Basic Greenhouse Equipment
When you buy athe price usually covers only the structure. All other items — sometimes even the ventilators — have to be bought as `extras’. But this does allow you considerable choice of interior and exterior fittings. There are also many tools and gadgets available, in a variety of designs and price levels. Some of these are essential basic equipment and others can be bought as you need them for particular jobs.
In many greenhouses staging and shelving will be found useful at some time or other. Staging is often thought of as a permanent fixture but it need not be so. There are some small units now available that can be easily assembled and dismantled, moved about from place to place in the greenhouse, and extended to increase staging space if required. This form of staging makes the greenhouse very versatile and is specially useful in a glass-to-ground structure where a wide variety of plants of different heights can be grown and viewed.
Probably the most important of your staging is the top surface. For most purposes a solid surface, strewn with some kind of moisture-retaining material, is the best surface for the warmer months. In winter it is an advantage if the staging top is of an ‘open’ nature to allow for air circulation around plants and, in warmed greenhouses, the distribution of heat; for this, slatted staging is suitable. However it is not common practice to change your staging according to the , nor is it necessary. If you install open-type staging, it is a simple matter to cover it with polythene or asbestos sheeting, and then in mid spring (March) to cover this with a layer of moist shingle or other moisture-retaining material. You can then remove it all in mid autumn (September). This process helps considerably to maintain air humidity.
Instead of the conventional timber slats modern staging, particularly when constructed from metal angle strips, often has a top surface of wire or plastic mesh.
A really solid, substantial staging, made from bricks or concrete has an advantage worth noting in these days of fuel economy. Where a greenhouse receives a good amount of sunshine during the day, the bricks and concrete will store heat and evolve (radiate) it during the night. Sometimes enough warmth will be given out to keep the greenhouse frost free, and it will certainly be enough to keep the temperature more even. It is particularly valuable where rather high temperatures are being maintained for propagation or for growing sub-tropical plants, and where a relatively high warmth and humidity are needed all year round.
Shelving is always useful — even more so if it is portable. Depending on how the basic greenhouse structure is designed it can be fitted to the sides or suspended from the roof — or both. If buying the brackets and the shelving material separately, then thick plate glass shelves are worth considering instead of the conventional planking or slats. Glass is a good choice if your greenhouse is very crowded as it allows more light to reach the plants below. Strips of strong plate glass can sometimes be purchased relatively cheaply as off-cuts from scrap.
Types of thermometer
Thermometers are absolutely indispensable to proper greenhouse management. You will need at least one maximum and minimum thermometer in the greenhouse interior. Others may be useful for interior or exterior frames and outside the greenhouse. In all cases do buy a quality instrument, as this will give you accurate readings and last far longer than a cheap one. Tiny temperature indicators show the highest and lowest temperatures that have been reached; these are usually set with a magnet supplied with the instrument. Designs are now made that can be gravity set, and there are also push button types. You may also want a frost forecast thermometer; this is a kind of hygrometer (for measuring humidity) but it has a scale indicating the possible chance of frost. Advance warning will enable you to check heating equipment, close vents and so on.
Watering and spraying equipment
Even if you intend to install automatic watering, a watering can will be useful at some time, even if only for applying . Choose one with a spout that will easily reach to the back of the staging and one that’s not too heavy for you to lift when it is full. Some designs have extendible spouts. If your greenhouse is fitted with a water tap, then you can use a watering lance that is controlled by a finger-operated valve. Get one with a nozzle that will deliver a fine spray for damping down, as well as a normal flow.
Ideally, you should also buy two hand sprayers. One should have a fairly large capacity for damping down or spraying foliage with water, and for applying pesticides. Another small sprayer, holding about 500cc (1 pt), is useful for treating the odd plant (when it is not necessary to make up a vast amount of pesticide). Don’t forget that foliar feeds can also be applied with sprayers. A special feature to look for when buying a sprayer is a nozzle that can be directed upwards as well as downwards, and that will reach between the plants easily. This will ensure thorough coverage of the undersides of leaves when spraying pesticides; most pests first congregate under the foliage. The pump-up or pneumatic type of sprayer is convenient and economical.
A very useful piece of equipment is a portable potting bench. This is a tray with one side missing that can be placed on the staging when needed. Use it for mixing compost, sowing, pricking out and potting jobs, and store it out of the way when not in use. You can easily make a bench using a sheet of aluminium (available from most do-it-yourself shops, often as off-cuts). Bend three of the edges upwards with pliers to prevent compost being pushed off the sides and back. Aluminium is one of the best materials to use because it is easy to clean and sterilize and is resistant to the hard wear caused by trowelling, cutting operations, and mixing. It is also lightweight and easily made into the shape you want.
Plastic and clay flowerpots
Keep a selection of flowerpots to hand. Plastic is easy to clean, but a few clay pots (if you can get them) are handy from time to time — some plants prefer them. The most useful sizes to keep in store for a wide range of pot plants are 8 or 9cm (3 or 3-1- in) and 13cm (5 in).