Overhead. What is over the canopy of your plants matters more than you might think. The light you provide affects your plant in many ways. There are several artificial lighting systems that market themselves as the closest spectrum to the sun. We are what we eat. If we do not eat a full spectrum of food we will be deficient in certain aspects within our being. This holds true for plants. If a plant is grown under lights that are anything less than the COMPLETE spectrum of the sun we must consider that they might be deficient in certain aspects of their being. Plants, whether grown for food or medicine, will only contain what they are given through their water, microbes, food, air and light. What is not grown under the full spectrum of the sun will be lacking at least one aspect of its medicinal or nutritional constituents.
Though the sun is the ideal source of lighting for plants it also has some aspects that can affect a plant negatively. The invisible waves of ultraviolet radiation from the sun have two major components, UV A and UV B. Amongst other things, UV A makes Vitamin D absorption in our skin possible though it is also what causes our skin to burn from too much exposure. UV B is a shorter wave that can be more harmful to our skin and to plants. Causing cancer in humans it has similar detrimental effects to plants. Over exposure to UV B can impair the growth of a plant and can cause for lower yields, decreased immunity and more susceptibility to insects and disease. Human impact on the Ozone layer has depleted its ability to effectively filter UV B radiation and this is impacting plants, people, animals and marine life. One way to utilize the beneficial aspects of the sun while avoiding the negative impacts of its harmful rays is to grow under greenhouse materials that filter out UV B, either partially or completely.
I have been approached many times by people wanting to spend a lot of money to improve their greenhouse environment. My advice is usually to tell them that the most effective and cost efficient thing you can do to upgrade your greenhouse is make sure you have a high quality fabric covering for your structure. Greenhouse fabrics differ from greenhouse films in several ways. A fabric will have visible ‘fabric strands’ comprising of its composition while a film will look more like a plastic bag or a plastic drop cloth. Fabrics are more durable and are typically tear and puncture resistant allowing them to last years longer than films. They won’t yellow nor deteriorate quickly keeping them out of the landfill longer. Films tend to create hot spots on plants creating environments that are inconsistent and more prone to disease and infestation. Look for fabrics that are light diffused. The diffused properties of a high quality fabric allow the light to be more evenly spread throughout a greenhouse and penetrate deeper into the canopy and under growth. It will ‘soften’ the sun while still providing everything the plant desires. Anti-fog/condensation coatings are available on some products. A proper fabric will filter out UV B allowing a plant to excel beyond the growth of full-sun plants that do not receive this filtration. Light diffusion and UV B filtration will increase terpene production. Higher terpene production translates into more material available for making concentrates and oils of your plants as well as giving them the blingy look of a plant that was grown under lights. These factors also assist in keeping soil temperatures down and lowering temperatures on the surface of the leaf of the plant reducing your need for water and nutrients and allowing for higher ambient temperatures in the structure.
Overhead. The bottom line of your financial success when growing for profit is greatly affected by the amount it takes to produce a market-ready product. Reducing your overhead is the easiest way to increase your profit margins. Growing in a greenhouse reduces your annual production expenditures by at least 50%. This increase in profitability is the main component that is going to allow greenhouse and full sun grown crops to dominate the market and greatly diminish the possibility of a profitable indoor grow operation.
Properly setting up an indoor room costs quite a bit of money. Most people are leasing or renting buildings that they then have to build their grow room in, wire it and ventilate it as well. When the lease is up all of these costs are lost and a good majority of the building materials are not able to be reused again. Once you factor in the cost of all the lights and grow equipment the buildout winds up being in the same ballpark as it would cost to set up a greenhouse to grow the same amount of finished product in. The huge difference between the two is that the indoor room is fully dependent on the usage of lights and fans and the cost of the electricity to run them. Electrical costs can run between 25%-40% of your income depending on how successful of a grow you managed to pull off. A greenhouse can almost eliminate this cost for half of the year while still dramatically lowering it for the remainder of the year. Ridge and side vents allow for passive cooling while the sun provides a free source of light. No commercial product in the world is grown strictly indoors unless there are laws prohibiting them from growing in public. I believe over the next few years we will see indoor cultivation become a methodology of growing strictly for hobby growers while more commercial grows will be done under the sun. This will be driven either by the obvious reduction in production costs or by governmental regulation. The carbon footprint of growing indoors under lights causes a huge impact on the environment and strain on the ecosystem. In a recent article, by Evan Mills, PhD, called ‘Energy Up In Smoke’ Dr. Mills dives into the statistics of energy consumption in an unbiased manner within the Indoor Gardening community, http://evan-mills.com/energy-associates/Indoor.html
Even though full sun growing provides for the least expensive square footage to grow it lacks certain securities and conveniences that available while growing in a greenhouse. Greenhouses will protect a crop from rain or snow. It will keep it warm when it is cold outside. As I mentioned earlier it will diffuse and filter the properties of the sun that can be too intense for the plant. It will keep your plant and soil cooler and give an overall more desirable finished product. But most importantly a greenhouse offers you the ability to control your photoperiod, or light cycle, through the techniques of Light Deprivation. Just as an indoor grower controls their light cycle by turning their lights on and off a greenhouse grower can control their light cycles by cutting out the light of the sun in the vegetative seasons of the year, for early flowering, and supplement light in the seasons of the year that the sun does not provide the desired amount of light, for keeping plants in their vegetative cycle. Blackout tarps, preferably breathable, allow one to cut out the light of the sun in a greenhouse. Although this can be done manually Forever Flowering has mastered the ability to set up these systems automatically making it possible for large scale grows as well as smaller style grows that are consistent in their light cycles. Consistent light cycles are important so as not to throw off the natural growth patterns of your plant. By controlling the cycles of light in your structure one gains control of when their plants flower. Through the use of Light Deprivation techniques a grower gains the ability to control when they harvest allowing them to meet higher market demand times of the year. When combined with supplemental lighting and heating the farmer can create an environment for year round production providing fresh crops whenever desired.
When budgeting for a new project I suggest that you make your greenhouse one of the main priorities. This is not a place to cut corners. Every percent that a structure can increase your quality and quantity of your production translates to larger profit margins. A few bucks saved in the purchase of your greenhouse can translate to thousands lost down the line. Forever Flowering is the Leader in Light Dep. These days companies are getting in the game because they desire to capture a market that has profit potential. Ask your greenhouse company if they understand your market and how long they have been in that market. Ask them if they are growers or just metal manufacturers unfamiliar with the needs of, and how to grow, your plant. Make sure that their structures have been tested and that they have a track record for success in the field that you are in. It’s less expensive to do something right the first time than to fix something that reduced your initial investment in the beginning. A high quality greenhouse will not only give you peace of mind it will be the container in which you have the possibility to create an ideal environment year round. It will reduce the overhead that it takes to produce the crops you desire when you desire them. What this creates is the ability to focus fully on plant production and health.