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Becoming a Greenhouse Guru: Eight Tips for a New Grower

Wed, Feb 14th, 2024, created by Heidi Linberg

Recently, a group of experienced Michigan greenhouse growers gathered to share their experiences and create lists on how to prepare for the spring growing season. I asked them to provide their top three recommendations for a grower new to the industry. They came up with 80 recommendations that revolved around the themes of thoroughly cleaning, sanitizing, checking equipment, and verifying logistics. Here are 8 expert tips on how to become a greenhouse guru: 


  1. Start clean and be proactive: Starting with a clean environment reduces the risk of pests, diseases, and contamination, promoting healthy plant growth. Sweep the floors to remove debris, use a sanitizing cleaner, shock irrigation lines, and remove algae and weeds. Consider getting a water test to check the pH and alkalinity of your water. 
  2. Check equipment and infrastructure: Regularly checking and maintaining equipment, structures, and irrigation systems ensures their proper functioning and prevents breakdowns. Make sure your team checks to make sure that the heaters work and are correctly vented. Begin learning how to check irrigation booms, calibrate injectors, and check that alarms on environmental control systems are working properly to avoid any surprises.
  3. Check for the Receipt of Deliveries: In the last few years, there has been supply chain issues. Check to see if you received the hard goods (ie., pots, carrier trays), tags, and plants prior to starting up that planting line. 
  4. Ask Questions and Trust Your Team: Peer-to-peer mentoring is the most important way to learn how to be an excellent greenhouse grower. New growers should be open to ask questions which fosters a culture of learning and trust between the staff at your organization. Operate under the ‘there are no stupid questions’ motto for success. 
  5. Develop a Schedule and Be Ready to Adapt It: There are so many moving parts to the horticulture industry. Having a well-thought-out plan is essential to scheduling crops and hitting target ship dates. However, there will always be factors affecting your crops: from late vegetative cuttings, long stretches of cloudy days, or disease and insect problems. You need to be ready to adapt the plan.
  6. Create an Excellent Record: Model crops such as Easter lilies require growth monitoring to hit very precise shipping windows. You can base your production schedule based on cultivar-specific culture sheets. Keeping detailed records of chemical applications and cultivar-specific timing will help you make informed decisions in the future based on past experiences.
  7. Training and Communication is Key: Training employees how to water crops, apply pesticides or biocontrol agents, or stick cuttings is essential for a successful start to a new season. Effective communication is also important as the crop continues to grow. Be sure that section growers and head growers are communicating often to problem solve together. 
  8. Scout Often: Regular scouting allows for early detection of pests, diseases, and other problems. Some experienced growers even recommend walking your crop three times a day and taking a deeper dive at least once a week. 


Best wishes on a new season! 

About the Author:

Heidi Linberg

Greenhouse Extension Educator, Michigan State University

Heidi Lindberg is a greenhouse and nursery extension educator based in West Olive, Michigan. She serves growers in western Michigan, especially the dense number of growers in Ottawa, Kent, and Muskegon counties. She provides research-based educational programming and diagnostic support for greenhouse growers in southwest Michigan.

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