Structures & Equipment
Spring Into Action With Preventive Cleanup Measures
By Duane Van Alstine
“Spring cleaning” is more than just a “cleaning” perspective, it also involves planning ahead and taking care of business concerns so they don’t interfere later on.
By Duane Van Alstine
During every busy shipping season you invariably run into issues that would have been eliminated had a little spring cleaning taken place.
The spring cleaning referred to here encompasses more than just a “cleaning” perspective, it also involves planning ahead and taking care of business concerns so they don’t interfere with the busy season.
Here are a few points you may want to consider before spring shipping rolls around:
1. TAKE TIME TO REVIEW SUPPLY INVENTORY
A good time to take stock of inventory is before the busy shipping period; there’s nothing worse than finding out you are short of shipping trays in the middle of a large order.
Don’t confine your inventory to just shipping material, have a look at production material as well.
The less concern around ordering material, the easier time you will have when the product is flying out the door.
2. ROTATION OF SENSITIVE PRODUCT
A system should always be in place to use older product first – from cardboard to growing mixes. Get your departments using a continuous rotation of material so there are no surprises when you have the least amount of time to deal with it.
Growing mixes, for example, generally have a shelf life of three months. After that, the wetting agent is less effective, resulting in watering issues.
Some operations colour code their loads of growing mixes so the staff knows which to use first.
It also helps if you have a stringent ordering procedure so that you are never over-supplied or under-supplied with material.
Putting these measures in place will ensure that you are not dealing with surprise issues when you can least afford it.
3. TAKE THE TIME TO ELIMINATE CLUTTER TO IMPROVE PRODUCTION EFFICIENCIES
It’s surprising how much constant clutter can affect the efficiencies of any greenhouse operation. A well-organized shipping area free of infringements can greatly increase the chances of making those time sensitive deadlines that are so often imposed.
Take time when you are able to review shipping and production areas to make sure that inventory is neat and that it is located in an area to maximize efficiency for the busy times.
Sometimes the slightest change can save hours of labour.
4. END-OF-WINTER MAINTENANCE INCLUDES INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR INSPECTIONS
There are obvious maintenance issues that need to be scheduled within the greenhouses environment, but there are issues that are particularly important when you are moving into the spring season.
If your greenhouse has an area of cooling, you should be looking at this system prior to its demand.
Check all pumps so that they are in proper working order and all other aspects of the cooling system.
Winter damage to any greenhouse structure is always an area of concern. As soon as the weather allows, you should do an indepth perimeter check of the entire greenhouse and deal with any issues right away.
Busy shipping times may require your maintenance person to be in the greenhouse and other maintenance issues will take a back seat.
Blackout and shading systems should be serviced before the spring season as well.
With long-day conditions approaching, blackout systems are vitally important for plants needing short-day conditions to flower.
5. TAKE MEASURES EARLY TO LESSEN THE POTENTIAL OF PEST INFESTATIONS IN WARMER MONTHS
The arrival of warmer weather in the spring also brings pests, but certain precautions both in and around the greenhouse can reduce the severity.
Removal of internal weeds before the change of season, as well as drench and spray preventives, can accomplish this.
Look in your chemical cabinets and check inventory. Make sure that the pesticides are in inventory before they are necessary.
This again will lend more concentration to the jobs at hand during the busy season.
Herbicides for areas directly in contact with greenhouse exterior are also a necessary element for keeping pests out of the facility. Pests will live in the grass and weeds around the greenhouse perimeter and eliminating this environment drastically cuts the numbers of pests entering the greenhouse.
Make sure enough herbicide is on hand to at least handle the first spring spray.
6. REVIEW CLIMATE CONTROLS
Instead of waiting until the warmer weather arrives, have plans in place that remind you ahead of time when climate controls need to be tweaked.
Chances are when the changes are required, your workload has drastically increased.
Day lengths and temperatures change, and settings for venting, shading and blackout all need to be adjusted to meet changing climate conditions.
Keeping records from previous years will aid in this changeover.
7. WHITEWASHING THE EXTERIOR
If you are planning to whitewash your greenhouse, get plans and material orders in place before things really get busy. Depending on your method of application, this could take a great deal of planning just to arrange adequate labour.
Duane Van Alstine is general manager of Niagrow Systems Ltd. • 905-562-6226, www.niagrow.com