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Plant Support and Shelving in Your Greenhouse

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 12 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Support Wires String Canes Hoops Frames

Some items of equipment seem to be a feature of every greenhouse and shelving and plant support are high on this particular list! Although the essence of both is really very simple indeed not all shelving – nor approaches to supporting plants – are the same and selecting the most appropriate system for your own needs can make a significant difference to the overall success of your greenhouse.

Supporting Your Plants

Many plants grown in the greenhouse will need support in one form or another at some stage in their lives – and string or canes are most commonly pressed into service to provide it. Tomatoes, for instance, need adequate support if they are to thrive and crop well. One way of achieving this is to drive a hooked length of galvanised wire into the compost, close to the plant itself and then tie soft string from the hook to the frame of the greenhouse roof. As the tomato plant grows, it is then twisted carefully around the string. Another way to provide support is to use strong bamboo canes of sufficient height – and simply tie the main stems loosely to them.

For vines, the new growth can be trained onto a framework of canes or alternatively, a hoop attached to a single stout stake, while newly planted peaches benefit from a series of bamboo canes to maintain their shape. Sometimes, however, supports are needed to buoy up the weight of the crop being produced – as can often happen with melons – and a range of plants, from hydrangeas to Schizanthus, will frequently benefit from a little judicious staking.

Shelving and Staging

Shelving provides the horizontal surfaces within the greenhouse, whether to support seed trays, potted cuttings or keep over-wintering tender plants safe from frost. There are many different kinds available to meet most needs, from simple shelves fixed to the side wall to multi-tiered units designed to make use of every spare inch of space.

There will always be times when any greenhouse can benefit from some shelving or staging, even if plants are normally grown in beds or grow-bags on the floor. Perhaps the most versatile arrangement is to have shelf space on both sides of the greenhouse to allow for all the over-wintering plants that need to be accommodated, but be able to remove the shelving from one side come tomato-growing time. Many of the more common designs are supplied as a flat pack for self assembly, which, of course, means that they can easily be dismantled when no longer required, cleaned and then stored away until they are next needed.

Staging is really the workbench of the greenhouse, holding plants at a convenient height for them to grow and the gardener to tend them. A wide variety of types can be bought, ranging from light, portable units to much more robust fittings and constructed from a variety of materials, though typically most are either made from wood or aluminium. Some types have open slats, while others are solid topped and are usually filled with a layer of gravel before the plant pots are set on them, to help hold moisture.

Although it is possible to use the slatted types as they are, carefully positioning the pots so they are stable, generally they encourage the circulation of rather dry air around the plants, providing a less good growing atmosphere than their solid counterparts. However, with the simple addition of full-width plastic trays themselves covered in gravel, open-slatted staging can easily be made to overcome its limitations. In most greenhouses, it is generally best to have all the staging at the same height, but if it needs to be particularly wide, it can be useful to have it arranged in two or more tiers to improve access.

When it comes to propagating plants in the greenhouse, many of the varieties grown need either support or staging – and sometimes both – to give their best. It is well worth taking the time to make sure that whatever systems you choose, they will be able to meet the needs of the plants you are cultivating and make your time in the greenhouse both enjoyable and easy.

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