8 Tips for New Greenhouse Growers, From Seasoned Greenhouse Growers


Recently, a group of experienced Michigan greenhouse growers gathered to share their experiences and create lists on how to prepare for the spring growing season. Heidi Lindberg of Michigan State University asked them to provide their top three recommendations for a grower new to the industry. They came up with 80 recommendations that revolved around the themes of thoroughly cleaning, sanitizing, checking equipment, and verifying logistics. Here are the top eight recommendations.

  1. Start clean and be proactive: Starting with a clean environment reduces the risk of pests, diseases, and contamination, promoting healthy plant growth. Sweep the floors to remove debris, use a sanitizing cleaner, shock irrigation lines and remove algae and weeds. Consider getting a water test to check the pH and alkalinity of your water.
  2. Check equipment and infrastructure: Regularly checking and maintaining equipment, structures, and irrigation systems ensures their proper functioning and prevents breakdowns. Make sure your team checks that the heaters work and are correctly vented. Begin learning how to check irrigation booms and calibrate injectors, and check that alarms on environmental control systems are working properly to avoid any surprises.
  3. Check for the receipt of deliveries: In the last few years, there have been supply chain issues. Check if you received the hard goods (i.e., pots, carrier trays), tags and plants prior to starting up that planting line.
  4. Ask questions and trust your team: Peer-to-peer mentoring is the most important way to learn how to be an excellent greenhouse grower. New growers should be open to asking questions, which fosters a culture of learning and trust between the staff at your organization. Operate under the “there are no stupid questions” motto for success.
  5. Develop a schedule and be ready to adapt it: There are so many moving parts to the horticulture industry. Having a well-thought-out plan is essential to scheduling crops and hitting target ship dates. However, there will always be factors affecting your crops: from late vegetative cuttings, long stretches of cloudy days or disease and insect problems. You need to be ready to adapt the plan.
  6. Create an excellent record: Model crops such as Easter lilies require growth monitoring to hit very precise shipping windows. You can base your production schedule based on cultivar-specific culture sheets. Keeping detailed records of chemical applications and cultivar-specific timing will help you make informed decisions in the future based on past experiences.
  7. Training and communication is key: Training employees how to water crops, apply pesticides or biocontrol agents or stick cuttings is essential for a successful start to a new season. Effective communication is also important as the crop continues to grow. Be sure that section growers and head growers are communicating often to problem-solve together.
  8. Scout often: Regular scouting allows for early detection of pests, diseases and other problems. Some experienced growers even recommend walking your crop three times a day and taking a deeper dive at least once a week.



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