Water and Lighting in a Greenhouse

Water and light are crucial to enjoying a thriving greenhouse. Here are a few helpful tips for installing drip irrigation and some advice on the best lighting for a greenhouse.

Water and light are essential to plants, and in a greenhouse you’ll have to provide both. There are several different watering methods to choose from: hand watering, capillary mats that bring water up from below, overhead watering, and drip irrigation that delivers water directly into each pot.

ts-200391680-001_vines-growing-in-greenhouse_s3x4A drip irrigation system is easy to lay out and is very cost-effective. It delivers small amounts of water over long periods of time, so plants stay uniformly moist. Installation is fairly simple:

Be sure the mainline that carries water into the greenhouse is sunk underground at least four feet, which is below the frost line, to make sure the water in the line doesn’t freeze.

Use a 3/4-inch poly pipe as the water supply line. Position it to run down the length of the bench.
From the main line, connect lateral lines to run between pots.

Set the system on a timer to ensure regular watering.

Once the water system is in place, you’ll need to address any lighting needs. Although fluorescent lights are popular, they help the gardener more than the plants. This type of lighting is good to work by, but plants need more light, especially in northern regions.

A high-pressure sodium bulb does a better job of simulating sunlight to stimulate plant growth. A 125-watt bulb gives off plenty of light when hung at least three feet above plants or seeds. This is a good distance to avoid heat burn.

Grow lights help to lighten shady spots and propagation areas in the greenhouse. What you are germinating or propagating determines how long you need to leave the lights on, usually an average of 12 to 16 hours each day. If you are growing tropical plants, you may need to set up grow lights if the plants don’t get at least eight hours of sun each day.

Four Tips to a Cooler Conservatory this summer

I have been building Conservatories for over 25 years I often hear (right after “how do I heat it?”) is how do I keep a glass room cool in the summer? Fear not, Conservatory Craftsmen doesn’t just build your structure and leave. We work with you during every step tackling all aspects of the design phase to create a suitable glass enclosure for your unique lifestyle.

Here are some design elements we consider when designing your conservatory and how to keep it cool and comfortable for people and plants!

1. Nature
Planting large trees on your property that will shade your room and keep the sun’s hot rays from pouring through the windows. You can also decorate the inside of your room with interior large tropical plants; these love the summer sun and again will work well on shading the interior.

2. Independent Cooling/Heating
A small air conditioner unit placed in the knee wall works great and maintains the temperature in most conservatories. Some companies make units that heat and cool, which is a great option if you also need something to help with the temperature during the winter.

3. The Right Glass
All glass allows sunlight to enter and heat to be trapped. However, there is much that we can do to address that. We add filters, films and tints to the glass to reduce the effects of the sun. The market has many glass options and we offer any glass of any kind made.
Keep in mind, there is a difference between light and heat. Knowing your particular situation, the exposure of the conservatory and the expectations of you, the owner, allows us to create the best glass for all issues.
We are not a ‘one glass fits all’ company

4. Blinds and Shades
Conservatory Craftsmen offers many varieties of window shades that will assist in blocking out the sun when you need them to. Not only will properly positioned window treatments help control heat gain or loss; they will also help with privacy. We even offer window shades that will reflect the sun!

Grow it in a Greenhouse!

Over 21 million acres in the United States are now covered in greenhouses, growing fruits and vegetables. I’m old, and constantly reminded of that fact by the team at Conservatory Craftsmen, but I remember a time when going to the store, you bought fruits and vegetables that were ‘in season’ and if you wanted a particular fruit or vegetable out of season, you canned or froze it. In today’s America, the consumer goes to the store and wants what they want, when they want it and in order to provide for this market, advances were made in plant research and facilities, massive, commercial greenhouses have sprung up all over the country growing, well, you name it!

Today, at Conservatory Craftsmen, most of my inquiries are from people who have visions of building a glass room and benefiting from fresh herbs and vegetables. Some plants are easy to grow and some take a bit more experience, but it is fun and rewarding.

Where do you start?
Well, call us, of course. We are not just designers and builders of specialty glass spaces, we are also horticulturalists who love to design ‘environments’ not just spaces. Once you have your conservatory/greenhouse, plan your indoor garden. Since we live in our conservatory as well, we want the plants to co-habitat with us in our environment. We both give a little to make this happen. The plants get some room and we get the chair! However, in the winter time when my Fogger/humidifier is going, this is the healthiest room in the house!

Be creative.
Incorporate plants into planters, and pots. Hang vines, grow trees, have fun with this!

Plants need sleep too!
Remember, your plants need 8 hours of darkness each day, so give them a break. Leaving the light on all night does not help.
Here are some things to think about: If the plant is leafy (lettuce) you can usually grow it with little additional assistance. However, if the plant fruits (tomato), it needs additional light. I use a Sun System light on a timer. You can shop lights and get great light source with little heat and power.

greenhouse3Water.
This is an easy one. The irrigation section at your favorite home improvement store with sell you timers, valves, drip tubing. However, go on line and get a bit more sophisticated. You can buy small emitters that regulate the amount of water going into the plant. .5gph up to 2gph are typical.

Glass.
We can design any kind of glass today with any goal in mind. Glass is not glass anymore. You have to know your glass for maximum effectiveness. Talk to us about what you are trying to achieve, and we will design the glass to best hit your goal.

Blinds.
Believe it or not, your plants are more likely to have too much light than not enough. To regulate the amount and the quality of the light, we offer ceiling blinds that go up and down based on the time of day, or the intensity of the sunlight.

Think small.
Only two of you in the house? I take an 18” x 4” planter and each week, I plant a new one with my tossed salad. No one can eat all the lettuce the come ripe at once, so I stagger it out in salad planters and remember, plant one each week, up to 6 weeks going, depending on what you plant.

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We partner with Logees.com on many plant orders. They offer the best variety of edible plants you will find today. You can grow lemons, limes, oranges, avocados, you name it. Some of these trees are going to take a while to fruit, but start today! If you are in a rush, there are many companies that will provide more mature trees for your conservatory, they just cost more.

So what is the future of this business?
Well, we all want to eat, right? And it is likely that our food is not going to get more healthy that that which you grow on your own. NASA is experimenting and developing many new soilless methods for growing edible plants for the Space Station and space travel in the future. We offer glass that will generate its own electricity and will power your greenhouse accessories. Tesla is now developing a battery that they will rent to you on a monthly fee and it will store the electricity you produce from your solar glass, to be used at night when you really need it.
Plants you will have fun with:intallations-greenhouse

  • Meyer lemon (always a favorite)
  • passion fruit
  • limes
  • avocados (not the ones your start from your store bought! They do not produce)
  • olives
  • coffee
  • figs
  • bananas (if we build a really big room for you!)
  • mandarin orange

We also grow: tea, vanilla, curry, allspice, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, onions, shallots (if you eat it, we can grow it!)

My Conservatory Soil Mix

There are times when my family thinks I am entirely nuts and they just go off to do their own thing until I am done. This is one of those times. A conservatory in the spring can be an intense place to start your garden for the year. I have about 45 flats of flowers and vegetables going in the conservatory, for outdoor planting when the weather is right.

Keep in mind, I raise bees in the backyard, and also am a huge supporter of Monarch butterfly revival, so I plant a garden that is compatible to all three of us: bees, butterflies and me!

Zinnia is a huge fan with all three of us and so easy to grow. I have Tudor for the tall and also planted shorter varieties like double white double cherry. All the good guys like Heliotrope, Impatiens, Four O’clock, salvia, more perennials like Monarda Last fall, I collected milk week and put it in a jar in the garage over the winter. I put raw sand in the jar this spring and shook it up. This removed the seed from the cotton and scarifying the seed. Great germination.

Do you know that monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed? I am planting a lot. And the rest are all our favorite vegetables, which I am anxious to enjoy.

But first the soil: I have been following a site that endorses the hydrophilic properties of diapers to improve basic things, like potting soil! I admit I was embarrassed to buy Depends at the store, so I ordered a case on Amazon. When it arrived, I was so happy and that is when the family decided they had errands to run. I raced to the garage with a utility knife and cut open all the ‘nappies’ and put the stuffing into my Homer (Home Depot bucket if you are new to the planet).
From there, my trusty cordless drill hooked up to my paint mixer and the stuffing turned to fuzz. My soil selection is a good potting soil in a bag but avoid the soils with coconut and other additives. I tried them, fruit flies love it. Add a slow release fertilizer.

I went to Gerten’s, a local garden center, but you can use Osmocote. Three bags of potting soil, 3 pounds of slow-release fertilizer, 1 case of diaper stuffing and hit it with the paint mixer. Voila! Best soil mix ever. The diaper mix holds 400 times its weight in water; the fertilizer will be there for the roots when it’s needed.

Winter Living in Your Conservatory

Whatever type of glass enclosure you want to build, you may feel like it won’t be as effective a living space in the winter because of the temperature outside. This is actually a misconception; with the right kind of design and execution, winter living in your conservatory is very possible, even if you reside in a very cold part of the world. There are a few important elements to know about winter living in your conservatory so that you can design it in a way that makes it comfortable to be in during the winter months.

Picking the Right Glass

One of the most important elements of winter living in your conservatory is making sure that you pick the right type of glass for the structure. Photovoltaic glass (PV) absorbs and reflects the infrared light from the sun so unwanted heat is reflected in the hot summer and retained in the winter. It is important that you have glass that does not bring in an excessive amount of heat in the summer time, yet still brings in a sufficient amount of heat to the conservatory in the winter when you need a warmer conservatory.

Incorporating Elements of the Outdoors

When the mercury drops and it gets too cold to go outside, a conservatory can be a great place to be since people often feel like they are very connected to nature because of the many windows out of which they can see the world. You can make your conservatory even more connected to the outdoors during the winter by adding plants, trees, and other natural elements that you can enjoy when it is too cold to be outside.
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Picking the Right Builder

One of the most critical issues relating to building a conservatory that is suitable for living in the winter is finding a builder that you can depend on. Remember to take your time and speak at length to prospective builders about what you are looking for; this way, you can determine very quickly whether or not they will be able to get the job done. A quality builder should have experience with the kind of conservatory project you want to build, as well as glowing reviews from previous clients.

Winter living in a conservatory is very possible; however, it does require proper design. Plan your conservatory carefully, pick the right materials, and choose a reliable team of builders so that your conservatory is suitable during all months of the year.

Greenhouses of the Future

Greenhouses are important for facilitating plant life in a variety of settings: whether they are residential or commercial in nature, the most advanced greenhouses of today are the ones that have sophisticated features that improve their energy efficiency, optimize their ability to grow plants, and create less work for their owners. Here are some of the most exciting technological advances in greenhouses of both today and tomorrow.

Advanced Greenhouses with Climate Control
Many of today’s most sophisticated greenhouses are built with systems that allow people to monitor the temperature of their greenhouse even while they are away from it, using an application on their smartphone or laptop. These applications often have controls that allow the user to increase or decrease the temperature in the greenhouse by activating a climate control system or opening vents in the greenhouse. In some cases, automated greenhouses can be set up, where there are temperature sensors that can detect when the greenhouse reaches a certain temperature and then automatically make the necessary adjustments.

Rain Sensors and Watering Systems
Some rain sensors are also set up to make sure that a greenhouse does not fall victim to flooding as a result of heavy precipitation in the area. These sensors can detect when the rain begins to fall and will automatically close vents, doors, and windows to a greenhouse to ensure that the plants and equipment inside are not ruined with water damage.
Automated watering systems are also valuable because they know exactly how much water your plant life needs to grow and stay healthy. Irrigation systems have been popular in greenhouses for many years: some predictions indicate that as standards for water use and runoff get tighter, more and more greenhouses will use automated watering systems.
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Energy Efficiency in Greenhouses
Some of the major technological advances in greenhouses are the ones that make them more energy efficient. One great example of this type of technology is a geothermal heating pump, which can be used as a way to either heat up or cool down your greenhouse using the ground as a source for warmth or a way to absorb it, depending on what the weather is like outside.
Another major way that technological advances in greenhouses are becoming more energy efficient is through the use of solar energy. Solar energy is a quickly-growing source of power in the United States: did you know that according to the government, solar capacity in the U.S. has grown by 400% since 2010? Many people are adding solar panels to their greenhouses, to help cut down on the amount of traditional fuel that is used by the technology that supports the greenhouse.

It is an exciting time to be someone who is interested in greenhouses, whether you work with them in a professional capacity or you are simply a hobbyist who wants to have a sophisticated greenhouse around or attached to your home. Technological advances in greenhouses can help you ensure that your own greenhouse is doing what it needs to do with a minimal

Solar Conservatories

Solar technology isn’t new. Its history began in the 7th century when people concentrated the sun’s energy to make fires. Today we can have everything solar powered, from cars to space stations!

Building science engineers and architects have been learning how to capture this solar energy efficiently into the outer surface of the building using solar collectors. These are starting to show up everywhere we look. Companies and individuals are, quite rightly, proud of their green attitudes and show off their solar collectors on the outside of their buildings.

However, some designers, architects, and engineers have realized that there are people who want to be environmentally conscious with a little more style. Enter Building Integrated Photovoltaic (or BIPV for short), which is based on the philosophy of creating methods to capture solar energy that is more integrated with the building’s design.

How do BIPV’s work for your conservatory?

green-custom-1Some BIPV options you may want to integrate into your conservatory design are photovoltaic glass (PV). This glass both absorbs and reflects the infrared light so that unwanted heat is reflected in the hot summer and retained in the winter. This also provides a better environment for growing as it reduces the harmful effects of ultraviolet light on your plants. There are PV films that can be placed over the conservatory’s glass windows to collect the sun’s energy or solar collector panels that blend seamlessly into the roof line of the house. There’s almost an unlimited number of ways to build a greenhouse or conservatory with an integrated green design.

Benefits of adding solar power to your home

    • Saving money on utility bills
    • Increasing your home’s value
    • Decreasing your carbon footprint
    • Conserve our natural resources
    • Protect yourself against rising energy costs
    • Tax incentives
        Adding solar power to your home may qualify you for the solar energy investment tax credit (ITC). Some parts of the country offer as much as 75% off of the cost of the solar home system.

We are enthusiastic at the prospect of building green and making solar panels as common to a home as a front door. This exciting new technology allows the uses and applications of solar energy to be incorporated into the design of your greenhouse or conservatory.

Greenhouse Effect/Affect

Yes, we all talk about the greenhouse effect and it seems the news continues to be more and more dismal.

Today, let’s talk about greenhouse ‘affect’, the effect of living in a glass environment on your soul, your psyche, and your health.

We all know the long dark winter days we endure are hard on our spirit. It does not seem natural to be cooped up in the house for all those months without any sunshine.

Under glass, the advantages are many.

One is SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder

In a recent article printed in Scientific America, the effects of too much darkness are documented:
“The association between darkness and depression is well established. Now a March 25 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals for the first time the profound changes that light deprivation causes in the brain.

Light Deprivation Study

Neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania kept rats in the dark for six weeks. The animals not only exhibited depressive behavior but also suffered damage in brain regions known to be underactive in humans during depression. The researchers observed neurons that produce norepi­nephrine, dopamine, and serotonin—common neurotransmitters involved in emotion, pleasure and cognition—in the process of dying. This neuronal death, which was accompanied in some areas by compromised synaptic connections, may be the mechanism underlying the darkness-related blues of seasonal affective disorder.

Principal investigator Gary Aston-Jones, now at the Medical University of South Carolina, speculates that the induced darkness disrupts the body’s clock. “When the circadian system is not receiving normal light that, in turn, might lead to changes in brain systems that regulate mood” he says.

Treating the rats with an antidepressant significantly ameliorated brain damage and depressive behaviors. “Our study provides a new animal system for antidepressant development. Many existing animal models depend on stress. Our model is a stress-free means of producing a depression. It might be particularly relevant to seasonal affective disorder, but we think that it is relevant to depression overall,” Aston-Jones says.”

We obviously believe the conservatory is the cure for this. We have one client in Boston who said she always used to require winters in Florida to prevent depression, now she stays home in Boston, and spends her time in the conservatory. Of course, this may be bad news for the tourist business in Florida, but its great news for the family that gets mom home all winter.

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Your Greenhouse ‘Affect’ also comes from the enjoyment of being outside in the winter, without the boots and parka. We enjoy snow storms and blizzards in the conservatory and pretend we are inside a snow globe!

Consider fresh herbs, leafy vegetables, and flowers in your winter. Never stop gardening all year round. Would you not say your life has improved if you can enjoy the fruits of your labor, all winter long?

On sunny days in the winter, my conservatory will heat up to 85 degrees. I let bread dough rise in the sun. Grandkids take naps on the loveseat in the sun. Most of our winter days are sunny (when it’s not snowing), and the sun is a welcome benefit to a long dark winter.
The greenhouse effect can be good mental health, a place to read, a place to garden, or a place to soak in the hot tub. Without a doubt the effect on us all is positive.

The ROI of Building a Greenhouse

6 years ago I installed a unique gable conservatory for a customer named Joan, and recently I received a call from her. Her husband was taking a position at a college in Virginia and they had to sell their house and move. The hardest part was not leaving her friends or the comfort of her community. It was leaving her conservatory.

I asked if they had sold their house yet. She told me the reason she called was to tell me the house sold the first week on the market, and the buyers walked into the house and said, “Oh my, a Conservatory! We’ll take it!” I am not saying every home will sell that fast with a conservatory, but the ROI of building a greenhouse couldn’t be more evident than in this situation.

Frankly, most people are like Joan, and unless they have to move, they will never be separated from their conservatory. Once you live in a home with one, it’s nearly impossible to live without one. It is a way of connecting to the outdoors like nothing else.

When another customer of ours sold his home with a conservatory, he called us the next day after moving into his new house and had us start construction immediately. As stunning as it was, the house wasn’t complete without his crystal palace.

When we work with you to design your conservatory we are careful to make sure the structure will complement the original architecture. Adding value to your home can be done with a simple addition or extension. But 25+ years of experience designing and building conservatories tells us that adding a greenhouse or a conservatory is an investment that reaps, even more, financial benefits than your usual reconstruction.

An Addition Is Just An Addition. A Conservatory Is Something Else.

Think about it. Many homes you have visited have had additions or extensions built. Some work with the original structure to ensure that the addition is visually seamless. Others attempt to boost the value of their home with an arbitrary extension that does nothing to add life and interest. A Conservatory added to the home? Now that is a feature, a statement. It says, “I am in touch with nature and I am invested in a healthier, happier lifestyle.”

Many people do not realize that the conservatory can be about the same price as a conventionally built addition, with much more to offer. For about the price of a luxury car, you can add a conservatory to your home and live like you’ve never lived before. Unlike a luxury car, a well-built conservatory will last longer and hold onto its value.

Greenhouse or Conservatory: What’s the Difference?

We are often asked about the differences between our conservatory designs. There are many words associated with a glass-enclosed room including conservatories, greenhouses, orangeries, sunrooms, and enclosed porches.

While all of these terms are related, it is important for a homeowner to identify how they would like to utilize the space. Typically, a conservatory is a glass-enclosed living space for people in which plants exist. A greenhouse is a more rugged structure, a place that plants can nurture and grow and people visit.

Orangeries originated in the Victorian era when British aristocrats wanted to grow the mysterious fruits and vegetables that tradesmen brought with them from their countries. In the winter, the trees would be brought inside the warm enclosure while still having access to the natural sunlight. In the summers, the doors would be pulled open and the trees would be rolled outside, leaving a stunning entertainment space for the wealthy to enjoy. They are most similar to the modern hybrid, a greenhouse conservatory, which performs the functions of growing plants but most importantly looks beautiful and becomes a living space for playing, dining or relaxing. It also becomes an asset to the property that will add value to the home.

So, is it a greenhouse or conservatory? Let’s discuss the similarities between the two:

  • All are glass structures
  • All provide an ideal location for plants to grow
  • All can be attached to your house (but greenhouses seldom are)
  • All have the ability to be designed using solar energy to be environmentally sound
  • All can be customized with Conservatory Accessories to add style and design intrigue

Features of A Conservatory

  • Crafted of eco-friendly materials, such as mahogany or sustainable aluminum
  • Incorporates many automatic components without detracting from the visual appearance
  • Used mainly as a living space, but still integrates plants into its design
  • Interior décor includes conservatory furniture and accessories

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Features of A Greenhouse

  • Built economically, using some automatic conveniences
  • From the exterior, the greenhouse will appear to be quite utilitarian
  • Crafted to meet climatic and environmental needs

Greenhouses are an ideal place to grow out-of-season fruits and vegetables in cold weather. Americans today are more health conscious and choose to live and eat more organic food. As horticulturalist, we praise the effort of sustainable, local food. Greenhouses are an emerging market as our clients are looking for a place to grow and enjoy plants, grow winter edibles, and start their own plants for spring and summer gardens.