While it may not seem like it, February is a great month for gardening. It may be cold, it may be overcast most days, and in fact you may go the entire month without seeing the sun! However, in spite of all that, February should be a very active month in your greenhouse. From sowing seeds for spring harvests to keeping up with the garden you started last month you should have plenty to keep you busy. With February comes increased daylight as well as daytime temperatures (generally speaking). These factors can contribute to ideal greenhouse growing conditions for starting up some seedlings, that is, if you take the proper precautions. Heat and proper lighting are essential in any month when gardening, but now in particular it is vital. There are a few different methods you can choose from to ensure you have gardening success, however the route you take should be tailored to what you want to grow. If you prep you greenhouse for citrus trees and then grow cold crop vegetables, you’re going to pump a lot of unnecessary heat into your greenhouse and cost yourself a pretty penny. Luckily, we here at Charley’s have plenty of experience dealing with greenhouses in February.
Heat is probably the most essential thing you can provide in your greenhouse this time of year. The days, though not often, can get warm while the nights almost always leave us with a layer of frost as a parting gift. These drastic changes in temperature are very bad for plants, luckily, you have a greenhouse (I assume if you are reading this you either own a greenhouse or are looking into buying one). The ability to provide a steadily warm environment for your plants is crucial as you attempt to garden in the winter. If you are just starting your garden, seedling heat mats are a great option if you’re looking to provide heat for your seedlings in a cost effective and energy efficient way. While it is important to keep an eye on the ambient temperature in your greenhouse, it’s more important to ensure the soil and housing for your plants is warm. In fact, it’s important to have warm soil before your plants even sprout. Cold soil can stifle seeds attempts at germinating which does you no good. Heating a greenhouse to higher temperatures can get expensive, thankfully there are a few things you can do to minimize your heating bill. Moving plants away from the walls of the greenhouse can help prevent outside temperatures from permeating to your plants through the thin walls. Leaving a bucket of hot water in the center of your greenhouse can act as a buffer to slow the rate at which the ambient temperature in your greenhouse drops. As the water drops in temperature it will also release moisture into the air providing a gentle source of water for your plants. Heat saving fans can be a life saver this time of year. While they do use energy, the electricity needed to power these fans is less than that needed to power a second heater. Heat rises, which if you are trying to keep your plants at waist height warm, is bad news for you inside your greenhouse. If the heat begins to congregate in the ceiling of your greenhouse, your plants will begin to suffer. These fans hook up to the ceiling of your greenhouse and gently blows the warm air back down to plant level. We’ve found the use of these fans can lower heating costs up to 20% as they greatly reduce the amount of heat lost through the roof.
Though sunny days are few and far between during February in the Pacific Northwest, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen! When they do, you need to know how to take advantage. When there is supposed to be a sunny day, open the vents in your greenhouse in the morning as the sun is coming up. This will ensure that the condensation inside the greenhouse will be kept to a minimum, thus lowering your chances of developing molds and rot. Some moisture is okay as it can provide a small amount of water for your plants, which should receive minimal amounts of water during the winter. But, too much moisture can result in less than desirable results for your garden. If you notice that the sun isn’t coming out as much as anticipated or the temperature is a bit too cold to let the fresh air in your greenhouse, go ahead and shut those vents. If the sun stays out in earnest, close the vents just after mid-day, when the sun begins to go down. This is generally when the heat of the day is at its peak, making it the best time to trap that heat inside your greenhouse. This will make sure you have trapped as much heat in your greenhouse as you can, allowing you to minimize the usage of your heaters. You will, of course, still need to use them. But heating your greenhouse from 50°F to 65°F is easier and less energy intensive than 40°F to 65°F… Whatever you do, make sure you remember to close the vent as the night time temperature drop could really shock your plants.
For those days when you don’t have any sunshine, artificial light is the only other way to go. We carry a wide range of lighting options that will help you towards gardening success. Different options will assist you better depending on what you want to grow. But, generally speaking the most important thing is to ensure you plants are getting sufficient sunlight hours. Anywhere from 8-10 hours per day is recommended for most plant species, direct or indirect. This can supplied by basically any full spectrum light bulbs, which in some cases, let off excess heat. Now, there’s no chance you could circumnavigate your heating requirements by running a bunch of lightbulbs, but you might be able to supplement a small amount. Combining the usage of a heat saver fan and high capacity light bulbs, you might be able to keep even more heat at plant level. Like I said, you shouldn’t expect that little trick to solve all of your heating issues, but it is a fun little trick that could help you save a few bucks. On the topic of these lights giving off heat, you may want to be careful. It may take some time and precise measurements, but you would need to ensure the lights are just high enough that they can provide the much needed light your plants require without being too close to burn your plants. Heat is important to growing plants, but too much heat can prove fatal. Leaves on plants are particularly susceptible to burning, you’ll notice this happening as your leaves begin to dry and turn brown. Are you leaves turning yellow? That’s another problem entirely.
Watering is an essential part of gardening, but it becomes a bit trickier during the winter months. When it’s cold and not as sunny, plants require less water than they do during the sunny warm months. This can create problems for those who aren’t aware of this. Over watering at any time of the year can create problems for your plants, it just becomes much easier to do during the winter. Pay attention to the signs your plants are giving you. Drooping leaves are an indicator that your plant needs some more water. Yellow leaves indicate you’ve been giving your plants too much water. If you’re not sure how much water your plants need, a moisture meter would be a great investment for you. This device gives off a digital readout of the moisture level of whatever soil it is inserted into. This way you know when to and when not to water your plants to avoid over watering. Too much water in the winter time can result in the development of molds and other harmful problems like fungi or root rot. However, the growing days indicative of winter heading on its merry way leave gardeners with a strange quandary. Plants need less water during the winter, but they need more water as the days get longer. It’s a bit of an issue if you’re not prepared for it. As the sun begins to stick around a little bit longer and the temperatures creep higher and higher, your plants will start to get thirsty again. They won’t be middle of the summer watering them close to daily thirsty, but you’ll be giving them more than you did last month. Be sure to monitor them closely, as mentioned earlier, overwatering is not a good thing.
Now is a great time to get started on all those pretty flowers that will inevitably fill your garden, greenhouse and home during the coming spring season. Dahlias, Petunias and Geraniums to name a few are great seeds to start now. These beautiful flowers will bring color and fragrant scents into your home which can really help knock out those winter blues. Don’t forget about your summer flowers! Hibiscus and Morning Glory are great flowers to start on now. If you start now, you can very much count on having beautiful flowers for both spring and summer. Who doesn’t want that? Putting in the work now will really pay off months down the line when you want to focus more on edible gardening during the traditional growing season. With some careful planning and follow through, you can set yourself up for sustained success. Hopefully this February is a good one for you and your greenhouse! Happy black history month! Enjoy the Beijing Winter Olympics, let’s go USA! Thanks everyone for reading, we’ll see you next week for another exciting and informative blog post here at Charley’s Greenhouse and Garden!