Days are getting shorter, nights are getting longer, and temperatures are dropping - together, these signs are a reminder to every grower that the bad weather of winter will be here soon. That means it’s time to think about taking protective action, and that means winterizing your greenhouse.
Proper winterizing procedures can make a serious difference for your grow, and may just be the key to keeping your hardy winter crops coming through the fall and winter and straight through until spring.
Fortunately, prepping your grow space for the cold of winter doesn’t have to be difficult - and by following these simple steps, you can make sure your grow is good to go through whatever weather the winter ahead might bring.
1. Give Your Greenhouse A Thorough Cleaning
Just like a spring cleaning for your home, a fall cleaning of your greenhouse will help you organize your space and keep your greenhouse operating at peak efficiency.
If you’re planning on starting fresh for next grow, fall is a great time to completely remove all plants from your greenhouse setup. Clear off benches and empty out any pots, the give all of your equipment a thorough scrub with cleaner and disinfectant to prevent any pests from holding out until next season. If you plan on keeping some hardy winter crops going through the winter, take time to make sure the area and equipment around your grow space is thoroughly clean as well.
Also, don’t forget to clean your greenhouse frame with a disinfectant or diluted bleach, and your covering with dishwashing detergent (for polycarbonate coverings). Be sure to use a non-scratching rag or sponge (and rub with the channels) so as to not damage your greenhouse covering. If you have wood to clean, use a diluted wood oil soap and be sure to rinse thoroughly.
2. Fix Those Holes and De-Squeak All Hinges
As any homeowner will tell you, even the smallest gap in a doorway or hole in an exterior wall will invite in the cold air of winter if left unfixed. That’s why fall is a great time to get out and do all those little repairs on your greenhouse, when the weather is still nice enough to really get the job done right.
Check all around your greenhouse for gaps, cracks, and holes in your covering material. If necessary, apply patches to cover holes when possible. For major damage, you may need to consider replacement parts - a major savings when compared to emergency repairs after a nasty winter storm.
Additionally, any parts of the greenhouse that move (such as hinges, vents, and door handles) should be given a lubrication treatment with grease or a silicone-based product to ensure reliable operation as temperatures begin to drop. This is also a great time to check that all doors and windows securely close - otherwise, that winter wind and moisture could do some serious damage.
3. Get Your Heating System Ready
When the cold air and wind are whipping outside, growers need to make sure their plants have plenty of heat to keep growing through the winter. That’s where an integrated heating system - perhaps part of your broader environmental controls - can play a major role.
If you do use a heater in your greenhouse, make sure to have it serviced regularly. Autumn offers growers just enough time before winter hits to have heating units inspected and serviced if necessary, so be sure to check in on your heater before those regular frosts. It is also key to make sure your heating unit packs enough power for the size of your greenhouse - otherwise, it may not provide enough heat to be effective.
In addition, it is always smart to have a backup electric heater available if your primary one breaks down (battery-backed and petroleum powered heaters work great in the event of a storm or power outage).
Some growers may also opt for additional heating aids, including inexpensive low-tech options that can absorb and retain heat or frost coverings to prevent frost from building up on your plants.
4. Step Up Your Insulation
Providing your plants with plenty of heat won’t mean much if your greenhouse is poorly insulated. Cracks, holes, and gaps in your greenhouse can be an open invitation for heat to escape outside, and that can seriously set back your winter grow.
Now would be a good time to replace any worn coverings, install heat- and light-reflecting linings, and caulk or seal any cracks you may notice. While heat-retaining silicone caulk is generally best for repairing cracks and keeping heat in, duct tape can also offer a quick fix in a pinch.
5. Ensure Healthy Airflow Throughout Your Greenhouse
Heat and soil alone are not enough to keep your grow going through the winter. Just as in the spring and summer, your winter crops need fresh air to stay healthy - but the cold temperatures outside can make it difficult to keep that circulation going strong.
Ventilation systems and interior greenhouse fans can be hugely helpful at keeping that warm, interior air moving while still preventing heat loss to the outdoors. By setting your ventilation system or fans at a low setting pointed in the direction of your plants, you can ensure they have a fresh, steady stream of air to help prevent harmful moisture buildup on leaves and keep plant respiration going strong through the cold.
Keep Growing Strong Through Winter
Keeping your greenhouse running smoothly through the fall, into winter, and straight through until spring doesn’t have to be difficult - but it does take a little preparation. By following these simple winterizing tips, you can make sure your greenhouse is good to make it through whatever the winter has in store.
Still need some help getting your greenhouse in shape for winter? Get in touch with our greenhouse experts and we’ll help make sure you’ve got everything you need to keep your grow going through the cold. Contact us today and start winterizing!