Growing Greenhouse Vegetables: Timing The Gaps

For ornamental growers looking for a new product for the gap seasons between traditional crops, vegetables can make a lot of sense. Many of the necessary structures, equipment and techniques are familiar. But there is plenty to learn as well, from nutrition to irrigation strategies to variety selection — a lot of which revolves around timing.

We talked with Paul Gallione of Johnny’s Selected Seeds to learn more about the steps he recommends for growers getting started in vegetable production.
 
GG: A lot of the details for adding a crop like vegetables are obviously going to vary for every grower and his own situation. How does timing impact these decisions?

Gallione: There’s more to it than just saying, “OK, I’m an ornamental grower and my greenhouse is empty and I’m going to grow vegetables.” Don’t get me wrong — there’s probably a lot of equipment, labor and infrastructure that can be utilized for vegetable production and therefore make the whole farm more profitable, because you don’t have infrastructure or equipment sitting idle. But there are some really important considerations before you jump into vegetables.
 
If you’re going to grow vegetables in the gaps between ornamental crops, it’s really important to understand the transition or gap time — how long that period is. When are the bedding plants out of the greenhouses and other structures? When can I do that transition?

If you only have two months between crops, you may only grow certain types of crops — maybe leafy greens. If you have four months or six months or even more, you could think about fruit crops.
 
GG: Are growers going to need to consider adjustments with their structures to get into vegetables between ornamental crops?

Gallione: Tomatoes are probably one of the easier fruiting crops to grow. Cucumbers and peppers may be a little more difficult just because of insect pressures and environmental concerns in terms of temperatures and such in the greenhouse.

When it comes to growing vegetables in summer temperatures, growers may want to think about either applying shading compound to the structures or utilizing a shade cloth of some sort — or increase ventilation or evaporative coolers. That’s one thing they need to be aware of, because I would have to think a lot of your bedding plant growers don’t grow things through the summer unless it’s a fall crop of mums or something, and a lot of that is only started in August. They may be used to having three months with nothing in the greenhouse. And those are the three months that we have our most intense sunlight and the longest duration of sunlight.

In a lot of crops, tomatoes for example, pollen can be damaged over 90°F. You can have fruiting issues. Same thing with peppers — you can have blossom drop. Cucumbers can take a little more heat but then there are some insect concerns there.

Also, unfortunately, some of the shorter season crops like lettuce and spinach will not tolerate those hot temperatures growers may find. But something like lettuce or spinach could be a fall crop.

GG: Are there pest issues in moving back and forth from ornamentals to vegetables?

Gallione: That’s one thing that’s really important when you’re growing multiple crops in the greenhouse or any kind of structure. Your Greenhouse Grower readers are making money from selling ornamental bedding plants. The last thing they want to do is jeopardize that.

If a grower is growing a fall/winter crop, they want to make sure that every bit of green matter is out of that greenhouse or structure for at least two weeks before starting the next crop to eliminate what we would call the green bridge. That’s a situation where a disease or an insect is able to survive to get to that next crop.

Say, for example, you have a winter lettuce crop and unfortunately that lettuce crop has two-spotted spider mite. If you’re not considering the timing, you may not get the lettuce out of there when it’s done and leave enough time before you plant your crop of bedding plants. All of a sudden, you’re noticing your bedding plants are going down hard from two-spotted spider mite.

So you have to pay close attention to the timing and eliminate that green bridge. That’s an important consideration.

GG: Are there differences in marketing ornamentals and vegetables growers need to consider?

Gallione: It is different. The most disappointing thing a grower can face is not losing a crop, but having a bumper crop and not being able to get rid of it. So, right from the get-go, you have to think about marketing. Where’s this product going to go?

[Before you start] there has to be some market research and some thought put into the process to determine what vegetables you have a demand for and how you are going to market those vegetables.

It happened to me because I’m a part-time grower with fresh market vegetables, along with my role at Johnny’s. And it’s really discouraging when you put the time and effort and resources into producing a crop and then you can barely give it away.

It’s one thing if you’re not really concerned about the return but your readership is definitely going to be concerned about that. I’m sure they could find other things that are more enjoyable to keep busy if they’re going to lose money at it.

GG: Have you seen any cool examples of ornamental growers making use of their space for a vegetable crop?

Gallione: I read a story about a bedding plant grower in Connecticut that had taken one of their tunnels, and instead of hanging baskets with fuchsia or petunias — because they’re all done at that point in the season — they filled up hanging baskets with cucumbers. They grew cucumbers in a vertical method. But instead of the way most vegetable growers would plant cucumbers in the ground with trellises going upward, they put them in hanging baskets and let gravity help out with the trellis. And that worked out really nicely for them from what I understand.

I believe they had a retail operation so they were easily able to incorporate that extra product. Here they were, taking a structure that was not in production and bringing in money.

Leave a Reply

More From Management...
Green Fuse Lupine Staircase Pink

September 24, 2017

How to Effectively Grow Staircase Lupine

The Staircase Lupine series, part of Green Fuse Botanicals’ First Light Perennials collection, has the potential to put on a great display with solid and bicolor hues.

Read More
Terra Nova 2018 Catalog

September 23, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries’ Latest Plant Catalog is Now Available

The new 2017-2018 plant catalog, which features hundreds of varieties, series, and collections from Terra Nova Nurseries, pays homage to the company’s 25th anniversary.

Read More
Steve Garvey, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

September 23, 2017

Producing Quality Plants in the Greenhouse Starts From Day One

It's common for growers to make mistakes. What you learn from those mistakes is what sets you apart as a grower and where quality starts.

Read More
Latest Stories
Steve Garvey, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

September 23, 2017

Producing Quality Plants in the Greenhouse Starts From …

It's common for growers to make mistakes. What you learn from those mistakes is what sets you apart as a grower and where quality starts.

Read More
Hurricane Irma Damage

September 22, 2017

Hurricane Recovery Update: Aris Resumes Shipping, Assis…

Harvey and Irma wreaked havoc on the floriculture and nursery industries in Texas, Florida, and elsewhere. Here are the latest updates.

Read More
Quality in the Greenhouse

September 21, 2017

Two Head Growers and a Retail Live Goods Buyer Talk Bes…

Ultimately, the quality of the plants you grow will be responsible for the success of the consumer, and consumer success will ideally translate to repeat sales. That’s why quality must be a top priority for all growers, according to Brad Julian, a Live Goods Buyer for Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Head Growers Dennis Crum of Four Star Greenhouse and Joe Moore of Lucas Greenhouses.

Read More

September 21, 2017

Horticulture Is All About Connections

The beauty of our industry is that we are more than willing to reach out and help those around us. What connections can you make today to help your business, and what can you offer to help another grower?

Read More

September 19, 2017

Horticulture Business Leaders Demand Resolution to Labo…

AmericanHort's Impact Washington event was an importantly timed mission of advocacy for the green industry, delivering messages to lawmakers on three of the most pressing issues – labor and the workforce, research and innovation, and tax reform.

Read More
MANTS

September 16, 2017

Registration for MANTS 2018 Now Open

MANTS, which takes place Jan. 10-12, 2018, in Baltimore, MD, brings together green industry professionals from around the world.

Read More
GGS Cannabis Production

September 14, 2017

Griffin Workshop to Provide Education to New Cannabis P…

Griffin will be hosting a half-day educational workshop in Lancaster, PA, on Sept. 26, that will focus on crop protection and nutrition, as well as sanitation.

Read More
AmericanHort Women in Horticulture Panel

September 13, 2017

Women Making Strides in Horticulture, But More Progress…

Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff helped moderate a "Women in Horticulture" panel discussion at Cultivate'17, in which plant scientists, growers, marketers, and company presidents talked about how they were called to horticulture and the evolution of their careers since.

Read More
Trends Slide - No Logo

September 12, 2017

Garden Media Group’s 2018 Trends Report Highlights Natu…

This year’s Garden Trends report offers seven trends that you can use to inspire mental wellness. Take a look to see how many trends you’re already using to connect with your customers.

Read More
Worker taking cuttings at Vivero Internacional.

September 11, 2017

Vivero Internacional Elevates Clean Cuttings to New Hei…

One of the last independent cutting operations, this fast-growing company raises the standard for delivering clean, high-quality unrooted cuttings.

Read More
Farm at Penny Lane

September 7, 2017

Cast Your Vote in National Garden Bureau’s Therapeutic …

Online voting is now open for the Therapeutic Garden Grant Program, which will split $5,000 in grant money among three therapeutic gardens.

Read More
Aron Hoff feature image

September 6, 2017

Head Grower of the Year Aron Hoff Never Stops Learning

Hoff originally wanted to be a teacher. Now, he is incorporating those skills he learned into his leadership and desire to keep learning and educating.

Read More
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

September 5, 2017

C. Raker & Sons Acquired By Roberta’s Unique Garden…

Ownership will change hands in December, and Raker will supply young plants for the 2018 season. Beyond that, leadership of the two operations say they are excited to move forward with a partnership that will continue to supply the industry, and gardeners, with top-quality plants.

Read More
Container Gardening

September 5, 2017

14 Consumer Gardening Trends That Have Stood the Test o…

In early September, the Garden Media Group will unveil its 2018 Garden Trends report. To whet your appetite, here’s a look back at several trends that remain relevant today.

Read More

August 29, 2017

Know Your Grower: New Platform Brings Consumer Transpar…

The new Follow Your Flower or Plant vignette from MPS allows consumers to learn all about the producers of the plants and flowers they see at retail, and how sustainably their products are grown.

Read More

August 29, 2017

7 Popular Retail Trends from the 2017 IGC Show

Almost every type of retail garden product imaginable filled the booths on the tradeshow floor at the 2017 IGC Show held in August in Chicago, from pots and containers to garden tools, patio furniture, and decorative items. Here are seven gardening and product trends that stood out at the show.

Read More
green-plan-it-gardening-outdoor-nature-explore-classroom

August 29, 2017

First-Of-Its-Kind Federal Grant Designed to Stimulate C…

The National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture has received a USDA grant to help develop strategies and tactics to grow the practice of gardening 20% by 2025.

Read More
cannabis-crop-protection

August 24, 2017

California State Water Board Accepting Comments on Cann…

Producers in California have until Sept. 6 to weigh in on how regulations might affect them.

Read More