June 19, 2008

Attacking Growers’ Diverse Challenges

No two greenhouses are alike. Each has its own set of differences, such as the crops, the climate, the production volume, the existing facilities and more. It is also true that no two greenhouse builders are exactly alike in their approaches to the challenges provided by the diversity of growers. "Most of the commercial growers we deal with have a little bit of glass and have a little bit of polyethylene, as well as some longer-term plastics covering," says Scott Thompson, executive vice president at X.S. Smith Inc., Washington, N.C. "They like to see a mixture, because at certain times of the year or in stages of their production cycle, those areas are constantly in operation. Our mission is to try to design and create systems that will accommodate their particular production needs for the crop they grow, as well as the region where they are producing that crop." Maintaining temperatures […]

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June 19, 2008

Repelling Radiant Energy

For bedding plant growers who grow every month of the year, shading, cooling and ventilating prevent greenhouses from overheating and creating a stressful environment for the plants. The greenhouse was developed for plant protection against local climatic extreme pressures such as wind, rain, snow and insects. The greenhouse structure is the starting point for controlling the climate or for creating a climate that is tolerable and ideal for plants. If one is growing year-round most anywhere in North America, there are certain months when overheating is a problem. The plants being grown need to be protected from a too stressful environment. Ventilating and/or cooling must be used to drive the temperature down. From a practical perspective, the first step in the cooling of a greenhouse is to ventilate it or exchange the captured heat with fresh, outdoor air. For example, let the wind extract the hot air or install exhaust fans […]

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June 19, 2008

Fueling Expansion

Generation X growers are ready for tomorrow’s challenges. Pictured from left are John Bonner, sister Jill Cain with husband Todd Cain. When we visited, they were growing Easter crops in new greenhouses.In less than 10 years, Eagle Creek Growers in Mantua, Ohio, has emerged as a model mid-sized operation with room to grow. The modern growing operation was founded in 1998 by Jill (Bonner) Cain about an hour’s drive southeast of Cleveland. She was fresh out of college, implementing a business plan she drafted for a course at Ohio University. Up until recently, Eagle Creek’s primary customer was Eagle Creek Garden Center, an upscale destination garden center she opened in nearby Bainbridge four years later. In 2003, her brother, John Bonner, and husband, Todd Cain, took over the wholesale operation while Jill focused most of her time on retail. Both John and Jill are third-generation entrepreneurs in our industry. Their grandfather, […]

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June 19, 2008

Who’s Your Mr. Fix-It?

To be honest, greenhouses mystify me. I don’t know how all of you out there do it. So much can go wrong–disease and pests, nutrition–and that’s just problems with your plants. Your structures are a whole other story. There are so many things to worry about–not enough heat, too much heat, expensive heat, water logistics. And, of course, there are the more extreme worries–debilitating hurricanes, fires and snowstorms. Getting ahead and staying ahead of structures issues is a job in itself, forget about growing great plants. That’s why we were so impressed when we visited Eagle Creek’s greenhouses in Mantua, Ohio. Siblings John Bonner and Jill Cain gave us the grand tour of the facilities, but Gary Jansen, the facility’s maintenance magician and all-around Mr. Fix-It, really impressed us. The facility has switched its fuel source from petroleum-based products to wood-based products. And the mid-sized operation has two huge indoor pools […]

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June 19, 2008

Under New Management

Last fall, the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association (NGMA) contracted with Calabrese Management, an organizational management firm based in Harrisburg, Pa. After 10 years with its previous executive director, Melanie Hughes of Hughes & Stuart Marketing in Littleton, Colo., NGMA is sure to go through some changes. NGMA’s new executive director, Denise R. Calabrese, owner of Calabrese Management, says her firm’s goal is to work with the volunteer leadership to strengthen NGMA as an organization. “We will be working with the board of directors to analyze existing programs and ensure that the needs of the industry are met,” she says. Some of these more imminent improvements, she adds, will be in the organization’s communication structure–improving NGMA’s Web site and newsletter, and increasing electronic communications. On the educational side, NGMA’s meeting agendas will be strengthened to provide valuable information to the industry, Calabrese says. For instance, the annual meeting NGMA hosts each spring […]

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June 18, 2008

Insights on Retractable Roof Greenhouses

Retractable roofs first came on the production greenhouse scene in 1991. In these past 16 years what have we learned about their role in cooling, ventilating and shading? The concept of opening the greenhouse’s roof to get cooler air to plants is a logical one that most growers are catching on to, according to Richard Vollebregt, President of Cravo Equipment Ltd., Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Long growing seasons, varied needs of plants and changing weather conditions make retractable roof greenhouses and their versatility an asset. This January, a freeze surprised growers on the West Coast, where the promise of mild temperatures lulled growers into leaving crops unprotected against the elements. “The plants that were in the greenhouse were okay,” Vollebregt says. “What happened to all the plants that were outside? They died.” The balance between healthy, strong plants that are grown outside and protected plants in the greenhouse that need to […]

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June 18, 2008

Nurturing Urban Gardens

An urban garden in St. Louis will be able to produce more fresh produce for its neighborhood this spring thanks to a new greenhouse it received from Nexus Corp. as part of a national contest. New Roots Urban Farm was chosen as the winning entry. The nonprofit was founded by four friends in 2004 to provide healthy, locally grown food for the impoverished neighborhood located between St. Louis Place and the city’s Old North neighborhoods. No grocery stores are available within walking distance to offer healthy food options. The consensus-based collective is dedicated to serving as a model for urban agriculture, food security and self sustainability. Last year, the farm harvested more than 3,000 pounds of fresh produce and distributed it through its farmers market, which accepts food stamps, and through food pantries, churches and community centers. With the new Cultivator Premier Kit Greenhouse from Nexus, the farm will be […]

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June 11, 2008

What’s Old Is New Again

Anthura set out to build a new greenhouse that would centralize young plant production for the Anthura Plant, Anthura Microplants and Anthura Production departments. The design of the Palm house of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London was the source of the new design, which incorporates curved sidewalls and a second story. The greenhouse is being built by JM van der Hoeven B.V. under the guidance of architect Aad Bom. The construction is due to be completed by the end of 2008. The design of Anthura’s new facility is based on the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which was built in 1848. Most greenhouses of the time were built near royal palaces, and many included orangeries, palm houses, in addition to botanic plant collections. The greenhouses of that period exhibited ancient examples of structural steelwork, which give the greenhouses of that era that still stand monument status. New Design While […]

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June 11, 2008

Avoiding Overheating

You can block heat using expensive computer or manually operated shades or by applying colored coatings to glass. Shades are prone to operational problems and use energy. Colored coatings need to be removed to maximize light transmission after the hottest time of the year. For existing glass greenhouses, another option is to install clear, colorless window film that will block unwanted heat while allowing in desirable natural light. Once installed, such film may last up to 20 years. It does not need to be removed, does not change the appearance or visual clarity of the glass, does not need special care and will not fail to perform because of computer or mechanical malfunction. Affix it and forget it. Tinted window films do reduce heat into greenhouses, but they can also reduce a significant percentage of visible light through the glass, according to V-Kool President & CEO Marty Watts. “Most conventional […]

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June 11, 2008

Master Builders

While most growers got into the greenhouse business because they love to grow plants, others really take pride in building greenhouses and have dedicated employees and crews. One prime example is George Lucas of Lucas Greenhouse in Monroeville, N.J. While he and his wife founded the business with just 9,000 square feet of greenhouse about 30 years ago, today Lucas Greenhouse spans 630,000 square feet and ranks at No. 100 on our Top 100 Growers. The company has undergone three major buildouts with Nexus Greenhouse Systems since 2002 and just constructed 170,000 square feet of Dual Atrium greenhouses with a glass roof and polycarbonate sides and gables using its own crews. This summer, Lucas will be adding another 130,000 square feet. Where is all this growth coming from? Young plants. Forty percent of production is propagation and prefinished plants, and the rest is finished plants sold to independent garden centers within […]

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June 11, 2008

Building A New Greenhouse

So you’re thinking of building a new greenhouse? Here are some tips I’ve learned building our new propagation range in Fresno, Calif. The first thing on your list should be to create a master plan on how your structures will be laid out now and potentially in the future. This should include all utilities entering the greenhouses and any special requirements for your equipment. You might not build on your greenhouse for a while, but you should always give yourself the option of adding on in the future without any obstructions. Questions you need to address during this process: – Can the new greenhouse(s) be built on our existing property without any modifications? – Do we need to move older structures to accommodate our new greenhouses? To keep the flow of your new greenhouse, it might be better to move some of your existing structures. – What are the timelines to […]

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March 19, 2008

The Liquid Crystaled Greenhouse

The Cleveland Botanical Garden has teamed with Kent State University’s Liquid Crystal Institute in an attempt to examine how greenhouse plants grow under sunlight that passes through liquid crystal windows.  The idea, highlighted in a recent edition of the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, spawned from the botanical garden’s desire to reduce the cost of energy. If results of the experiment are positive enough, a second experiment will be conducted to determine whether ultraviolet and infrared waves can be modified enough to, perhaps, shorten the time it takes plants to grow.  And that’s where cost-saving enters play. If liquid crystals prove more beneficial in growing plants, greenhouse owners can use them instead of shade cloths to control the amount of sunlight entering their structures.  Liquid crystals aren’t common in greenhouse coverings. They’re usually found in television screens and wristwatches, but that didn’t stop Cleveland Botanical Garden from pursuing this experiment and considering […]

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