There are many checklists and how-to’s written about greenhouse maintenance. More often than not they are generic and mundane. Most lists are geared towards someone having the ideal time of year to grab a check list and do a head to toe walk-through of the greenhouse. This may be wanted, it may even be possible but it usually ends up on the back burner. The approach for this “maintenance” article is to not only explain what needs maintenance at the greenhouse but also what parts and pieces are typically needed and in a format that is easy to reference when the time comes.
To start, maintenance for a greenhouse is the difference between a 1969 pristine sports car and a 2010 lemon. I have always been a stickler for maintenance due to being around my grandmothers 1969 Camaro, which only had tires and a water pump replaced its whole life. Was it a good car from the start? Sure. Did the maintenance she religiously had done on the car make the majority of the difference in its longevity? Without a doubt, yes.
Getting back on track, a greenhouse’s main purpose is to create an optimum environment for growing a crop. Coverings, doors, curtains and vents keep the unwanted out and the wanted in. This is the first line of defense.
- Look for scratches, holes, leaks in the covering and around any opening (doors, vents etc)
- Replace covering if needed, fix with tape for the short term, caulk to stop leaks
- Feel for drafts along baseboards and around openings
- Adjust extrusions, back fill against the base and caulk any cracks
- Listen for out of place sounds as motors open and close vents, doors or curtains.
- Adjust, grease and straighten drive pipes and rack & pinions
Heating, cooling, shade and ventilation are the work horses of the greenhouse environment. They need maintenance but also the need trial runs and start-ups before their seasons of use are in full swing.
Heaters should be started, depending on where you are in the country, in the early fall. Take into consideration shipping time if one needs to be replaced. You don’t want to end up needing one and it’s still being shipped. It may also make sense to keep an extra one on hand.
The evaporative cooling should be started and ran through in the early spring. Change out the water & flush the system, look for mineral and algae build up on the pads and find out what condition the pads are in. It may be wise to keep an extra pump on hand.
Motorized shades systems need to have cables tightened, clips checked and replaced, and drive pipes straightened and greased.
The fans and shutters of a greenhouse usually run all year but with some higher use times so these need to be check routinely.
What to check: are they damaged, do they turn on/open, are they noisy? It is a good idea to keep extra belts available. Debris should be blown out or cleaned out (make sure to cut the power when working in the box of the fans).
Irrigation is another part of the equipment checklist that needs to be looked at more than a couple times a season.
Flush filters and fertilizer injectors, replace clogged sprinkler heads, and check for leaks in the lines.
By staying on top of maintenance the chance of failures will be reduced, in turn keeping your greenhouse running smoothly.