Note: This article was written by GVZ Glasshouses.
Most common greenhouse maintenance problems are caused by neglect. It’s not that growers or nurseries deliberately leave maintenance until it’s too late; rather, they tend to be so busy that arranging for it to be done, or doing it themselves, gets put off to a more convenient time. The trouble is, there’s never a more convenient time.
The most common problems come from a lack of cleanliness and faulty equipment. You probably knew about the latter, but perhaps didn’t give much thought to the first one.
In a greenhouse, everything gets dirty. Unless you’re using hydroponics, soil, for example, is literally at the root of everything you grow. And it has a way of finding itself onto many of the surfaces under glass.
As if that wasn’t enough, the glass itself also gets dirty. Water vapor is distributed around the glasshouse, condenses on the inner surfaces, and then when it evaporates, leaves condensation nuclei behind.
On the outside, standing water encourages the growth of fungi and attracts pests.
Aluminium-framed greenhouses accumulate dirt in the joints between panes of glass and also where the glass comes in close contact with the framing itself. Once the dirt and grime is allowed to settle, it can attract pests and mold. And as the weather worsens, so will the problems associated with it.
Keeping Your Glasshouse Clean
The most effective way to clean glass and other surfaces is with a jetwash in-between seasons, when the glasshouse is likely to be empty or nearly so.
Gutters are a nuisance to clean out and probably best left to the experts who are used to climbing up and onto greenhouses. You certainly don’t want to fall through the glass roof. That said, you can sweep the floors anytime, and doing so as you go makes the job a lot easier than waiting until it’s really a mess.
Disinfectants are another thing that must be handled by those who really know what they’re doing. If you’re not sure or haven’t done it before, then it’s probably a good idea to get someone to do it for you. Chemicals can be dangerous if they are mishandled.
Everything in a glasshouse, including the structure itself, can break or malfunction. That means that you need to constantly be on the lookout for problems, and get them fixed as soon as possible.
• Heaters, Heaters tend to corrode when pipes leak. It’s much cheaper to catch a leak early than to wait until it becomes a steady drip or worse. You also want to make sure you have enough fuel stored up before you need it. Buy it during the off-season. Then you’ll have it when you need it.
• Ventilation equipment, Door and window seals should be checked each season. They tend to break down with use and from changes in the weather. Check your windows periodically to make sure that the close all the way. Do this at least every season. You want to find out that they don’t seal properly before the cold weather sets in; not after.
• Screens. Screens also wear with use. Be sure you check them for tears and holes. You don’t want one coming apart when you need to open it, especially if it occurs on one of those days where the sun is in and out of the clouds all day.
• Fans. Keep fans free of the dirt and gunge that builds up from excessive lubrication. Wherever there are moving parts, apply only as much as you need to do the job; and be sure to wipe off the excess when you’re finished.
• Irrigation equipment. Check everything that transports or stores water for leaks or cracks. Remember that water finds its own level, so you may have to do some investigating to find the actual source of the problem.
• Glasshouses. Check for cracked or broken glass and replace damaged panes as soon as you notice them. Gaps can let insects in, and water that freezes in the cracks can make the situation much worse. Look over all of your glasshouse; not just in the obvious high use areas. It’s worth taking a close look after a day of high winds or a strong storm. Look especially for signs of corrosion or breaks in the metal itself.
• Other. There are likely to be parts of your glasshouse that you don’t visit very often. Don’t overlook these. Check your wires, for example, for evidence of wear and gnawing. If you happen to have a back-up power supply, then run it at least once per year so that you’re confident that it works. And check your lights. LEDs and high-efficiency bulbs last longer than the old tungsten lamps, but nothing lasts forever. Inspect these things before you need them.
It’s been said that that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to your glasshouse and the equipment that you use with it.
The easiest way to prevent problems from occurring is to follow a routine inspection schedule. If you do a little bit each week or every couple of weeks, then it won’t take you more than a few minutes at a time. Create a routine that works for you. and then put it into practice. You can even delegate the easy stuff. The goal, of course, is to prevent downtime.
If you think you’re too busy to inspect your equipment, then think about what you stand to lose if your equipment broke down for a couple of hours, a day or longer.