Considering getting your grow operation set up with a mobile greenhouse? If you’re looking for a way to maximize your output, extend your growing season, and improve your harvests, a mobile greenhouse may be just about one of the best moves you can make - but it’s not without its sticking points.
Our Rolling Thunder mobile greenhouse, for example, has dozens of our customers enjoying longer growing seasons and improved growing conditions all year round. With an easy-to-move rail system that allows the Rolling Thunder to slide easily from one patch of ground to another, this is a prime way to utilize the benefits of a greenhouse along a significantly extended piece of land.
But without the right planning and careful setup, all those benefits offered by your mobile greenhouse could be wasted on unnecessary inefficiencies.
That’s why, whether you’re experienced with mobile greenhouse setups already or just getting started with your first movable greenhouse, it’s critical to keep these key steps in mind to make sure your Rolling Thunder mobile greenhouse is set up for success from the very first season it’s on the ground.
1. Maximize your efficiency by planning all movements throughout the year
Any good grower knows that the secret to a successful grow is to think not just seasonally, but annually. You should plan out your grow, including all harvests, rotations, and plantings, as early in the year as possible. This leaves plenty of room to respond to changing conditions and adjust as need be to maximize success.
Under a mobile greenhouse, this is even more necessary. To ensure you’re not wasting valuable time under the cover of your greenhouse or rushing harvest to get your greenhouse moved to another plot, it’s best to plan out your entire grow season with all greenhouse moves planned ahead. That way, you can avoid unnecessary headaches and get the most out of the mobile protection your greenhouse offers without having to double back or sacrifice quality.
2. Select proper location based on lay of the land
Our Rolling Thunder mobile greenhouse design leads the charge for mobile greenhouses because it utilizes a simple rail and wheel system, allowing a small greenhouse to be moved by just a few people and a larger model to be pulled by a single tractor. But if the land on which the rails lay isn’t straight, flat, and accommodating, making that move can be a lot harder than has to.
Before you begin assembling your greenhouse, make sure the entire area your greenhouse and movement rails will cover is suitably level for a sturdy placement along the track in any position. Good site work is worth its weight in gold.
3. Prepare for higher initial upfront costs per square-foot
Although mobile greenhouses can often offer higher long-term yields for growers looking to make the most of year-round growing, one fact is unavoidable: up-front costs for mobile greenhouses are almost always higher per square foot. This is because mobile greenhouses include the cost of the movement system itself (rails, wheels, etc.) on top of the cost of the greenhouse itself.
This added initial cost, though often paid for in just a few seasons thanks to increased yields, may still play a factor for many growers, and so it is important to understand why the investment you’re making will require patience and time in the long run.
4. Allow soil to experience the cleansing effects of seasonal change
Although many greenhouse growers opt for year-round temperature control and the ability to keep crops in the ground through the cold season, many horticulturists have come to recognize the microbial and nutritional benefits to allowing soil to undergo a yearly deep freeze.
This gives mobile greenhouse growers, who can allow soil to experience this freeze, a major benefit over traditional greenhouses, which would require extensive deconstruction for the same conditions.
5. Plan ahead for installation of heating, cooling, and other added features
Your mobile greenhouse should still operate as a fully-functional greenhouse even with the capability to move - which means any and all electrical, heating, and ventilation technology you may install needs to be able to move with it.
This may take some careful planning to ensure no connections are broken or systems weakened during the moving process - otherwise, you may find yourself struggling to re-install this equipment each and every time you move your mobile greenhouse.
6. Be sure to include all necessary protection from flooding & snow buildup
Perhaps even more so than traditional static greenhouses, movable greenhouse systems are particularly vulnerable to intense storms. With enough force, a heavy load of snow or powerful rain can damage, flood, or even move a mobile greenhouse down your track line or off the tracks altogether. Likewise, the lightweight construction that makes moving your greenhouse so simple can similarly expose weakness to intense weather or heavy snow loads.
We recommend our customers take all possible steps to avoid dangerous snow and water buildup, such as avoiding terraced lands for greenhouse site selection, building at least 20 feet from tall buildings to avoid major snow drifts, and avoiding tree lines, which can damage the poly coating and significantly decrease light levels.
7. Make sure end wall construction allows for easy movement
Although the side walls of your mobile greenhouse will be designed for movement along the rail tracks, the end walls of your mobile greenhouse will likely be more or less the same regardless of where the greenhouse may be located. That’s why it’s critical to make sure your end walls can withstand the movement and will not damage the tracks or your crops and the greenhouse is moved from one location to the next.
Our Rolling Thunder includes metal end wall framing kits, which allows growers to avoid using lumber or other hard-to-adjust materials on their greenhouses’ end walls. This prevents the Rolling Thunder from damaging crops or the mechanical system itself as it moves along the tracks, all while keeping the structure light enough to move simply.
8. Include all necessary wind protection
Just because your mobile greenhouse is designed to move doesn’t mean you always want it to - and for those times when you’re looking for your greenhouse to provide much-needed stability, heavy winds and wind storms can cause some serious headaches.
That’s why we outfit our Rolling Thunder with added wind bracing to help fight back against heavy winds, helping to keep our customers’ mobile greenhouses firmly anchored when they need to be and yet still easy to move when the time comes. Plus, additional purlins can be added to specific setups to protect against exceptionally high wind loads when needed.
9. Take time to consider solar and alternative energy sources
The cost-saving benefits of a mobile greenhouse extend to several aspects of its construction, from increased yields thanks to longer seasons to decrease labor costs compared to disassembling and reassembling otherwise stationery greenhouses. That said, it’s not unreasonable for growers using mobile greenhouses to continue to maximize their margins and decrease their waste - and solar or alternative energies can help do just that.
As with all electrical systems, solar energy in your mobile greenhouse requires plenty of forethought and careful planning. However, by reducing the need for generators or extensions cords, you can significantly reduce the cost and effort of keeping your mobile greenhouse powered on all year long.
10. Plant the right crops to maximize your harvest
A key factor in successfully transitioning to a mobile greenhouse - and to year-round farming in general - is to know well ahead of time not only what you are going to be planting, but when is the best time to start planting it. By carefull
y timing out your grow cycle to best match the capabilities of your mobile greenhouse, you can maximize your output without significantly increasing your input of time and labor.
Some crops, for instance - like kale, beets, broccoli, and spinach can be planted in mid-fall and allowed to “overwinter” through the cold season. Then, when spring rolls around, these plants will sprout up, ready for covering to finish out the growing season. Other plants, meanwhile - like flowers, herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, and more - can be started in late winter or early spring under the protection of the greenhouse, only to be later exposed to the open air when the sprouts have gained a little strength. By balancing your cover-uncover-cover rotation in this way, you can maximize the benefit of your mobile greenhouse all year long.
Ready To Get Your Grow Moving?
For many of our customers who have experienced one or more successful seasons under their Rolling Thunder mobile greenhouse, the transition to mobile greenhouse growing was a difficult, but overall rewarding, shift. And because we don’t expect anyone to take it on all on their own, we’re always more than happy to help get your mobile grow up and going whenever you’re ready.
So whether you’re considering a mobile greenhouse for the first time or are looking to expand your existing operation, it’s important to consider these key - and sometimes unique - challenges faced by mobile greenhouses. Then, you can get going on your path to year-round growing like never before.