By growing plants in a greenhouse, we are creating an ideal eco-system, the idea is to create a space that is ideally suited for the plants we want to grow in the greenhouse. Plants do grow faster in the greenhouse because in a greenhouse eco-system the temperature is more controlled, the carbon dioxide content is higher as compared to the outdoor which is very important for plants growth. Additionally, greenhouse plants have very low exposure to pests and the atmosphere inside the greenhouse is very humid which is beneficial for plants growth. These all factors contribute to make the plants grow faster in a greenhouse. This is easy as long as we follow a few simple ground rules.
The Science: Plants grow faster in a greenhouse.
Do you Remember Photosynthesis? It’s all about Photosynthesis!
Put simply it is the way that plants create food. Carbon dioxide and water convert into glucose and oxygen, the oxygen is a by-product of the system and although essential, very little is needed by the plant.
To grow and thrive plants need light, carbon dioxide, water and a perfect temperature.
Plants also need a number of elements and the three most important and universal are Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen, the plants obtain these elements from water in the soil and from the air. As well as this they all need the minerals nitrate and magnesium that they absorb through the roots. Whilst there are other nutrients and factors that help the plant to grow and different plants often have different needs. If any of these are lacking the plant will not thrive and grow quickly.
Light & Temperature:
Plants need light. None of the above will work without it. Simply put the more light the plant has as long as the other factors are present the faster it will grow. Temperature is another important factor, whether you read your temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius the results are still the same, most plants prefer and thrive best in a tropical atmosphere. However, depending on where the plant species originated from some prefer more heat and/or moisture to others. Some plants will require a constant still temperature and others will prefer a through flow of air movement. Some will want a year-round constant temperature while others will thrive and actually benefit from the changes of temperature that often prevail in natural seasonal cycles. It is also important that the greenhouse is not too hot. In the same way, as if the plant is too cold it will not grow and may even die because the plant’s enzyme activity is too low without heat. Overheating will disrupt the natural process in such a way that the plant becomes stressed. Most plants are sensitive to temperature fluctuations where the temperature goes up and down, maybe overnight or due to other factors. In the greenhouse we can control these fluctuations, even without artificial heating or lighting, the fluctuations in the greenhouse will be much less and the reduction in temperature at the end of the day will be much more gradual and therefore much kinder to the plants. Because it is as important for the plants not to get too hot, the best greenhouse system uses automatic risers or vent openers to ensure that the temperature does not rise too high. It is this lack of sudden changes in temperature that makes the biggest difference. Plants growing outdoors can be subject to huge variations in temperature and even subjected to varying changes of extreme cold and heat in a 24 hour day. In a greenhouse, even when there is no additional temperature control in place the fluctuations in temperature are always much less severe.
Another crucial factor in the greenhouse is humidity. Plants tend to need a constant supply of moisture in the air and at the roots to thrive. It is a frequent occurrence of outdoor-grown plants to suffer from drought stress which leads to stunted growth, difficulty in altering carbon dioxide to oxygen leading to a lower resistance to disease and pests. In the greenhouse, we control the humidity and can ensure that the plants have the best humidity for their type which will make plants grow faster in a greenhouse. Of course, there are a few exceptions, plants that have adapted to living in drought and dry conditions prefer low humidity that is something easily managed in the greenhouse as well. Most plants will thrive better in a humidity controlled environment.
Ensure the perfect temperature and humidity for that plant in the greenhouse and it will be healthy, thrive and grow fast. It is possible to manage a greenhouse manually, but as with so many things these days there are heaters, humidity controllers, fans and all types of gadgets to make the perfect den for plants.
We love plants!
People use greenhouses in a number of ways, actually, greenhouse structures vary from massive structures like the Crystal Palace to small little glass or plastic cloche’s that hold a few tender plants. There is just about everything in between and the really keen gardener may well have two or more greenhouses to suit different plants or stages of plant life. It is possible to cater for the needs of different plant species in one greenhouse, but many keen gardeners have two or more to suit their needs.
The Human is in Control:
Because we are in control of the conditions in the greenhouse with a little effort we can ensure the best possible conditions for the plants we have in there. Because the greenhouse structure intensifies the light from the sun the plants in the greenhouse have a steady supply of carbon dioxide. We can also ensure a more even temperature and controlled air movement as well as ideal humidity the plants are in their ideal environment, protected from the natural elements and changes outside.
Outside the plants are more likely to be subject to disease and pests. In the greenhouse, we can decide what goes into the greenhouse, we choose the compost, draining material, soil and even make the decision to use tap water, borehole water or water harvested from rainfall and there are a number of benefits for each method depending on where we are located. But soil can be our own homemade compost and this is often the best way to control exactly what is used, we know what went into our compost, so we know how good it is. Bought in compost can vary, but does give us the ability to choose a compost or growing matter to suit a particular plant or plant family. By choosing a well-known brand we should be getting consistent and guaranteed quality. It is possible to use soil from the garden, although if there is any chance at all of the pests or diseases then this is not an ideal situation.
My experience is that for plants that use less nutrition, I do at times use good soil that has been turned over by rabbits under a tree or hedge and mix this in with the higher nutrient rich bought in compost. It is also possible in this type of situation to use soil from a flowerbed or vegetable patch that has been used by a different family of plants that will have used different nutrients from the soil. Generally, though we will all be using carefully selected homemade compost or good quality bought in compost to get the best from our greenhouse plants.
The control extends to the feeding of the plants, we decide what additional nutrients they will have if needed at all and control the minerals and elements that the plant access in this way.
As with most gardening activities it is possible to buy in or make our own plant feed. There are a large variety of natural and artificial fertilizers available to buy, but the experienced gardener will often make their own feed as well as compost and there is a wide range of plants suitable for creating food for other plants.
Sheltered Upbringing/Live Longer/Live Better:
There are many, many reasons to grow plants in a greenhouse. Often it is to start off seeds and seedlings early in the controlled atmosphere of the greenhouse to give them the best possible start before moving them outside. Often it is to ensure the best possible atmosphere for plants like tomatoes and peppers that in many areas will not thrive outside with the variations of conditions. Certainly, a gardener can gain an advantage by starting summer plants in a greenhouse, bringing them on early to produce strong, healthy plants to plant on outside. Many gardeners will use the greenhouse to extend the growing season of favourite vegetables or salad crops and a carefully managed greenhouse can have people enjoying delicious fresh food all year round. As well as extending the growing season for plants, the actual plants kept in the greenhouse will often live longer, enjoying longer and healthier lives than they would in the outside, natural environment. A carefully managed greenhouse is a thing of beauty and gives a lot of satisfaction to the person or people growing the plants orchestrated to harmonise and balance with each other. Many people use their greenhouse to overwinter tender plants that would not survive outside and many of the original orangeries were built for the reason of over-wintering the tender citrus fruit plants.
Plants need sunlight, water and nutrients to grow and thrive in an even temperature; the greenhouse is our way of controlling these elements and maximising the potential of our plants. So, plants grow faster in a greenhouse because we create the perfect eco-system for them to thrive.