarm, 755 Southpoint Blvd.., Petaluma, CA 94954, 1-800-634-9990, www.hydrofarm.com,. Specializes in hydroponic supplies and equipment.
Hydro-Gardens, Inc., P.O. Box 9707, Colorado Springs, CO 80932, 1-800-634-6362, www.hydro-gardens.com. Carries a complete collection of supplies
for growing; specializes in hydroponic vegetable production and sells to commercial growers as well as hobbyists. Also carries seeds and pest-control
supplies. Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and
International Greenhouse Company, 19924 Aurora Ave N.- Suite 47, Seattle, WA 98133 1-888-281-9337, http://www.igcusa.com Carries a wide
selection of greenhouses starting with low-cost hobby kits, to medium priced kits and a good selection of commercial sized greenhouses. Also has a wide
selection of greenhouse supplies.
Jacobs Greenhouse Mfg. Ltd., 371 Talbot Road, Delhi, Ontario, Canada N4B 2A1 www.jacobsgreenhouse.com. Sells greenhouse kits and more.
Janco Greenhouses, 93990 Davis Avenue, Laurel, MD 200723, 1-800-323-6933, www.jancoinc.com. Sells greenhouse kits, supplies, and more.
Jaybird Manufacturing, Inc. 2595-B Clyde Ave., State College, PA 18601 1-814-235-1807, www.jaybird-mfg.com. Carries a variety of foggers for creating
National Garden Wholesale, 5408 NE 88th St. #A-101, Vancouver, WA 98665, 888-478-6544. www.nationalgardenwholsale.com. Carries a number of
specialty garden supplies of interest to greenhouse and hydroponic gardeners.
Nature Perfect, 6100 Redwood Blvd. No. A&B, Novato, CA 94945, 1-888-328-8821, www.natureperfect.com. Hydroponic growing supplies and systems
along with lucky bamboo and other plants.
North American Greenhouse Supplies, #1, 1204 Edmonton Trail NE, Calgary, AB T2E 3K5, Canada, 1-800-567-2718, www.greenhousesolutions.com. Sells
hydroponic equipment and supplies and specializes in a number of measurement meters for ph, light, nutrient, etc.
North Country Creative Structures, Route 197, RD# 1 Box 1060B, Argyle, New York 12809, 1-800-833-2300, www.sunroomliving.com. Sells Greenhouse
kits, supplies Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and more.
Northern Greenhouse Sales, Box 42, Neche, ND 58265, 1-204-327-5540. These folks specialize in woven polyethylene glazing. They also carry greenhouse
building supplies Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and more.
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, P.O. Box 2209, Grass Valley, CA 95945, 1-888-784-1722, www.groworganic.com Sells a variety of fertilizers, gardening
equipment, natural pest controls, seeds, Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and more.
Planet Natural, 1612 Gold Ave., Bozeman, MT 59715, 1-800-289-6656, www.planetnatural.com Carries a variety of Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies
and gardening and natural products.
Polygal, PO. Box 1567, Janesville WI 53547, 1-800-537-0095, www.polygal.com. Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and Manufactures polycarbonate
glazings. They are a wholesaler but they are informative and helpful when shopping for a glazing.
Quick Grow, 1-877-426-4769 http://www.quickgrow.com. Internet site only. Hydroponic-based gardening products, supplies Greenhouse and Hydroponic
Supplies and systems. Also hydroponics articles and information.
Solar Components Corp., 121 Valley St., Manchester, NH 03103, 1-603-668-8186, www.solar-components.com. Specialize in glazing, greenhouse kits,
Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and environmental control systems for greenhouses and sunrooms. Also one of the few companies (if not the only)
to carry fiberglass water containers (tubes) for thermal mass and aquaculture.
SPS Corporation, P.O. Box 20909, San Jose, CA, 95160, 1-800-994-5626, http://spscorp.com. Manufacturer of Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and
polycarbonate glazing materials. They carry the energy efficient triple thick polycarbonate in both 16 mm and 8mm widths. They are a wholesaler but they
are informative and helpful when shopping for a glazing.
Specialty-Lights.com, 1-877-524-5524, http://www.specialty-lights.com/plantgrow.html, Carries Sunlight Supply plant grow lights, hydroponics supplies,
ph meters Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and more. Also find Metal Halide or HPS plant grow lights in 100 - 1000 Watts, T5 fluorescent tek lights,
dual spectrum lights, bulbs, ballasts and reflectors.
Standup Gardens, 1630 Route 33, Greenland, NH 03840, 1-603-427-6000, www.standupgardens.com. Sells specialized Greenhouse and Hydroponic
Supplies and portable gardening beds, some include built-in lighting and irrigation systems.
Sturdi-built Greenhouses, 11304 SW Boones Ferry Rd., Portland OR 97219, 1-800-334-4115, www.sturdi-built.com. Sells greenhouse kits and
Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies.
Sundance Supply, www.sundancesupply.com. Sells polycarbonate, trim components, glazing systems and shade cloth, for Build-It-Yourself greenhouses,
sunrooms and solariums. Extensive how-to information on their web site. This is an Internet catalog only and often has great prices Greenhouse and
Teas Nursery—Orchid and Supply Catalog, P.O. Box 1603, Bellaire, TX 77402-1603. 1-800-446-7723, www.teasnursery.com. Offers tropical plants,
growing supplies, Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and equipment, and more.
Ventura Sunrooms, 8274 Quincy St., Ventura, CA 93004, 1-800-747-3324, www.sunroom.com. Sells greenhouse kits Greenhouse and Hydroponic
Supplies and supplies.
Worm's Way- Urban Farming Source Book™, 7850 North Highway 37, Bloomington IN 47404, 1-800-274-9676, http://wormsway.com. Carries,
hydroponic supplies, lighting, books and other Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supplies and indoor gardening supplies.
Greenhouses, Kits and Supplies
There are many aspects to consider before sowing the first seed or purchasing the materials to build a greenhouse. Careful consideration of the many factors involved in a commercial
greenhouse can save many hours and dollars in losses. While you can't plan for everything, a well-thought-out plan can help plot a course as the business grows.
A large percentage of small businesses fail within the first 2 years. Complete as the information in this document may seem, it is designed to provide general guidelines for starting a
greenhouse business. Spend time reading as much material as possible to prepare for operating a business. Experience is a good teacher, but preparation can help avoid costly mistakes.
Reasons for Starting a Business: Your Motivation
Many people look at a business and think, I can do a better job myself! Many new businesses are established with this spirit. But what are good reasons for wanting to start a greenhouse
Sometimes an individual sees a real need for highquality plants in a town or area. Another individual may see a need in the market for specific kinds of plants, such as rare herbs or
herbaceous perennials. These opportunities for profit are solid reasons for motivating an individual to consider establishing a greenhouse business.
Another reason is a love of plants. While it is important to enjoy your work, a love of plants cannot make you a good businessperson. Remember that the real reason to establish a
business is to make a profit. If you cannot show a profit in several years, the business may no longer be viable.
Are You Ready for Your Own Business?
After considering your motivation for starting a greenhouse business, consider your personality characteristics. Many people want to start a business because they want to be their own
boss. Many entrepreneurs who start businesses will tell you that you are not the boss. The banker becomes a boss if you borrow money. Customers become the bosses because you must
satisfy them. While there may not be any one person to report to at work, going into business for yourself means you now have multiple bosses.
What characteristics do you have that will make you a good greenhouse grower and a good businessperson? The answers to the following questions may help determine if you are ready
to strike out on your own.
Are you action oriented? Can you make decisions after considering the facts at hand? Business people often don't have all the facts needed to make a black-and-white decision. Decisions
frequently must be made under pressure. Can you get the job done? Are you results oriented?
Are you dedicated to success? Can you work long hours, often 7 days a week when necessary? Greenhouse plants must have attention every day. During some seasons, the work can be
70 hours per week or more. You, as the boss, must be prepared to commit the time and attention required. You must be dedicated to getting the job done. You should also learn from your
failures and not get discouraged.
Are you a manager? Can you delegate assignments to employees or do you need to do everything yourself? You cannot do everything yourself if you are the boss. You must hire
competent people as part of your team and give them responsibility to get jobs done.
Are you a good planner? A manager needs to plan for growth in the business, plan when to plant and harvest crops, and plan for unforeseen challenges such as cold temperatures in the
greenhouse or crops that are not ready at harvest.
Do you have the appropriate knowledge and experience? Have you grown the crops you plan to sell? Have you ever operated a business before? It is better to learn (and make mistakes)
by working for another greenhouse and get some good experience before starting your own business. While a college degree in business or horticulture may not be required, there are
many things you will need to know concerning crop culture, greenhouse operation, people management, sales, and the day-to-day operation of a business.
Do you have enough resources? Do you have enough money to start and operate the business while you get established and until you can pay your own bills? What other resources do
you have and are willing to risk on the success of the business? Will you qualify for a loan? Who will give you a business loan?
Do you have people skills? How well do you work with people as the boss and as a salesperson? Can you interview, hire, and fire someone? Can you handle employee and customer
complaints? Managing a business involves managing your time, other peoples time, your customers complaints, and your suppliers, as well as your banker, attorney, accountant, and
Are you flexible? Can you adapt and grow as your business grows? Are you innovative enough to contribute to the expansion of the company? What will customers want next year? Where
will the market be in 5 years?
Analyze yourself carefully to make sure you are prepared for the challenges. Not everyone is made to own a business. Not everyone has all the skills needed to operate a business.
Identify the skills and strengths you have and determine if you can hire another person or several individuals to make up for your weaknesses.
Where Is Your Market?
The marketing process includes a range of activities intended to identify and satisfy the desires of consumers while earning a profit for the business. These activities include identifying
customer needs, developing products and services to meet those needs, establishing promotional programs and pricing for the products and services, and implementing a system of
distribution to the customers. It is essential to identify and understand the market, know who the competition is, and develop a market niche. Remember, grow what sells, not what you
are fond of.
Selling plants directly to consumers in a retail business is different from selling plants wholesale to garden centers or other retail businesses. To determine if a consumer market is large
enough, conduct a demographic study—a study of the characteristics of a particular area. This should help you assess whether a greenhouse business is feasible. Characteristics that
should be of interest are population, projected population growth, age distribution, income levels, age of community, number and size of residential areas, types of housing and lot sizes,
trade areas, gross retail sales, unemployment rate, and major employers. Some important questions to consider are the following:
Do enough people live or shop in the market area you choose?
How much competition do you face?
Are a lot of other businesses already growing and selling the products you would like to produce?
If you will sell plants to a wholesale market:
Are there distributors or wholesalers who could purchase your plants?
Can you sell directly to retailers in your market area?
Are there enough retailers who could purchase your products?
What advantages, such as higher quality plant material, a broader product mix, or improved services, can you offer retailers to encourage them to purchase plants from you rather than
from their current suppliers?
You need to understand the market, how it looks today, and how it will look in 5 years before deciding to go into business. It may be difficult to collect enough information about the
market to make a decision. The local chamber of commerce may be able to offer assistance. Ask the local library for additional information. The telephone book is an excellent resource
when assessing the competition. Take a little time to look for sources such as census reports, demographic studies, newspapers, and the World Wide Web. Other very good information
sources are real estate agencies and the county Extension office. Be creative to find as many facts as possible to help you make decisions about the market.
Characteristics of the markets will have an impact on the type of marketing you choose. Plants can be marketed at wholesale, retail, or, in some cases, mail order. Wholesale production
greenhouses sell relatively large amounts of products to a small number of accounts. They may sell to florists, independent garden centers, grocery stores, mass merchants, home centers,
landscape businesses, or grounds maintenance firms. Many wholesale greenhouses grow a wide range of products throughout the year for daily, seasonal, or contract sales.
A retail greenhouse sells a relatively small amount of products to a large number of individual customers. This type of operation generally requires high product quality, active marketing,
and superior service to succeed. Many retail merchandisers do not grow plants, but purchase all or most of their products from wholesale growers. The greenhouse serves to maintain
plant health until sold, not to increase plant size. Retail growers produce a variety of plants to sell from their own retail operations. Because it is often disruptive to have customers
selecting products in a production facility, the retail facility is often separate from the production facility. The retail facility may be at the same or at a different location.
What Type of Business Will You Establish?
Another consideration in starting a greenhouse business is to decide how the business will be structured legally. Usually, the business is structured in one of three ways: sole
proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. Each legal structure has several advantages and disadvantages. Consult an attorney and accountant to decide on the structure that best suits
Most entrepreneurs start in the sole proprietorship legal form of business. The primary advantage of this form of business is that you, the sole proprietor, are responsible for the assets
and liabilities of the business. You are the boss. You have complete liability, and you are taxed personally for the profits of the business. However, your personal and business assets can
be taken away if the business has financial trouble and you owe creditors money.
A partnership, with one or more partners, is another type of business with some different advantages and disadvantages. A partnership may have more resources and partners sharing
the responsibility and the liabilities, but you have at least one other individual that you can consult regarding business decisions. Some people find this a great advantage because one
person may be good at growing plants and the other may be good at operating a business. This interaction can work to the advantage of both. Like the sole proprietor, all partners are
liable for the business's assets and their own personal assets can be jeopardized if the business has financial difficulty.
The corporation is the third form of business structure. Today, more greenhouse businesses are corporations because of the advantages a corporation offers. Unlike the sole
proprietorship and partnership, the corporation is only liable when financial difficulties arise. Only the business assets can be taken if creditors demand payment. The primary disadvantage
to a corporation is that the business is taxed twice: one time on the profits the corporation earns and a second time when the owners of the corporation receive personal income from that
Where in Your Market Will You Locate Your Business?
Location of the property in the market area will affect the success of the business, especially if it is a retail business. Study the market to determine the best location. Real estate agents
will tell you that the three most important considerations for a retail business are (1) location, (2) location, and (3) location! For a wholesale business, access to the market is more
important than the markets (your customer) access to you. When considering where in the market area to locate a business, think about the following.
Size and shape. The exact size and shape of the property will depend on what size business you are planning to start and the layout of that business. However, a minimum of 3 acres is
recommended. In general, property with more road frontage is more expensive, but it is also more visible to customers. Plan for expansion. Is there enough room to grow in the next 5
years or so until you can afford to purchase more property for the business?
Zoning regulations. Make sure the property is zoned for business. Check to see if zoning is likely to change in the near future or if it has been disputed in the recent past. Are there any
special restrictive clauses that may inhibit your expansion? Are there regulations on the size or height of signs that can be used to promote your business?
Accessibility. The business should be close enough to major roads for delivery and transport trucks to have easy access. Are there any weight limits or restrictions on large trucks? For a
retail greenhouse, locate the business so customers can see it from at least 200 feet and can get to the business easily and safely. Plant shopping is often done on impulse. If customers
have to cross major barriers or make a special effort to get to your business, chances are they won't.
Labor availability. Operating a greenhouse business is labor intensive and obtaining experienced, dependable labor can be troublesome. Readily available labor and support facilities
should be within 20 minutes drive of the greenhouse site. Is there a good source of skilled labor in the area, such as a high school program with horticulture students, a university, college,
or technical school? Also, extra unskilled help will be needed during peak business times. Good sources of extra, part-time help are high school students or older, retired adults. Labor
should be available at a price you can afford.
Water quality and availability. Is city water available or will you have to dig a well? If you dig a well, how much water is available and how long will it last? Many greenhouses require about
6 acrefeet of water per year for every acre of greenhouse production area. Regardless of the source, have a water quality test performed. This is an inexpensive, easy procedure that may
save a lot of money in the future.
Private labs or your county Extension agent can help take the water sample and have it analyzed. Check the level of soluble salts and bicarbonates. Low soluble salts, a level below 0.75
mmhos/cm, is best because fertilizer is often added to the water during irrigation. When present in excess amounts, some salts are toxic to plants. Water bicarbonate level is important in
plant production. A bicarbonate level of less than 100 ppm (parts per million) is recommended for growing most plants.
You will also need a plan for water collection and a plan for water runoff from your greenhouse.
Utilities. How many are available, and what are the connection fees? You will need electricity and, depending on other equipment and needs, you may need gas, water, or sewer services
connected. Check with each supplier to determine costs and to anticipate any difficulties they might have in supplying services.
Taxes. What is the tax rate on the property? Are taxes likely to increase substantially in the future forcing you to move the business elsewhere?
Local building codes. What codes will affect which buildings you construct and where on the property you locate them?
Neighboring businesses. What affect will other businesses have on traffic flow of customers into and out of your business?
Natural slope and drainage of the land. Grading land can be very expensive. Greenhouse structures should be located on a slope of 5 percent or less. Avoid locating a greenhouse on a
flood plain, in a frost pocket, or on a hilltop where heating costs will be high. Avoid an area where nearby structures or trees will cast shadows on the greenhouses.
Resale value. Someday it may be necessary to sell the property, for good or bad reasons, so have an estimate of its resale value in the future.
Your Business Layout
In a wholesale production greenhouse, the primary factor to consider in arranging buildings and equipment is materials flow and how it impacts labor utilization and future expansion. How
will materials come into the facility (delivery and unloading), be stored until needed, and be moved through the production process? How will products move out for packaging and be
delivered to customers? Labor is often the single largest expense in a greenhouse business, therefore, materials movement and handling should be arranged to minimize the labor
required. One possible arrangement is shown in Figure 1.
Materials flow is also important in a retail operation, but customer movement and access are also critical. How will products move from delivery trucks to the display area, from the display
area to the checkout register, and from checkout to the customers vehicle?
What type of structures or areas do you need to start the business? A production facility and several other areas might be useful. Some examples of specific structures and areas to keep
in mind when considering the construction of a business are the following: greenhouses, shade houses, work area, soil mixing area, storage buildings, pesticide room, roadways (large
enough for trucks), parking facilities, sales room, offices, landscaped area (display garden), break room/kitchen, rest rooms, cashier location, loading dock, and shipping area. The sizes of
each of these specific areas depend on plans and goals for your individual business.
Generally, there are two styles of greenhouse layout commonly used for new businesses: detached or freestanding houses or ridge and furrow or gutter connected houses (Figure 2).
Detached greenhouses stand independently and may be constructed using different greenhouse types (gable, Quonset, etc.). Access from the work area to the greenhouses is often
through a central, covered corridor or uncovered aisle. This layout style is common for small growers who are starting with 10,000 square feet or less, but who plan to add houses as the
business grows. This style has advantages and disadvantages. Each house can be controlled by its own heating/cooling system to accommodate crops requiring widely different
environments. Efficient movement of people and materials, however, can be a problem, especially in inclement weather.
Ridge and furrow greenhouses are connected at the eave by a common gutter. Different types of greenhouse construction can be used for a given row of connected houses. Internal walls
may separate individual greenhouse sections where crops require different environments or internal walls may be absent where large, single crops are to be grown. Some advantages of
the ridge and furrow style are lower construction costs compared to detached houses, especially for future expansion, lower heating costs per unit compared to detached houses, and
more efficient movement of people and materials.
The most common greenhouse construction for most new businesses is the Quonset type (Figure 3). These houses are constructed with arched rafters covered with one or two layers of
flexible plastic, usually polyethylene. One disadvantage of polyethylene is that it is subject to ultraviolet light degradation and must be replaced every 2 to 3 years. The cost of construction
for detached houses is lower than the cost for other greenhouse types, usually $2.75 to $3.25 per square foot excluding heating, cooling, and benches. Many new businesses start with
one or more houses that are 25 to 40 feet wide and 90 to 100 feet long. However, this type of construction can be applied to either the detached or the ridge and furrow styles.
Many greenhouse construction companies offer packages for constructing Quonset greenhouses. These commonly come with either steel or aluminum bows and the manufacturer specifies
the bow spacing depending on the structural strength of the bow material. However, before purchasing, select the frame based on load-bearing requirements. This will be determined by
whether or not the structure will support equipment or crops. Hanging the heating system, irrigation equipment, or hanging baskets from the framing will increase the load-bearing
requirement. The end walls are often constructed of wood or metal framing covered in polyethylene or rigid plastic with aluminum doors for access. The side walls are often wood or metal
with special fasteners for holding the polyethylene in place. The foundation for a Quonset greenhouse is usually a concrete footing poured at intervals dictated by the bow spacing.
Polyethylene manufactured for greenhouse application comes in 20- to 50-foot widths, 1 to 8 millimeters thick. It costs $0.12 to $0.18 per square foot. Two layers of polyethylene are
frequently applied to greenhouses to reduce heating demand. Double-layer polyethylene houses generally cost 30 to 40 percent less to heat than do single layer houses. The two layers
are kept air-inflated using a 100 to 150 ft.3/min. squirrel cage blower mounted to the inside plastic layer. Purchase 4-mil plastic for the inside layer and 4- or 6-mil plastic for the outside.
Use 6-mil polyethylene for single layer applications. Polyethylene can be installed on wood portions of a greenhouse by nailing wood batten strips over the film into the foundation boards
and end walls. However, because polyethylene will require replacing frequently, investing in special fasteners will make the job easier. Fastening systems are available for single- or
A second commonly applied greenhouse type is the even span, gable roof (Figure 3). This type of construction is appropriate where rigid glazing materials will be used such as glass or rigid
plastics. The cost of construction for glass-covered, detached- style houses is higher than for Quonset types, usually $5.50 to $7.50 per square foot excluding heating, cooling, and
benches. However, these structures are more permanent and require less maintenance. Gable construction with rigid glazing is a good choice when plans are long-term and the business
is well capitalized. This type of construction can also be applied to either the detached or the ridge and furrow styles.
Gable houses use galvanized steel, aluminum, or a combination of the two materials for constructing the frame. The weight of glazing material, the weight of equipment attached to the
frame, snow and wind loads, and the width of the greenhouse will have an impact on the type and size of materials chosen, size and spacing of support posts, and the design and
construction of trusses. Glass is very heavy and requires strong support while rigid plastics are lighter requiring less support. Trusses and support posts may be spaced 6, 10, or 12 feet
apart depending on load requirements while roof and side bars are spaced according to the width of the glazing material used. In recent years, eave heights have increased to 12 to 15
feet or higher in southern greenhouse construction because taller houses ventilate better and stay cooler. Gable houses, especially those covered with glass, should have a strong,
concrete, or concrete block foundation that extends below the frost line according to building codes.
Glass is the traditional greenhouse covering against which all other materials are judged. Originally, glass panes for greenhouses were 18 by 16 inches, but larger sizes are becoming
more common. Actually, larger panes are less fragile than are smaller panes. Many greenhouses are covered with double-strength float glass (1.8-inch thick) costing $0.85 to $2.00 per
square foot. Large, glass panes and tempered glass may cost $3.00 to $7.00 per square foot.
Fiberglass reinforced panels (FRP) are rigid plastic panels made from acrylic or polycarbonate that come in large, corrugated or flat sheets. FRP panels are available in 24- to 57-inch widths
and up to 24-foot lengths. These materials are durable, retain heat better than glass, and are lightweight (less structural support needed). Light transmission may be better than glass
simply because less structural support is needed, therefore, fewer shadows are created. The cost of FRP panels range from $1.00 to $1.25 per square foot depending on the guaranteed
life-span of the material.
Double-layer structured panels (DSP) are made from acrylic or polycarbonate and are constructed of two layers of plastic held apart by ribs spaced 1 to 2 inches apart. The double-layer
construction increases structural strength and heat retention, but decreases light transmission compared to singlelayer materials. Panels may be 4 feet wide and up to 39 feet long. DSP
made with polycarbonate costs $1.75 to $2.50 per square foot while those made with acrylic costs $2.00 to $3.50 per square foot.
Floors and Walks
The type of floor for a greenhouse will depend on the type of production (pots or flats on the floor or on benches), available capital, and soil drainage. Bare ground should be avoided
because of potential insect, disease, and weed problems and the presence of a muddy growing surface. Weed mat overlain with 4 inches of ¾-inch crushed stone or pea gravel will help
control weeds and provide a porous medium through which water can drain. Areas under benches can be treated the same way. If a solid concrete floor is desired or necessary, install
drainage basins and slope the floor toward the drains. Concrete aisles are preferable where carts and wheeled equipment will be used. Walkways can be 2 to 3 feet wide in a small
greenhouse. Adjust the width of walks for wheeled equipment. Larger greenhouses often have 2- to 3-foot secondary aisles and 4- to 6-foot or wider main aisles.
Benches may be constructed from a variety of materials and arranged in many different ways. Careful planning can result in 70 to 80 percent of floor area devoted to crops with fixed
benches and up to 90 percent utilization with rolling or movable benches. Rolling benches are designed to open an 18- to 24-inch aisle of work space at any location along a row of
Supports for benches should be strong enough to hold a large number of plants and the largest container size anticipated. Wood, metal pipe, or concrete blocks have been used as bench
supports. The bench surface should be strong enough to support plants without sagging, but open to provide water drainage and air movement. Spruce or redwood lath and 1-inch
square, 14-gauge welded-wire fabric or expanded steel mesh make a strong, long lasting, open bench top. Bench height should be 32 to 36 inches and width should be 3 feet if against a
wall or up to 6 feet if accessible from both sides. Benches can be purchased from a manufacturer in a variety of sizes and construction types.
The purposes of ventilation are to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen, to remove hot air, and to lower relative humidity. Forced-air ventilation relies on electric fans controlled by a
thermostat and a louvered intake vent. Fans pull cool air into the greenhouse from the outside through an intake vent and warm, inside air is pushed out. Fans should be mounted in a
waterproof housing with exterior, air-activated louvers to protect electrical components from inclement weather and to keep cold air out during the winter. It is important to install a screen
over the inside of fans to prevent injury. There should be a distance equal to at least 1.5 times the fan diameter between the fans and adjacent structures. The intake vent on the wall
opposite the fans can have an air-activated or motorized louver. Fan capacity should be large enough to exchange the air in a greenhouse at least once per minute. Recommendations for
warm climates call for a fan capacity to remove 12 to 17 cubic feet of air per minute per square foot of floor area.
Natural ventilation has made a comeback in the South in recent years in the form of retractable-roof greenhouses and Quonset houses with roll-up side walls. Retractable-roof
greenhouses come in a variety of types while roll-up side walls on Quonset houses are relatively simple. In both cases, the idea is to move as much of the greenhouse structure out of the
way as possible to expose crops to natural conditions during warm weather.
One of the best ways to cool a greenhouse in the summer is to reduce light intensity. How much reduction to provide depends on the heat load in the greenhouse and the light
requirements of the crops grown. Greenhouse whitewash and shade cloth are popular choices. Greenhouse whitewash is a special kind of latex paint that is diluted in water and sprayed
on the covering surface. This material is designed to be applied in the spring and gradually degrade by the action of rain and sun so that little remains by fall. Shade cloth is a black, green,
or white woven fabric of polypropylene that is applied over the outside of the covering. Shade cloth can be purchased with various weave densities that result in 20 to 80 percent light
reduction. For many greenhouse applications, 30 to 50 percent light reduction should be sufficient.
Evaporative cooling relies on air passing through a porous pad saturated with water. The evaporating water removes heat from the greenhouse. Fan-and-pad systems consist of a
cellulose pad the length of one wall and at least 2 feet tall with water supplied to keep the pad wet during operation. Fans along the opposite wall draw outside air through the pads. Fan-
and-pad systems cool more efficiently when the relative humidity is low, a condition that is infrequent in Southeastern summers. However, a 5 to 10 degree reduction over the outside
temperature can be achieved with a well-designed system.
Two popular heating systems for greenhouses are forced-air unit heaters that burn propane or natural gas and hot water or steam central boilers that burn fuel grade oil. Unit heaters
cost less in initial investment ($.30 to $.50 per square foot) than central boilers ($1.00 to $2.50 per square foot), but cost more to operate ($1.00 per square foot versus $.60 per square
foot). Unit heaters are easier to install and require less maintenance than central boilers require, but even heat distribution can be a problem. Central boilers provide even heat and
combustion takes place away from the greenhouse, but installation can be time consuming. Generally, unit heaters are more appropriate for small greenhouse ranges and central boilers
for larger ranges.
Unit heaters burn gas in a firebox and heated air rises through the inside of a thin-walled heat exchanger on its way to the exhaust chimney. A fan draws air in from the greenhouse,
across the outside of the heat exchanger and into the greenhouse. Thus, most of the heat is removed from the exhaust before it exits the structure. The exhaust chimney must be
sufficiently tall to maintain an upward draft and extend above the greenhouse roof. An 8- to 12-foot chimney is usually sufficient. Open flame heaters must be vented to the outside and be
provided a fresh air supply for complete combustion. Fresh air must be provided by an unobstructed chimney to avoid carbon dioxide buildup and production of ethylene, both detrimental
Two warm-air distribution systems are popular for unit heaters: convection tubes and horizontal airflow. A convection tube is a polyethylene tube connected to the air outlet of the unit
heater, running the length of the greenhouse and sealed at the other end. Warm air is distributed in the greenhouse through rows of 2- to 3-inch diameter holes on each side of the tube.
Horizontal airflow relies on a number of horizontally mounted fans 2 to 3 feet above the plants that circulate heat throughout the house. This system as well as convection tubes may also
be used at times when heating is not required, especially at night, to reduce relative humidity and discourage diseases.
Central boilers burn fuel in a fire box to heat water to 180 degrees F or to steam in a heat exchanger. Exhaust smoke passes through a flue to a chimney that vents exhaust to the
outside. The heated water or steam is delivered to the greenhouse to exchange heat with the air through pipe coils, unit heaters, or a combination of both.
Traditionally, the operation of heating, ventilating, and cooling equipment has been controlled by thermostats at plant level located close to the center of the greenhouse. This system is
still used effectively in small operations, especially those with detached greenhouses. For accurate control, thermostats should be shaded from direct sunlight, preferably by mounting them
in a plastic or wood box ventilated by a small blower. Thermostats have the advantages of being simple, inexpensive, and easy to install, but may be inaccurate and lack coordination with
environmental control equipment.
Step controllers and dedicated microprocessors overcome the limitations of thermostats by providing more complex staging of heating and cooling systems and by coordinating the
activities of heating, cooling, and ventilating equipment. These units generally cost from $800 to $2,500. Greenhouse environmental control computers add additional levels of control over
greenhouse equipment along with weather sensing, environmental data logging and plotting, and other functions.
Hand irrigation using a hose, water breaker, and wand is still one of the most widely used methods of watering crops for small greenhouse operations. However, as the business grows,
the cost in labor, the skill required to water effectively, and the logistics of hand watering large crops become prohibitive. Many attempts have been made to utilize impact sprinkles to
water greenhouse crops, often with poor results. System design is critical to prevent wet and dry spots, excessive foliar wetting, and large volumes of runoff. Boom irrigation is probably
one of the most effective and uniform methods of overhead irrigation. Water is delivered through fan-pattern emitters mounted on a rigid boom that travels back and forth across the
greenhouse. Booms limit runoff when used correctly, but crops must be reasonably uniform in size, age, and water requirement under a single unit to be applicable. The cost of installing
booms is probably prohibitive for most new greenhouse businesses.
Drip emitter watering is probably the most common type of automatic watering system. Water is delivered to each pot through a small-diameter, polyethylene microtube held on the
medium surface by a lead or plastic weight to keep the tube in the pot. Multiple microtubes on a bench are supplied with water from a black polyethylene (usually ¾") header running down
the center of the bench and connected to a water main. Each bench may be turned on or off by a hand valve or electric water solenoid valve installed where the header connects to the
water main. Many benches or whole greenhouses can be divided into watering zones, the size of which depends on the capacity of the water supply. Watering can be controlled by
devices as simple as on/off switches or as complex as an environmental control computer. Drip emitters deliver water directly to the medium surface at low volume and, therefore, do not
wet the foliage. However, their application is usually limited to 4- to 10-inch pots and crops must be reasonably uniform in size, age, and water requirement under a single zone to be
Subirrigation involves supplying water by flooding to the drainage holes in the bottom of the pots. The water is absorbed by capillary action upward through the potting medium. Capillary
mats, gutter benches, flood benches, and flood floors are systems that vary in complexity and cost. All share the advantages of being adaptable to a wide range of container sizes and
have the potential for recycling runoff water. However, monitoring nutrients, pH, soluble salts, and contaminants in closed systems requires good management skills.
A fertilizer injector is a mechanical device that introduces soluble fertilizer dissolved in water (stock solution) into the water pipeline for delivery to the plants. A wide variety of injector
devices are available on the market with a range of capacities (gallons per minute) and costs. Inexpensive units such as Hozon or Syfonex connect between a faucet and hose and suction
fertilizer concentrate from a bucket into the water line using the Venturi principle. These units have a fixed injection ratio delivering 1 gallon of stock in 16 gallons of water (1:16). These
units are only useful for the smallest applications because the injection ratio can vary with changes in water pressure and large volumes of fertilizer concentrate are required. Positive
displacement units such as Anderson, Dosmatic, Dosatron, Gewa, and Smith injectors cost more than Venturi types cost, but are much more accurate and reliable and offer a wider range of
When choosing a fertilizer injector, match the correct model with the maximum water flow rate that the unit will be expected to handle. The range of injection ratios available on a
particular model will influence maximum daily water output and reasonable stock tank size. Some applications require use of chemicals other than fertilizers, have need for separate
injection heads for incompatible chemicals, or present the problem of portable versus fixed installation. Consult the manufacturer to determine the correct model for a particular application.
What crops should you grow? How many should you grow? What does the customer want? Do your customers want annuals, perennials, flowering plants, herbs, or ornamental grasses?
What container sizes do they prefer? How many can they use? You may have some idea about the types of plants you cannot find in the market. You may even have some idea about the
types of plants that may be in demand in the next year or two. There is no easy way to determine which crops to grow and how many, but demand in the market should drive production.
Only produce what you can grow at a cost low enough and sell at a price high enough to make a profit.
The critical side of profitability is cost of production. The level of competition often sets the selling price. Know your cost of production for each crop and select crops and production
methods for profitability. The difference between cost and price—the margin—must be large enough to operate the company, pay yourself a wage, justify the risk of being in business, and
provide a return on your investment. Grow the best quality product demanded by the market you are in. Do not sacrifice quality to lower cost. Without quality, you will not survive in the
To get an idea of current trends in crops, read industry trade magazines such as Greenhouse Grower, Greenhouse Manager, and GrowerTalks. Read homeowner and homemaker
magazines such as Southern Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Woman's Day, House Beautiful, and Family Circle. See what the industry is talking about in terms of new plants that may
have desirable characteristics such as good heat tolerance and disease resistance. See what customers are doing now by reading the publications they read.
First consider producing the most popular varieties and then gradually introduce newer varieties or plants to customers. Add 10 to 30 percent new plant varieties each year. Remember
that it is difficult for people to change anything, including the type of plants they are accustomed to buying. The only way they will change is if you educate them. You will be looked to as
the expert for information and advice. Gather that information yourself and share it with customers. Plant the varieties you grow in a display garden for you and your customers to
evaluate. Visit other gardens to see how well plants perform under similar conditions. Visit trial gardens to learn about new varieties and plan to include them in your production schedule
in the future.
Another factor in selecting a crop to grow is deciding how to grow it. Crops can be started from seeds, plugs, or cuttings. The propagation decision depends on the species, cost,
scheduling and timing of the crop, available facilities and equipment, and availability of seeds, plugs, or cuttings. Determine the cost of production using several different propagation
methods and see which is the most profitable. Your level of experience may also influence the best method to start a crop. For example, if you have never grown bedding plants, starting
with plugs will reduce the risk associated with germination, but it will increase the cost. Eventually, you may want to produce plugs for your business to use or perhaps to sell to other
Complying With Alabama State Laws
Greenhouses need to be licensed by the state of Alabama to conduct business. Plants that are shipped out-of-state must comply with any insect and disease quarantine regulations. For
information on complying with state regulations, contact the Plant Industry Section of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, P.O. Box 3336, Montgomery, AL 36193. Your
local Extension agent can also assist in contacting your county�fs plant industry inspector, who will inspect your crops and provide additional information.
Keeping Good Records
Unfortunately, record keeping is an area of business that many new, small business managers neglect. However, keeping good records is a simple task and in the long run can save time
and money. A computer can make the task of record keeping easier. Some records you will want to keep are the following:
Business records. Keep record of cash flow, inventory, income statements, and balance sheets. Any general accounting records can be kept on a computer and will be available to assist in
planning for growth of the business.
Employee records. A record of hiring dates, hours worked, rewards, and reprimands needs to be kept. Tracking hours worked by employees can help in planning for seasonal needs and in
seeing where the greatest labor needs are.
Crop scheduling. It is useful to record fertilizer applications on crops, planting dates, finishing dates, and other cultural practices for planning future production and as a cultural reference.
Legally, you must keep a record of pesticide spray dates, rates, and chemicals used.
Customer records. Keep a record of names, addresses, and telephone numbers to contact past customers directly. Their payment record can also be useful
The Hydro-nut, Coconut and Bamboo growing system, built by Green Earth Co. to help stop slash
and burn farming In The Fiji Islands, South Pacific. Uses humus and worm casting tea as fertilizer.
Pictures are Bibb Lettuce and Bhut Jolokia Hot Peppesrs growing in The Hydro-nut.
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Table of Contents
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4-- Selling, Marketing, and Economics
5-- Watering and Growing Care
6-- Natural Insect and Disease Control
7-- Soil and Fertilizer Mixtures
8-- Wholesale Price List
9-- Delivery, Collecting, and Using Computers
10-- Guidelines to Organizing Your Business
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Tomatoes in North America are grown to have a long shelf life because they must be transported
and then they ripen in the dark, giant trucks that transports them, or in ethylene chambers. The
tomato, after traveling as much as 1500 miles, the average distance food in the United States
travels, arrives green or barely ripe instead of rotten. But it tastes like plastic. And plastic doesn’
t have much nutritional value.
New York company Better Food Solutions has an idea that would get rid of the middleman and
roof. The hydroponics firm designs, finances, builds and operates the rooftop greenhouses at
grocery stories, and eliminates the need to transport produce for miles until it gets to its
destination, cutting costs and carbon emissions.
With hydroponics, you don’t need soil to grow plants. The roots of a vegetable are immersed in
water while the plant is suspended by a medium like gravel or wool. Better Food Solutions
recently merged with Bright Farm Systems, who design rooftop greenhouses. Bright Farm
Systems claims to grow lettuce with 95% less water, zero land use, and a fraction of the energy
and carbon emissions than lettuce grown using conventional agriculture.
The company has already completed three projects and are are currently working on three different rooftop farms, which
includes plans to build on the roof of an affordable housing development in the South Bronx. All of the rooftop greenhouses
make use of waste heat from the building to heat crops in the winter, capture rainwater from the greenhouse roof to
recover water, and require no pesticides because it is easier to monitor pest populations in a controlled environment. Bright
Farm Systems uses vertically integrated greenhouses, plants stacked on top of each other and suspended on vertical cables
to deal with the issue of reduced space.
The company claims it will eliminate transport costs for the retailer, meaning the vegetables will be reasonably priced for the
retailer to buy from the company, and will give the consumer fresh, tasty, nutritious produce, eaten as soon as 12 hours
after it was picked. Some restaurants have already taken advantage of roof space to grow vegetables, so it’s only a matter
of time before supermarkets catch on.