What are the considerations for growing over the summer?

Ventilation, excess heat, making sure roll up sides are critter proof

One of the critically important things that each gardener/grower needs to know is the temperature threshold of each plant.

This is the temperature at which a plant will stop growing and an even higher temperature at which a plant will die.

When a plant has passed the threshold where it stops growing, it will take some time to recover and start growing again.

This is why proper ventilation is so vitally important. On a sunny day, proper ventilation is defined as one air change per minute. You must know the volume of air in your greenhouse and have your ventilation method capable of moving that much air.

A forced ventilation system is the simplest to set up and control since it is thermostatically controlled. The up front and operating cost are significant. Each exhaust fan has a cubic feet per minute (cfm) rating which must be equal or greater than the air volume of the building. A forced ventilation system also has a motorized louvre which will open each time the fan turns on.

On a shorter structure that is facing into the wind, there is the option of ventilating through the doors and windows. This is an economical system but the hardest to control.

Adding roll up sides to a structure has the capacity of moving a lot of air as long as there is air movement around the greenhouse.

This is why it is a good idea to install a window as high on each end as possible. Since warm air rises, this will create a “chimney” effect on a calm day. The down side of roll up sides is the potential for draft across the floor and the fact that you have to be there to open and close the system. You may need to put up mesh to deter uninvited guests.

In addition to changing the air in the greenhouse, it is also important to circulate the air horizontally. Stagnant air pockets invite disease problems. There is not a prescribed rate to move the air, it is just important to keep it moving.

A proper watering system would not be considered as a part of making a greenhouse more efficient but it must be remembered that a greenhouse will increase the water needs of all of the plants.

A final consideration for growing over the summer is the potential need for shade. Most vegetables are good for full sun, all the time, but it is important to remember that this does not apply to all plants.

Wishing you a productive growing season!

The Variations of Passive Venting

In a nutshell, passive venting is creating an opening and letting the warm / hot air escape. The simplest form of this is opening a door or window. Just because it is simple does not mean that this method will be effective in cooling your greenhouse.

If your ends face into the prevailing winds, if you can make your doors big enough and if your greenhouse is short enough. That is a lot of “if’s” and you will still be doing a lot of running back and forth to have the correct amount of opening for the amount of ventilating you need to do.

We have already reviewed the most common form of passive ventilation in the roll up sides. It was noted that roll up sides work much better when paired with a high opening to create a chimney effect. It is a fact that hot air rises so the higher you can create an opening, the more effective it will be.

If you are relying solely on gable end windows, either motorized or manual, they will need to be quite large. You will also need to have the benefit of a regularly strong prevailing wind.

The most effective form of passive venting is a continuous roof vent. This will provide a continuous opening in the precise area where the air is the hottest. A roof vent should always be mounted down wind of the prevailing wind. The benefit of being down wind is that the wind creates a vacuum as it goes over the greenhouse and sucks the warm air out.  The air intake for a roof vent is often a roll up side.

A significant down side of a roof vent is the up-front cost. The cost is the same for a narrow and a wider structure. This is the reason they are almost exclusively put on wider buildings. The cost is simply spread out over a bigger area. The effectiveness of a roof vent still makes it appealing in spite of the cost.

Roof vents can be controlled manually with a chain fall opener or with a motorized gearbox. A motorized system can be a simple open / close controller that you set the limit switches or it can have a proportional controller that allows for pre-set stages. It is with an automatic controller that the benefit of the roof vent will really become apparent. Every couple of minutes it will react and adjust to the inside condition of the greenhouse.

All of the expenditures involved with your greenhouse need to be weighed as a cost versus benefit or cost versus return. This process is especially challenging when considering the options of ventilation. Many of the expenses are subtle and hard to measure. The returns are equally hard to quantify since weather is an additional variable. This makes it even more important to keep accurate records and be aware of your options for improvements.

The Benefits & Drawbacks of Roll-up Sides

The main attraction of roll-up sides, as a method of ventilation, is that it is economical. There is not a significant investment and can be added to virtually any structure. Regardless of structure length, nowhere is very far from open air.

It is only by properly understanding the limitations and drawbacks that one can maximize the benefit. Just because something is inexpensive does not mean that it won’t end up being costly if it does not fulfil its purpose.

Roll-up sides should always be done in pairs (both sides). Even if you have a really high percentage of prevailing wind from one direction, there will be times when you need to ventilate into the prevailing wind.

Any time you have wind going in without opportunity of escaping,
there can be damage to the building.

The average vertical opening of roll-up sides is usually about 4’. If your greenhouse is in an extremely exposed area without any protection or wind breaks, quite often 2’ of vertical opening will be sufficient.

On the contrary, if the building is extremely sheltered, 6’ of vertical opening will be required.

One thing to remember on the height of opening is that if you have a low profile structure with a high opening, a sizeable area could get wet inside when it rains.

Regardless of the size of opening, if there is not a breeze, you will not have air movement.

It is based on this potential problem, that we recommend having end wall openings as high as possible. These openings will trigger a “chimney effect” air movement that will get rid of hot air that is trapped in the greenhouse. These openings will double as your first stage of ventilation since they would be opened when it is too cold outside to start rolling up the sides.

A drawback of roll-up sides is the amount of exposure they create for airborne weed seeds and pests. It is important to remember that when you use shade cloth to minimize this drawback, you are also significantly restricting incoming air.

The biggest drawback of roll-up sides is that there is no practical way to automate them. In other words, you have to be there to open and close them. This can be challenging on the cool, sunny days that have sporadic cloud cover. The sun goes behind a cloud and the temperature plummets and then soars when the sun reappears.

The best way to minimize this challenge is to add a small exhaust fan to the set up. This way you will have something to handle the borderline situations and then open the roll up sides once there is a more predictable need.

In the next article we will explore forced ventilation in greater detail. We also have many resources on our website, as well as videos if you want to explore the topic of roll-up sides further.

roll-up side videos

roll up side considerations

roll-up side Q&A