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A home greenhouse can be a gardener’s dream come true. Whether you intend to grow your flowers and veggies directly in the greenhouse or simply want to take advantage of starting seedlings earlier in the spring, a greenhouse offers many benefits to the home gardener. But it does require some special equipment and tools.
Gardening tools that fit the size of the job are always necessary. While you can use some of your regular gardening tools in the greenhouse, it is often best to purchase tools with your greenhouse in mind. Trowels, scoops, rakes, and pruners should be the appropriate size for greenhouse use, as your regular garden tools may be too large to use efficiently in the greenhouse.
Of course, there are other tools and supplies, like seed starting trays, quality potting mix, fans, and heaters you will need to grow seedlings in the greenhouse, too successfully. Follow this guideline for selecting the tools you will need for your new greenhouse.
Tools designed for in the garden, like hoes and rakes, often have long handles so that you can work efficiently in a large area. While a long-handled hoe may work great to hill up those potatoes or weed around your tomatoes, the handle will only get in the way when working in the greenhouse.
A short-handled rake and hoe can come in handy for cleaning up in the greenhouse. Look for one with quality construction and a comfortable handgrip with a handle no more than three feet long. This will allow you to work in the greenhouse without the danger of tipping over pots or damaging nearby seedlings with the long handle of a traditional rake or hoe.
Scoops are essential when working in the greenhouse as they allow you to work with potting mixes and soil with ease. You will need one or two medium-sized scoops that are 3 to 4 inches across. These scoops are ideal for scooping potting soil from the bag, measuring fertilizer or other soil additives, or even holding a seedling when you are transferring it to a larger pot.
You will also need a larger scoop about 8 or 9 inches across to fill large plant pots or mulch around plants. You can buy gardening scoops at your local home improvement center or the hardware store.
Whether you call them pruners, clippers, or garden sheers really doesn’t matter. You will need several pairs to cut string when tying up your plants and to trim or prune your plants. It is best to choose different sizes, so you will always have the right pair to get the job done. A pruning saw is also beneficial if you intend to grow large plants in the greenhouse.
Pruners and clippers come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Bypass clippers are ideal for trimming old branches off large plants, while trimmers with long thin blades make it easy to get in close to the plant to nip off dead leaves and flowers.
Choose trimmers and pruners that fit your hands comfortably. Check that the clippers do not open wider than your hand can stretch. Using them should be comfortable. Clippers or pruners that are too large for your hand can cause stress to your muscles and joints, leading to pain.
How do you know the correct size pruners or clippers to buy?
Many people assume that all pruners and clippers will work for any hand size, but this simply isn’t true. To determine the correct size for your hands, measure your hand across the base of your fingers. Then measure the distance from the bottom of your hand (near the wrist) to the tip of your middle finger. Use these measurements as a guide to choose the right-sized handheld pruners for you.
|Hand Size||Handheld Pruner Size|
|3 ½ “ wide by 6 ¼ “ high||½ inch pruner|
|3 ½ to 4 “ wide by 6 ½” to 8 “ high||¾ inch pruner|
|Large Hands||1-inch pruner|
If you have small hands, consider long-handled pruners or clippers that provide more cutting power without causing stress to your hands.
Trowels are essential for greenhouse work and can be used to loosen root-bound plants from their pots and remove them without damaging the roots, to separate plants to be divided and potted in new pots, and to loosen dried soil from containers. Trowels come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most trowels are smooth, but some are serrated, making them ideal for cutting through tough roots.
Adding several trowels in varying sizes to your arsenal of greenhouse tools is sure to be appreciated and will also make your work more manageable.
Totes or Bins
Totes and bins for storing soil and fertilizers are a must for the greenhouse as they keep everything fresh and at your fingertips. Consider purchasing several totes or storage bins in varying sizes for your greenhouse. Small storage containers can also be used to store seeds or to keep your hand tools together.
If space is at a premium in your greenhouse, consider buying stackable totes and bins that can be stored under shelves or in the corner of the greenhouse.
Watering cans are vital for your greenhouse. Not only will you need them for watering your plants and seedlings, but you can also use them to apply water-soluble fertilizer too. Choose sturdy cans that are small enough for you to handle easily. A large can will hold more water, but it will be heavy to handle, too.
Your watering can should be light enough when filled that you can lift and pour comfortably with one hand.
A large water reservoir saves time and energy when caring for your plants in the greenhouse. You can either use them to store freshwater or mix a large batch of liquid fertilizer for your plants.
You can use a large plastic drum, a rain barrel, or another plastic barrel as a water reservoir, or you can purchase water reservoirs designed for greenhouse use. One that opens at the top makes it convenient for filling a watering can or dipping out water.
Choose a size that holds enough fresh water for a few days for your needs. Water that sits for weeks at a time will stagnate and need to be replaced. Your water reservoir should hold enough water to last a few days before refilling.
Hoses and Watering Wands
Garden hoses and watering wands are essential for properly caring for your greenhouse plants. You will need the hose to refill your water reservoir, water large plants, clean garden tools, and wash the soil from your hands.
Watering wands attach to the garden hose so that you can water overhead plants with ease. Choose one that is long enough to reach your overhead plants comfortably.
Seed Starting Trays and Pots
Seed starting trays and plant pots will be in high demand in your greenhouse. Be sure to purchase enough to meet your needs throughout the summer, as they may be more difficult to find later in the season. Likewise, if you intend to grow plants through the winter, make sure you have the supplies and tools you need ahead of time. Many outlets stop selling plant supplies and tools when fall arrives, making room for winter items.
Choose pots in a variety of sizes, from tiny 2-inch pots for delicate succulents and other small plants to 8-inch (or larger) pots for growing perennials in the greenhouse. You can order greenhouse pots online for a reasonable rate.
Remember, your greenhouse pots and containers don’t need to be decorative if you are only starting plants for your vegetable and flower garden. Simple plastic florist pots work just as well and are less expensive to buy.
Greenhouses heat up quickly in the summer sun and can overheat your plants unless you provide them with adequate ventilation. Simple fans can do the trick in a small greenhouse. Buy at least two medium to large fans for your greenhouse, so you can use them at opposite ends of the greenhouse to move air and cool it down on hot days.
Excessive heat isn’t the only reason your greenhouse needs good air circulation. When the plants are actively performing photosynthesis, the carbon dioxide near the foliage is depleted during the daytime. Using a fan circulates fresh air to the foliage giving them the carbon dioxide they need for healthy growth. Air circulation also reduces the moisture near the foliage of your plants and prevents diseases.
There are many fans available for greenhouse use, including solar fans that come on automatically at the desired temperature. The type of fan you need in your greenhouse depends on the size of the greenhouse, your growing region, and your budget.
How many fans do your need for a greenhouse?
According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the fan capacity should be twice the floor area of your greenhouse. To determine the fan capacity you need, multiply the length and width of the floor area of your greenhouse and then double that number to determine the cubic feet of airflow per minute (cfm) needed.
Divide the total cfm needed for your greenhouse by the cfm of the fan (this is commonly labeled on the fan) to determine how many fans you need to ventilate your greenhouse properly. Always round up to the next number. For example, if your calculations indicate you need 2.6 fans, use three fans in your greenhouse.
If you live in a cold climate where the winters are below freezing, you will need a heater in your greenhouse to prevent your plants from freezing. Even though the greenhouse seems warm and toasty during the day, your greenhouse will cool off quickly when temperatures drop outside.
The size and type of heater you need depend on the size of your greenhouse and how cold it gets outside at night. Many heaters are available, from small electric or propane space heaters to heaters designed specifically for greenhouses.
Talk to other greenhouse owners in your area to determine the best size and type of heater for your greenhouse.
Do you need to heat a greenhouse?
Technically, greenhouses are warmed by the sun and do not have supplemental heat, while hothouses have a heat source. Still, the terms have become interchangeable, and most gardeners don’t distinguish between the two.
If you use your greenhouse to grow flowers and veggies in season, it does not need to be heated. You can typically grow tender seedlings in an unheated greenhouse two to three weeks before it is safe to set them outside. Likewise, you can extend the growing season by two to three weeks in the fall by growing your plants in the greenhouse.
If you intend to try your hand at year-round growing or want to start your seedlings weeks in advance in the spring, you will need supplemental heat in your greenhouse.
How big should a backyard greenhouse be?
There is no easy answer to how big your greenhouse should be, but there are some basic guidelines. A small greenhouse will do the trick if you are new to growing in a greenhouse or just want to start a few seedlings in the spring. Small backyard greenhouses range from 4’ by 6’ to 8’ by 10’, with a 6’ by 8’ greenhouse being the most popular size for beginners.
A 6’ by 8’ greenhouse will give you plenty of room for seed, starting with room left over for growing plants during the summer, too.