Greenhouse Farming

Greenhouse farming

Greenhouse farming has gained momentum in many areas in Kenya. That growth can be attributed to many reasons, with increased production being the leading reason. As with any other emerging and rapidly growing endeavor, it is easy to fall short of your greenhouse farming expectations. Lack of sufficient knowledge and information are the main factors that may lead to the poor performance of a greenhouse farming enterprise.

In this article, we will try to better inform you about greenhouse farming, how you can start, the benefits associated with this kind of farming, as well as its shortcomings. We will also highlight the crops which are better suited for greenhouse production and the related costs of production. The article will also discuss organic greenhouse agriculture as a better alternative to conventional greenhouse production and why it should be adopted. Keep us company through the article as we demystify greenhouse agriculture.

Table of Contents

A greenhouse farm in Kenya

A greenhouse is a framed structure that has been enclosed on all sides with an opaque, translucent or clear material, mostly polythene, acrylic, or glass. It also has a clear roof which allows light inside to trap in warmth and enable photosynthesis. Greenhouses can be freestanding, or they can be attached to a house or shed in a lean-to fashion.

Greenhouse farming is any kind of crop production that is carried out using greenhouses. These allow farmers to grow many different kinds of crops in climates that may not be good for crop production. The capacity to control temperature is usually considered the most important advantage of greenhouse farming. Farmers can create their greenhouses using materials that maximize the heat from the sun.

Types of Greenhouses Used in Greenhouse Farming

If you are considering starting a greenhouse venture, you should know that there are different types of greenhouses. Different greenhouses are better suited for different purposes, plants, and situations. The type of greenhouse you choose will primarily depend on your specific needs, and some will work better in some situations than others.

The following are the different categories and types of greenhouse structures you can choose from:

A. Categories According to Shape/Style

The following are the types of greenhouses based on structural shape or style:

1. Lean-to greenhouse

Lean-to greenhouses are the ones that are placed against an existing structure or building. You can use the greenhouse walls as one side of the greenhouse or place them between two buildings. Lean-to greenhouses leave you with three or two sides to cover with greenhouse sheeting material, plus the roof for a full enclosure. Most lean-to greenhouses are smaller in size and contain one o two rows of plants, something which is often defined by the length of the wall.

Greenhouse Farming

Among the most notable advantages of lean-to greenhouses are:

  • Near to amenities like electricity and water from the main building.
  • Smaller structures incur less cost on materials.
  • Requires a small space to set up.
  • Fewer support requirements for the roof.

Lean-to greenhouses, however, are said to have limited space for plants and allow limited sunlight which is beneficial to the proper growth of plants. These are their main disadvantages which make people, especially those with ample space, go for other types of greenhouses.

2. Ridge and furrow greenhouse

A ridge and furrow greenhouse is a type of greenhouse structure that looks like an A. An A-frame greenhouse may be built with very little use of wood or plastic film coverings in your home. It also requires little construction knowledge. This kind of greenhouse design is popular in a large farm setting where you have numerous greenhouses and don’t want any damage from rain or snow. Additionally, the A-frame roof structure ensures there is ample heat distribution to help all plants grow.

Greenhouse Farming

The advantages of ridge and furrow greenhouses are:

  • It leaves enough room inside the structure to grow plants.
  • Ensures structure longevity by draining rain and snow from the roof.
  • They give an appealing look.

The disadvantages associated with ridge and furrow greenhouses are that they are expensive to set up and that they need big pieces of land to set up.

3. Even-span greenhouse

Even-span greenhouses are known for their distinct sloping roofs. They are mostly used by small-scale farmers, usually in the backyards of home compounds. As you set it up, you can consider attaching one end to the house or letting it stand on its own in the garden. You can also make it as big as possible to fit more rows and shelves that carry plenty of plants. All areas have a transparent glass or other material, helping plants get ample sunlight. However, heating large areas may require the setting up of alternative heating methods that prevent temperatures from going down during cold seasons.

Greenhouse Farming

The advantages of even-span greenhouses are:

  • Flexible design that won’t limit you in terms of size.
  • Spacious for carrying many plants.
  • An ideal shape that maintains uniformity in terms of temperature.
  • A-frame roof that ensures rain/snow doesn’t accumulate.

The disadvantages of even-span greenhouses are high setup costs and that they will sometimes need their heating systems which adds more starting up costs, especially to small-scale farmers.

4. Gothic arch greenhouses

Gothic arch greenhouses used in greenhouse farming have a distinctly pointed roof that helps eliminate the need to include trusses on the greenhouse structure. Such a structure is ideal for hobby and commercial use since it can be as small or as big as you want. These kinds of greenhouses will need you to ascertain the kind of resources at your disposal before setting up. That s because they can be used for both small-scale and large-scale farming activities.

Greenhouse Farming

The main advantages of gothic arch greenhouses are:

  • Versatile in that it can be a big or small structure.
  • Appealing to look at.
  • It makes it easy for snow and rain to drain off.

The disadvantages of gothic arch greenhouses are they need more materials than most other types of greenhouses and that they don’t allow ample air distribution to the plants.

5. Uneven span greenhouse

Uneven span greenhouses used in greenhouse farming have a distinctive feature regarding the structure of their roof. One roof of this structure is longer than the other, hence the name. The primary reason for this structure’s design is to allow more sunlight intake when the greenhouse structure is in a hilly area. The longer side of the roof faces the south and must be transparent. Given that most greenhouses are now in flat areas, this type of greenhouse isn’t as common.

Greenhouse Farming

The advantages of uneven span greenhouse:

  • It helps sunlight reach the plants.
  • Keeps wind at bay.
  • Strong and long-lasting structure.

The main shortcoming of uneven span greenhouses is that they are not suited for flat areas, which make up the majority of the land masses in Kenya.

B. Categories According to frame material

The structural frame of any greenhouse is important since it determines the longevity of the greenhouse. Many greenhouse farming enterprises fall when the greenhouses fail due to weak structures. The following are the types of greenhouses according to the frame materials used:

6. Pipe metal frame greenhouse

Pipe metal frame greenhouses are among the most popular with many farmers, especially large-scale farmers. That is because they offer strong structures that are strong and can be used for a long time. Current structures even have joints that make it easier for the farmer to mount and dismount the structure whenever necessary. However, you should check the quality of the metal used since some types of metal may be prone to corrosion which minimizes the lifespan of the greenhouse.

The advantages of pipe metal frame greenhouses are:

  • They are long-lasting and will be used for a long period.
  • They are strong and can easily withstand strong wind.
  • They are heat resistant, which helps in times of high temperatures.

The main disadvantage of pipe metal frame greenhouses is that they are expensive due to the high cost of metal.

7. Wooden frame greenhouse

Wooden frame greenhouses are another category of greenhouses according to the material used for the structure. They are mostly used in cold climates since they can conserve heat. Most of these are small setups in the backyard to store plants until the cold season is over. Wood is readily available in many places and easy to work with, even without hiring a professional to set up the greenhouse.

The advantages of wooden frame greenhouses are:

  • They retain heat which is beneficial for plants during cold seasons.
  • Easy to build and make repairs.
  • Wood is naturally attractive, especially when you have exposed grain.
  • The timber frame is more environmentally friendly.

The disadvantages of wooden frame greenhouses are that the wood can be expensive when not locally available and that they may experience insect attacks when the wood is not properly treated.

8. Plastic greenhouse

Plastic greenhouses are also used in greenhouse farming, especially for beginners who want cheap and easily available structures. As you seek different types of cheap greenhouses, you might want to consider those made using plastic frames. Since the material is inexpensive, you won’t have to go out of budget when setting one up. In any kind of farming, the farmer should always try to minimize the costs as much as possible, and that is why some opt to use reinforced plastic material as the frame for their greenhouses.

The advantages of plastic greenhouses are:

  • They are affordable.
  • Quality plastic creates a sturdy frame.
  • They are not prone to damage like wood greenhouses.
  • They’re easy to clean.

The disadvantages of using plastic as frames in greenhouse farming are that they are not long-lasting and that they are not ideal for large structures and hence not suitable for large-scale farming.

C. Categories According to Cover Material

The material used to cover greenhouses can also be used as a distinguishing feature in greenhouse farming. Different types of cover materials are used for different locations, mostly according to the weather patterns of those regions. The following are the types of greenhouses according to the cover material used:

9. PVC/Polythene plastic greenhouse

polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic material and polythene plastics are some of the popular materials used as cover materials for greenhouses in greenhouse farming. Plastic or polythene is transparent and allows sunlight which is beneficial for plants. That saves the farmer the need for an external heating system which is costly. The other reason why PVC and polythene plastics are popular as cover materials for greenhouses is that they are cheap and readily available.

The advantages of PVC and polythene plastics as cover materials for greenhouses are:

  • They are readily available.
  • They allow ample sunlight penetration.
  • They are cheap.
  • They are lightweight and easy to set up.

The disadvantage of PVC and polythene plastics as cover material for greenhouses is that they are not long-lasting and hence can only be used for a short period.

10. Glass greenhouse

Glass is another quality material used to cover different types of greenhouses. It facilitates deeper light intensity, which is ideal for healthy plants. Also, it allows ample air filtration, which best controls the humidity. Most small-scale farmers, especially those who want to establish greenhouses in the backyards of their homes, use glass material because of its aesthetic value and longevity.

The advantages of glass greenhouses are:

  • Allows more light penetration.
  • Facilitates ample air filtration.
  • Appealing to look at.

The main disadvantage of glass as a greenhouse cover material is that glass is expensive and hence the start-up costs are high which is discouraging for small-scale farmers and beginners.

Factors to Consider Before Setting Up a Greenhouse

In greenhouse farming, there are factors that you will need to consider before starting the venture. These are the main considerations to make in greenhouse farming:

1. Sunlight intensity

The intensity of the sunlight is among the major factors to consider while setting up a greenhouse. Some greenhouses suit areas with less sunlight, while others require intense solar radiation to facilitate plant growth. The best types of greenhouses in this situation depend on the location you choose for each. For example, you can opt for an uneven span greenhouse if you’re in a hilly location. That means you should know the type of crops or plants and the amount of sunlight they require.

2. Available land

The size of land available at your disposal is also a major factor to consider when setting up greenhouses. The space you have will dictate the size of the greenhouse you will set up. You can try mini greenhouse or lean-to design structures if you have a small piece of land. Larger areas are suitable for more big structures like Gothic Arch or Ridge and Furrow. Remember that the size of your greenhouse will also determine your crop capacity which affects production.

3. Weather

The weather conditions should also be a consideration to make before you set up your greenhouse. Areas prone to months of snow are suitable for wood greenhouses that help retain warmth for the plants. On the other hand, those extremely windy areas need heavy-duty metal frames to keep greenhouses firmly arched to the ground. Apart from the materials to use for the structures, the weather patterns will also determine the kind of crops or plants suited for your greenhouse.

4. Ground conditions

The ground conditions of where you will set up your greenhouse should also be a point of concern. In greenhouse farming, not all ground surfaces are stable. Those with less stability require more heavy-duty structures like metal and thick wood. On more stable ground surfaces, you can build plastic greenhouses without worry. Also, you should consider a location where water drains off quickly. Remember that the ground surface may also determine the kind of structure to put up, with hilly sides more suited for uneven span greenhouse structures.

5. Resources available

The resources available at your disposal should also be a factor to consider before setting up a greenhouse. Greenhouse farming is expensive, especially for beginners. That is because the initial and start-up costs may be out of reach for many people. The structures, cover materials, and initial groundwork do not come cheap. The amount of capital you have will also determine the nature and scope of your enterprise because big greenhouses require huge investments.

6. Scale of operations

The scale of operations you have in mind should also be considered before starting greenhouse farming. That is because large-scale operations and small-scale operations require different initial setups. You should therefore think carefully about the production quantity you desire since it will determine how large or small your greenhouse will be.

Types of Greenhouse Operations

As we have said above, the scope of operations you have in mind can be used to determine the type of greenhouse you will set up. That is because different people, especially beginners, have different expectations for their greenhouse venture. It all will depend on the kind of production you want. House-needs or hobby greenhouses produce food to be used in the house, with any little excess available being sold locally. Professional greenhouses produce food for selling, with the main idea being returns or profits. There are those farmers who are health conscious and prefer organic greenhouses.

All greenhouse operations fall under three main categories, which are small-scale, large-scale, and organic greenhouse operations.

1. Small-scale greenhouse farming

Small-scale greenhouse farming operations or hobby greenhouses are those which are used to provide food crops for personal consumption or plants for own use. They are found in backyards and house gardens in homes and compounds. The produce is internally used in the home, with the little excess available, if any, being sold to the neighbors.

Small-scale greenhouses are good for producing household food which frees money for other purposes which would otherwise be used for food. They supplement the family income through the money saved on food and the excess sold in the neighborhood. They are the best for beginners or those without enough space and land to engage in large-scale operations.

We have established that setting up a greenhouse can be an expensive affair due to the initial costs involved, that is why small-scale greenhouses are suitable for those with limited resources, capital, and land. They can also be used by beginners as a test to learn about greenhouse production.

The main advantages of small-scale greenhouses are:

  • They require less capital.
  • They require less space/land.
  • They require less technical know-how.
  • They are less labor intensive.

The main disadvantage of small-scale greenhouse farming is that the production is limited and that many fail within a short period due to a lack of technical knowledge and commitment by farmers.

2. Large-scale Greenhouse Farming

Large-scale greenhouse farming activities are carried out by professional farmers with the main aim of producing food crops or plants for the sale. They require intensive capital and labor to set up and run, with many of them being operated by professionals. These greenhouses are some of the main food providers, especially in areas with adverse climatic conditions for crop production.

Global warming and urbanization have led to severe food shortages around the world. It is due to these reasons that the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is encouraging farmers to adopt large-scale greenhouse operations as a means to constantly produce enough food for the general population.

Due to the significant investments required to set up large-scale greenhouse activities, farmers need technical expertise in how to set up and run these operations. They are lucrative if properly done, but can result in massive losses to the farmers if they are not properly planned.

Large-scale greenhouse farming requires large tracts of land, and you should first look at the land available before you think about these kinds of greenhouse activities. You should also know that these activities need a lot of commitment and monitoring of operations and progress if you hope to reap maximum profits.

The main advantages of large-scale greenhouse farming activities are:

  • They are more profitable.
  • They are a source of employment for many people.
  • They ensure food security for many people.
  • They ensure people have an all-year supply of many seasonal plants, especially fruits.

The disadvantages of large-scale greenhouse farming are:

  • It requires a lot of capital to begin and operationalize.
  • It is labor intensive.
  • Risk of huge losses to the farmer.
  • Requires expertise and technical knowledge.

3. Organic Greenhouse Farming

Contrary to popular belief, organically grown is not the same as greenhouse-grown. Many people tend t think that all greenhouse products are organic, which is untrue. Although greenhouses offer a conducive environment for organic farming activities, not many greenhouses produce organic products.

To produce organic crop products, there are several points you have to note as a greenhouse farmer. These are:

Structural material. The material used to make your structure in organic greenhouse farming should be non-synthetic. Many greenhouses have side panels made from various types of plastics and polycarbonates. For a truly organic garden, you should opt for a glass greenhouse. They come in all styles from self-standing to the lean-to greenhouse style. The material the panels are made from is important because moisture will accumulate on the panel’s surface and will drip on your plants.

Planning of the garden. Planning on the kind of crops to plant is also a major point of concern in organic greenhouse farming. That is because you will have to use non-chemical means to fight and stop pests and diseases in organic farms. The term ‘companion planting‘ is often used in organic greenhouses. It means having plants or crops which help you fight pests and diseases in your greenhouse. You will encounter a fair share of pest issues in your greenhouse and many of them can be avoided naturally by using companion planting.

It has been proven that onions and leeks can deter carrot flies, French Marigolds can keep blackflies and greenflies away from tomatoes, and an elder shrub deters mice. Also, planting directly in the ground can lead to ants’ problems. Use peppermint, bay leaf, spearmint, or garlic to keep them away. If you have a problem with slugs and snails, you can use a beer trap. They are attracted to the beer fragrance which leads them to take a sip, they get drunk and drown.

While you want to eliminate the harmful bugs, you want to attract the beneficial insects. Plants like Achillea and Buddleia, as well as flowering herbs like Rosemary, Dill, and Lavender, will help to attract hoverflies, lacewings, and ladybirds which are known pest devourers.

Make your soil organic. One of the most important aspects of organic greenhouse farming is avoiding chemical fertilizers to grow your crops. Since these fertilizers are important additives in the proper growth of crops, you will have to think of alternative ways of fertilizing your soil. Manure, sea products, or compost are the most popular materials used to organically fertilize soils.

These additives act like fertilizers. They can increase the health of your soil and help to create a better environment for your plants to grow. But remember, different plants have different needs. For these organic fertilizers to work, proper planning and timing are necessary. You should know when is the most opportune time to apply the additives so that they can be beneficial to the crops or plants.

Composting. In organic greenhouse farming, composting is one of the most important and affordable methods of fertilizing your garden. But you must remember to keep your compost organic. That means the items you toss in your compost should be organic. If anything in your compost contains chemicals, so will your compost. That means the farmer should ensure anything that goes to the compost pit should be organic. That prevents synthetic chemicals from finding their way to your organic crops.

Control of weeds. The proper control of weeds is very important in organic greenhouse farming. Organic farmers should think of ways to control weeds before they start to grow. Greenhouse farmers place used newspapers on top of the soil and cover them with a layer of soil to suppress weeds and prevent their growth. Most newspapers use soy-based inks so they do not pose a danger to your plants. Do not use glossy inserts because they are toxic and water cannot penetrate their glossy surface. Use a regular old newspaper. In time, it will decompose and become a healthy additive to your soil.

Use of natural herbicides. You should know that although you may try very hard to control and prevent pests in organic greenhouse farming, sometimes infestations will occur. When you are hit with an infestation, you should think of natural herbicides since chemical herbicides are not allowed in organic farming.

One of the commonly used methods is an organic soap mixture. Cheap lemon dish soap is the best to use for this since cheap brands use less of the costly toxic additives that costly brands use. Mix one tablespoon of the soap into 1 gallon of water and pour it into your spray bottle or a sprayer. Apply to the top and bottom of the leaves. Reapply this mixture every week or two. This mixture also reduces the risk of some plant diseases.

Getting rid of weeds and spent plants after harvesting. In organic greenhouse farming, you should pull out the weeds immediately after harvesting to prevent dried weed seeds from falling into the soil. After you’ve harvested your vegetables and fruit, don’t leave the plants in the garden. Pull them out as soon as possible and toss their remains in the compost bin for next year’s garden. Removing these plants will allow the soil to replenish itself and will discourage pests that will feed on the spent plant.

Organic Supplements in Greenhouse Farming

Supplements in organic greenhouse farming can be hard to come by. Here in Kenya, the number one organic supplements for greenhouse farming comes from the Biozone range of products. Their products are widely used throughout the country, and they have proved helpful to many organic greenhouse farmers.

The following are some of the organic products available from Biozone:

BlackGold BFB

The BlackGold BFB is one of the most popular organic products from Biozone. It is a combination of organically extracted products from Hypnus Peat Moss and Silica. It is environmentally safe and not harmful to plants or animals. It is a soil conditioner, root enhancer, and growth promoter. The main benefits of this product in organic greenhouse farming are:

  • Greater soil enhancement.
  • Stimulating plant growth.
  • Effectively suppressing diseases.
  • Promotion of plant nutrient uptake.
  • Acceleration of seed germination.
  • Boosting of crop yields.
  • It leaves no residue.

FlyWin BFB

The FlyWin BFB from Biozone is a fully certified organic pesticide that helps organic greenhouse farmers eliminate and prevent white flies, which are among the most feared pests in crop production. It has been hailed as the best alternative to chemical treatments and is beneficial to all types of farming practices. It is 100% natural and safe and controls white flies without harming plants. The main benefits of using the FlyWin BFB are:

  • Controlling whiteflies without harm to the plants or crops.
  • Leaves no residue.
  • It is free from toxins
  • Builds plant immune system to fight against other infections.
  • 100% safe and Eco-friendly product.

WaterLock BFB

The WaterLock BFB is another purely organic product from BioZone. It is a combination of organic extract, gel, and silica which is a special formulation used to hold water. It is a soil conditioner, root enhancer and growth promoter, and soil water retainer. This product helps the farmers in water retention, therefore, it is beneficial for those organic greenhouse farmers in dry and drought-prone areas in Kenya.

The benefits of using the WaterLock BFB are:

  • Increases overall growth of the plant.
  • Encourages the growth of beneficial soil microflora.
  • 20% decrease in the use of chemical fertilizer.
  • Compatible with all organic fertilizers.
  • Improves nutrient uptake.
  • Improves water holding capacity.
  • Easy application to the root zone of a plant.
  • Good soil aeration and maintains constant soil temperature.
  • Increases germination rate.
  • 100% residue-free product.

Grub Ban BFB

The Grub Ban BFB from BioZone is an organic product used to fight against root grubs. Root grubs affect feed on the roots of plants and therefore affect the overall healthy growth of the plant. It is an effective solution for the management of white grubs in areca nut, sugarcane, banana, cardamon, groundnut, potato, corn, and turf grass. Grub Ban BFB contains effective juveniles of entomopathogenic nematodes that kill the grubs very fast.

The benefits of using the Grub Ban BFB are:

  • Quick and effective control of root grubs.
  • Induces production of new roots in infected plants.
  • Does not create resistance, resurgence, and residual problems.
  • Increases yield by 10%.
  • Does not affect the natural enemies and offers long-lasting pest control.
  • Helps increase productivity by controlling pests.
  • 100% residue-free product.

Bamoyeast BFB

The Bamoyeast BFB is another useful product from Biozone used in organic greenhouse farming. As we have seen above, one of the main factors in organic greenhouse farming is the availability of organic manure, which farmers get from compositing. Compositing is a process that takes time depending on the materials used. The Bamoyeast BFB is meant to help farmers in the compositing process. This product is said to cut in half the time taken on a normal compositing period, with better results. The compost manure produced with Bamoyeast BFB is more fertile and improves the general yields significantly.

Greenhouse Farming for Beginners

Studies have proven that over 70% of all new greenhouse farming activities fail within two years. That means beginners are the most affected when it comes to greenhouses. But with the right information and doing the right things at the right time will greatly help beginners in establishing successful greenhouse farming activities.

The following are considered essentials for beginners:

1. Starting seeds

The kind and type of starting seeds you plan to begin your greenhouse farm will greatly determine its success or failure. Starting seeds normally happens in plain level seed trays, hydroponic trays, or single plug trays. They are prepared depending on their particular needs, for example, they may be immersed overnight, stratified, and then set in trays inside the greenhouse.

For beginners, it is important to identify the label and date per seed planted and record entries on the seed packets to recognize the plants easier. Review the germination rate on the seed pack to decide how many seeds will provide you with the expected quantity of seedlings.

Seeds for greenhouses can either be hybrid seeds or heirloom seeds. The following is a summary of each type:

Hybrid seeds

Hybrid seeds are a popular option because they are accessible at any seed store. They are generally identified as F-1 by seed companies. Hybrids crossbreed two similar plants.

The advantages of hybrid seeds are:

  • They are bigger and healthier plants that look more identical.
  • They have greater and more consistent production.
  • You can harvest earlier than expected with improved yields.
  • They are not influenced by ecological stress, pests, and diseases.

The disadvantages of hybrid seeds are that they are more expensive than normal seeds and that they cannot be stored for long periods. You cannot also get seeds from mature plants, which means you have to buy new seeds each time you want to plant.

Heirloom seeds

Heirloom seeds also referred to as gardeners’ choice, are specifically produced seeds that will meet your specific needs. These seeds are said to be superior varieties that have targeted flavors.

The advantages of these seeds are:

  • They produce a genetic variety for future cultivation.
  • The seeds are usually adjusted to the local environment.
  • They are passed on for generations.
  • Great for seed swaps.
  • Gardeners can keep the seeds for another year.
  • They are stable.

The main shortcomings of these seeds are that the plants will not be uniform, they have a low germination rate, and they are not readily available in many local seed stores.

There are also some seed labels that you should know before purchasing seeds for greenhouse farming. It is official government policy that every seed set offered for sale should be accurately labeled. It helps you buy the best quality that will satisfy your needs. You should be well conversant with the following seed labels:

  • Open-pollinated. Also called true-to-type seeds, these seeds will generate plants that are related to their parent plant which is essential for seed conservation.
  • Organic. It means that the seeds come from plants that meet the organic standards of the country and have been certified as such.
  • Non-GMO. These are seeds developed through specific or random pollination.
  • GMO. These seeds have cross genes from separate plant kingdoms.
  • Germination percentage. These show the minimum number of seeds that will sprout.

2. Temperature control

Temperature control is also something that beginners in greenhouse farming should learn before they start any activities. With greenhouses, you already have a head start with controlling the temperature of your garden, however, no matter what you are growing, you should consider getting an electric or gas heater to extend your growing season when it becomes too cold. In warmer months, you must keep it cooler for plants to survive. Moisture within a greenhouse is nearly always close to the peak due to the volume of greenery. The temperature in the greenhouse is dependent on you, but you should ensure that whatever heater/cooler you decide to acquire is economical, to keep your bills down.

3. Light

Light and its availability is another sensitive issue in greenhouse farming. Most of your plants require light to flourish because light is vital for photosynthesis. But not every light is alike. The light needed will depend on the crop variety, the season, and the amount of daylight available. Plants react differently to the intensity and span of light. As plants develop and grow the number of leaves, the demand for light rises. You should have a lighting system in place to be used when there is not enough daylight available for the proper growth of the plants.

4. Water

Beginners in greenhouse farming should understand the water requirements of any crop or plant they wish to grow. Instead of watering your crops using a general timetable, learn what is required to ensure you do not over or under-water your crops. Signs of inappropriate watering include irregular drying, decreased shoot, and root growth, and immature plants with bad quality and shelf life. Not every plant wants the same volume or frequency of water.

Overwatering doesn’t happen when your plant is given huge amounts of water at a time. It happens when watering is done too often before the soil has an opportunity to drain. To stop this, you may install a drip system, which can be utilized to regulate greater or smaller streams of water straight to pots or flat grounds. You can set this kind of water with a timer and drip gauge.

Check each plant for its watering requirements. If the plant appears light then it requires watering and if the compost is dusty and dry it means that water is necessary. Remember that it is the roots that require access to water and not the leaves. Sprinkling water on the leaves is a misuse of water and may result in plant diseases.

5. Greenhouse accessories

Some accessories are needed in greenhouse farming to make your work easier and more enjoyable. Depending on your budget and commitment, you can add mist systems, fans, tool racks, potting benches, and shelving, along with many other accessories to make your job easier. One of the greenhouse farming basics to keep in mind while shopping for these accessories is to consider what your plants need, what you would like to have, and the amount of space your greenhouse provides.

6. Pest control

Learning about pest control in greenhouse farming is an essential part for all beginners which will largely determine the profitability of your farm. A greenhouse setting favors the fast spread of pest populations. The friendly, humid environment and plentiful plants in a greenhouse give an attractive, steady habitat for pest growth. Immediate discovery and analysis of pests are required to execute the appropriate pest control decisions before the issue gets out of hand and you may experience a financial loss. The major pests you should guard on are aphids, thrips, bloodworms, whiteflies, slugs, and snails.

Mistakes beginners make in greenhouse farming

As a beginner in greenhouse farming, it is very easy to make mistakes that will lead to losses or low yields. The following are the common mistakes that you should avoid in greenhouse farming:

Poor temperature control. It is among the major mistakes for beginners in greenhouse farming. Failure to closely monitor the temperature in your greenhouse will to overheating or overcooking, which means the plants will not yield as expected. That means poor temperature control will lead to losses.

Poor humidity control. Just like temperature, a beginner in greenhouse farming may fail to properly monitor the humidity levels in the greenhouse. Remember that too much humidity will attract mold, mildew, and pests which are detrimental to your crops or plants. Excessive humidity will make your plants or crops suffer due to a lack of water. You should know the optimal humidity for your plants and maintain it strictly.

Poor ventilation. Another common mistake for beginners in greenhouse farming is the failure to properly ventilate the greenhouse. Plants need to breathe fresh air and the warm air accumulated inside the greenhouse should be released. Make sure that the greenhouse is properly ventilated or use fans to ensure enough circulation of air.

Poor soil structure. Failure to properly mix the soil before planting is also a common mistake for beginners in greenhouse farming. Aside from the basics of combining compost and fertilizer occasionally, think of applying a blended soil mixture when preparing your bases. Do not apply old potting soil, which will carry pests and diseases.

Foreign tree roots. Failure to eliminate foreign trees in the areas surrounding your greenhouse is another mistake for beginners in greenhouse farming. Roots from neighboring trees can invade your plants from underground, feeding up nutrients and moisture that are intended for your plants inside your greenhouse. It can also dump leaves or branches all year round. Shades can be a constant obstacle in restricting light as well. To care for your structure and plants, do not place your greenhouse near trees.

Best and Most Profitable Crops for greenhouse Farming

There are some crops and plants that we have identified as the best performing when grown in greenhouses. These crops have been identified from inquiries made to seasoned and experienced greenhouse farmers and we think it will be worth highlighting the crops, especially for the benefit of all new and potential greenhouse farmers.

Tomatoes. These are the most common and said to be the best performing in all greenhouse plants. When properly grown and taken care of, tomatoes are prolific and profitable to the farmer. Different varieties like cherry, grape, beefsteak, and tomatoes on the vine are available and are quite popular in the local markets.

Lettuce. It is another popular crop for many greenhouse farmers. It is a hardy vegetable that comes as either cut or head lettuce. Lettuce is among the easiest to grow and it is more profitable when sold directly to the consumers.

Peppers. These are easy-to-grow vegetables that come in different colors and sizes. They can satisfy the majority of the local needs with mild and hot varieties. They do well in nutrient-rich soils and they need at least six hours of sunlight per day.

Cucumbers. They are versatile vegetables that are easy to grow for many greenhouse farmers. Greenhouse cucumbers grow more rapidly than their open-air counterparts, making them quick profit earners. Although they may pose a challenge in keeping them fresh after harvests, they will generate bigger profits, especially the organic and off-season cucumbers.

Spinach. Another widely planted greenhouse vegetable is spinach. It is a leafy green vegetable that tends to proliferate, depending on growing conditions. When grown and sold locally, it’s prized for its freshness and taste.

Strawberries. It is yet another profitable option for greenhouse farming. In-season strawberries are relatively inexpensive, but gardeners who can master some of the challenges of growing them—pest management and pollination, for example—can command high off-season prices.

Herbs. They are some of the best starting plants in greenhouse farming. Herbs are highly in demand by grocery stores and restaurants. Some of the most popular are basil, chives, oregano, cilantro, and parsley, and they can be packaged and sold dried, or undried. For beginners, herbs will make the quickest profits at the least cost to the farmer.

Common Greenhouse Diseases

Now that you have an idea of the best plants for greenhouse framing, you should know about some of the most common diseases you will have to fight. These diseases are most common in vegetables and ornamental plants.

Aerial Blight

Aerial blight is a serious disease in greenhouses that gives farmers a headache. The disease is caused by fungi.

Symptoms. Initial symptoms of infection occur on leaves. Leaf infection is characterized by a rapid collapse of the leaf. The infection progresses to the leaf petiole and the location of the attachment of the petiole to the plant stem. A brown, sunken stem lesion develops at the point where the petiole attaches to the stem. This brown stem lesion develops on the stem causing stem collapse. If wet conditions persist following plant infection, the fungus will grow to the base of the plant resulting in plant death.

Control. Control of this disease has been very difficult and has proven impossible in many situations. Most effective control in the greenhouse will require that the plants are grown on benches, as far above the soil as possible. Remove symptomatic plants as soon as they become obvious on the greenhouse bench.

Bacterial Blight

Bacterial Blight is another dangerous disease that is known to cause massive losses, with 100% loss of crops if not dealt with in the earlier stages.

Symptoms. Leaf spots begin as water-soaked blotches on leaves, frequently with large areas of chlorosis and browning at the leaf margins. Leaf collapse is common as is the development of a soft, watery deterioration of the plant stem. Plant wilt and decline follow.

Control. The most important management strategy for this disease is to avoid introducing the pathogen into the greenhouse. Use disease-free, culture-indexed cuttings. Know the typical symptom to look for. There is no effective chemical control.

Black Root Rot

Black Root Rot is another fungal disease that seriously affects greenhouse farming activities. It usually results in massive production losses that are hard to recover from.

Symptoms. The black root rot fungus damages the root of the plant, effectively interfering with the root’s ability to absorb nutrients. As a result of root injury, plants usually develop symptoms indicative of nutritional stress.

Control. Control of black root rot can be difficult if the pathogen becomes established within the growing area. Pay strict attention to sanitation. Do not reuse plug trays or plastic pots.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Greenhouse Farming

Just like any venture, the information available cannot be complete without a review of the pros and cons. The farmer, especially beginners need to know what to expect including the benefits and difficulties when it comes to greenhouse farming. The following is a summary of the main benefits and shortcomings of greenhouse farming.


Increased yields. One of the reasons why farmers shift to greenhouse farming is to increase their yields. Compared to outdoor farming, the plants can grow in a protected environment and the conditions regarding humidity and heat can be optimized. Therefore, the plants will grow faster on average and will also produce higher crop yields on average.

Increased profits. Increased yields translate to bigger profits in greenhouse farming. Although the initial cots may eat on the profits made when starting as a greenhouse farmer, future profits will be higher compared to outdoor farming.

Stable harvests. Another advantage greenhouse farmers enjoy over outdoor farmers is the stability of the harvests. That comes due to the protected environment greenhouse crops and plants enjoy. Fluctuating climatic conditions make it hard for outdoor farmers to plan their harvests since they can all be destroyed leaving the farmer with little or nothing to sell.

Best conditions for plants. greenhouse farmers control the environment and conditions within the greenhouse which will work well for the plants. For example, tomatoes grown in a greenhouse will grow faster and the yields will be higher since conditions can be optimized compared to just growing the tomato plant on an outdoor field.

Effective pest control. Pest control is important since pests can hurt growth, behavior, and plant yield. Extreme pest infestation will cause the death of the plants which will result in losses. It is quite hard to do proper pest control outdoor on a field since the field is exposed to the natural environment 24/7 and pests can spread easily across plants. By growing plants in greenhouses instead, pest control is much easier since a greenhouse is a closed system, and not too many pests can enter the greenhouse. Thus, pest control is easier in greenhouses compared to outside farming.

Plant protection from animals. Greenhouse farming means that the plants are protected from animals which cause great plant destruction in open fields. That means the risk of losses due to animals is greatly reduced in greenhouses.

Plant protection from storms. Storms cause major losses when they hit open-air fields. Through the use of stable greenhouses, the negative effects of storms on crop yields could be significantly lowered since as long as greenhouses can withstand the storm, the plants inside will not suffer at all.

Plant protection from adverse climatic conditions. Another reason why farmers opt for greenhouse farming is to protect their plants from severe climate conditions like droughts and floods. Since the environment in the greenhouse is controlled, the plants inside will not experience these conditions which would otherwise result in major losses, a common occurrence in open-air fields.

All-year production. Another advantage greenhouse farmers enjoy is the ability to produce all year round. Since greenhouse plants are not limited to seasons, it means the farmer can produce seasonal products, especially fruits, throughout the year. That means constant and higher income especially when the product is being produced off-season.

Planting exotic plants. Since the conditions in greenhouses can be optimized for all kinds of different plants, it is possible to grow all sorts of exotic plants that would never survive when planted outside on the fields. That means greenhouse farming offers farmers the chance to try planting exotic plants which would do poorly on the open air fields.

Creation of jobs. Greenhouse farming creates employment opportunities for the unemployed, especially in rural areas. Large-scale greenhouse farms require a lot of labor which is normally sourced from the surrounding community hence giving work to the jobless.


Experts are needed in setup. Setting up a greenhouse may seem easy but it is a technical affair. In most cases, especially when it comes to big greenhouses, you will need help from an expert who sets up your greenhouse properly. That includes the construction, but also the optimization of parameters regarding humidity, temperature, and lighting inside the greenhouse.

High initial costs. The initial setup costs involved are very high and may be out of reach for many people. Depending on the size and the plants you want to grow, the upfront costs, as well as the maintenance costs, can be quite high. That means the necessary capital required to have a greenhouse up and running will make many people shy away from greenhouse farming.

High running costs. The cost of running a greenhouse is also another major shortcoming of greenhouse farming. That makes greenhouse farming often more expensive compared to traditional outside farming on fields. In places with higher costs of energy required in heating and cooling, it will be better to go for open field farming.

Poor pollination. The pollination of crops and plants inside greenhouses is highly affected due to the closed nature of the greenhouse environment. When farming outdoor on a field, insects like bees pollinate the crops and the farmers often do not have to make any efforts regarding pollination at all. However, since greenhouses are closed systems and no insects will be around, the farmers have to manually pollinate the plants to ensure their crop yields.

Limited food production. Greenhouses are only suitable for some types of plants and crops like vegetables and some fruits. Compared to outdoor farming, there is usually less space in greenhouses and the overall output capacities will be lower. Where the local population needs large amounts of food to survive, outdoor farming may be a better way to ensure the vegetable and fruit supply to the locals.

FAQs About Greenhouse Farming

Is greenhouse farming profitable?

Among the major concerns amongst people is whether greenhouse farming is a profitable venture or not. The answer is YES. However, it will depend on the type of plants you have and the level of commitment you have to your greenhouse. Although the initial phase of a greenhouse may be less profitable due to the initial investments required, the later stages will be worth it.

Is a greenhouse worth it?

Some ask whether a greenhouse is a worthwhile investment. The answer is YES. A greenhouse provides you with an environment where you can grow plants and vegetables all year round. Despite some investment of money, the fruits of your labor make it worth it. Imagine being able to produce seasonal fruits throughout the year. That means you will never run out of something to sell and you can even enter into long-term agreements with vendors and supermarkets since you are assured of constant supply.

What is the best crop to grow in a greenhouse for a beginner?

Those interested in greenhouse farming also want to know what crops they should begin with. From the discussion held above in this article, we recommend tomatoes and spinach as the best beginning vegetables for new greenhouse farmers. That is because the preparations needed to grow these vegetables are not extensive and that they have a local ready market.

What crops are not suitable for a greenhouse?

There are also questions about what kind of crops should not be planted in a greenhouse. Though most plants grow well in a controlled setting such as in a greenhouse, some are not best suited for one. Crops that need wind pollination such as wheat, corn, oats, rice, barley, and rye are not suitable for greenhouses. Also, those that need direct or full sunlight such as carrots, rutabaga, and radish will not do well in a greenhouse.

How much does it cost to start a greenhouse?

Some wish to know how much it would cost to start a greenhouse. You should know that starting a greenhouse is money intensive and needs a lot of capital. However, the amount of money required will depend on the size of the greenhouse you want and the type of plants to be grown. For small-scale farmers or hobby farmers, you should have between Kshs. 50,000 and Kshs. 250,000 to start a greenhouse. Remember that this money does not include the land where your greenhouse will stand.

What is the expected lifespan of a greenhouse?

The time a greenhouse will stay operational is also a major concern for many people. You should know that the longevity of your greenhouse will depend on the materials used in its construction, especially the structural frame. A metal greenhouse frame will last longer than a plastic or wooden frame. The cover material will also determine the amount of time your greenhouse will stay in use. Glass-covered greenhouses will serve you for longer as compared to plastic-covered ones. Depending on the structural frame and the cover material, a greenhouse should last between 1-15 years.

Is it cheaper to buy or construct a greenhouse?

Many of those who are interested in beginning greenhouse farming wonder whether they should buy a ready greenhouse or construct one themselves. You should know that there are technicalities involved in the structural construction of greenhouses. It is, therefore, good to buy an already constructed greenhouse, especially for small-scale farmers. For large-scale farmers, you can buy the required materials and engage the services of experts in the construction of greenhouses. Whatever you will decide to do, it is advisable not to try constructing a greenhouse yourself if you lack the technical knowledge.

Is greenhouse-grown the same as organic-grown?

There is growing confusion about the difference between organic and greenhouse products. You should know that organic farming is a method of farming whole greenhouse farming is a type of farming. Organic products mean production without the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, not unless certified as organic. Greenhouse products mean production in an enclosed environment with controlled parameters like heat, humidity, and wind, among others. All greenhouse products can be produced organically, but not all organic products can be produced through a greenhouse.

Are organic greenhouse products better than normal greenhouse products?

Some want to know whether it is better to produce organic products in greenhouses. You should know that greenhouses have better yields due to the controlled environment that ensures the proper growth and development of plants. Therefore, since many people are nowadays preferring organic products, it is advisable to grow your organic plants in greenhouses whenever possible. That will enhance your yields and hence profits.

Are greenhouse vegetables healthy?

Vegetable consumers may sometimes wonder whether greenhouse vegetables are healthy. The answer is YES. The vegetables that you grow in a greenhouse are good, both health-wise as well as with regards to their nutritional value and freshness. Especially if you are growing the vegetables organically, without any pesticides and chemical fertilizers, these vegetables will surpass all quality standards.

Can you grow food in a greenhouse throughout the year?

Whether food can be produced throughout the year in a greenhouse is a common question among many people. The answer is YES. One of the great things about greenhouse farming is that you can grow your fresh produce almost all year long. These useful structures allow you to grow different types of plants and extend your growing season by many months. You should know that the primary reason why people opt for greenhouse farming as opposed to open field farming is so that they can harvest all year round, something which cannot be achieved in open-air fields.

What fruits are good for greenhouse farming?

There is also a question about what fruits do better in greenhouses. Many types of fruit trees do well in the carefully monitored environment of a greenhouse. Pick warmth-loving fruit trees like pears, peaches, bananas, oranges, and tropical fruits that appreciate year-round warmth. Apples are not a good choice since they need winter chill to fruit. You should, therefore, know about the production requirements of fruit before you attempt to grow it in a greenhouse.

Do vegetables do better in a greenhouse?

Many wonder if vegetables do better in greenhouses or open fields. Vegetables grown in a greenhouse are better. The additional control you have over things like temperature, humidity, and ventilation gives your vegetables an environment that allows them to be grown in any season and provides better nutritional value.

How can I make a greenhouse successful?

Many people, especially those who want to begin greenhouse farming, usually ask what they can do to make their greenhouses successful. The following tips should help you in establishing a profitable greenhouse:

– Get a thermometer to inform you when to ventilate, where to shade, when to heat and what area to cool. No beginning greenhouse gardener should be without one.

– Keep your greenhouse tidy and clean. It might seem like a chore at the time, but always return things to their proper place. You’ll be glad you did when you want space to pot plants and when you need a place to put them. Plus, piles of unused equipment could be inviting to snails and slugs.

– Know the space required for your plants. In greenhouse farming, spacing is very important. Prepare for plant growth by assessing how much room your plants will need at the stage you expect them to reach in the greenhouse. Overcrowding can restrict plant growth as they compete for space and light. This stress can make your plants more susceptible to disease and insect damage.

– Start with your seeds rather than seedlings and cuttings from other places. Beginners in greenhouse farming are advised to start with their seeds. One way to reduce the probability of insect, mite, or disease problems is to start with seeds planted in your greenhouse —not seedlings or cuttings from another location. It is recommended to seed more plants than the number you want because not all seeds will germinate, and this can help provide a good, healthy plant selection to begin.

– Begin with easily grown plants. You should know that in greenhouse farming, success is built upon past accomplishments. Starting your greenhouse growing efforts with plants that are easy to grow will help boost your confidence. Lettuce, basil, and coleus are some ideal vegetative options. Move on next to tomatoes, seedless cucumber, eggplant, and hot pepper plants when you have more experience. Beginners should avoid starting with bushes and trees, as they take up more space and take more time to grow.

– Keep pests away from your greenhouse. One of the main challenges in greenhouse farming is pest infestation. You should install insect screens on air intakes to reduce the introduction of pests. You can also keep outside plants away from your greenhouse, complete any work in your outdoor gardens after your tasks inside your greenhouse are complete, and keep pets out of your greenhouse as any of these could transport insects or diseases inside.

– Grow greenhouse suitable plants. Before you begin greenhouse farming, you should know the best plants to plant and those that will be the most profitable to you. There are plants such as tropical flowers or heat-loving vegetables that thrive in greenhouses and these are pants you should aim to grow. Before planting any plant in a greenhouse, you should first establish whether it will perform better in a greenhouse or not.

Do greenhouses use pesticides?

Another common question among people, especially consumers, is whether greenhouses use pesticides. The answer is YES. Unless the greenhouse produces organic products, then chances are that the farmer has used pesticides and other chemical agents in fighting pests and diseases. Pesticides are commonly applied by greenhouse producers to suppress insect and mite pest populations and minimize problems with diseases. Horticultural crops grown in greenhouses require extensive inputs from pesticides to maintain the aesthetic quality of both the foliage and flowers.

What is the best type of greenhouse for a small garden?

Since many of those interested in greenhouse farming want to do it in the backyards of their homes, they ask about the types of the greenhouse to use. The best greenhouses for small gardens are mini-greenhouses or lean-to design structures. These greenhouses are perfect for smaller spaces and can be easily moved if necessary.

What is the best type of greenhouse for windy locations?

Those living in windy areas and want to practice greenhouse farming ask about the best greenhouses suited for those areas. The best greenhouses for windy locations are those with heavy-duty metal frames to keep them firmly arched to the ground. It will ensure that the structure does not blow over in strong winds. Greenhouses with plastic panels are also a good option as they are less likely to be damaged by high winds.

How can I choose the best site for a greenhouse?

Some want to know how they can choose a site for a greenhouse. The best site for a greenhouse depends on its purpose. A hobby greenhouse can go almost anywhere, but if you’re growing vegetables or flowers for sale, you’ll need to find a spot with plenty of sunlight and a bigger space.

Final Thoughts

Although greenhouse farming can be profitable and rewarding, it is not without challenges. You will need to think of the initial capital required to set up and run a greenhouse before you can enjoy the first harvest. The structure and the location of the greenhouse should be among your first considerations whenever you think of greenhouse farming.

Although the main driving factor of starting a greenhouse is to maximize yields for better profits, you should think of organic greenhouse products. That is because consumers nowadays are health conscious and prefer organically produced products. Since setting up a greenhouse will provide you with the opportunity to control production parameters like temperature and humidity, it still is the best way to start organic farming. Whenever possible, make your greenhouse organic and you will enjoy higher profits for the same product.

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