Greenhouse tree care is one of the most common questions asked by gardeners. If you are interested in growing dwarf fruit trees in a green house, then you will surely have many questions like how to grow dwarf fruit trees in a greenhouse or what kind of plants to choose when choosing your first dwarf fruit tree.
You may also want to know which type of plants work well with each other and why? How do I make my own greenhouse? What kind of equipment do I need? Which plants do I need to keep away from the sun and cold?
And so on…
In this article we will answer all these questions. First of all, let’s start with some basic information about dwarf fruit trees.
What Are Dwarf Fruit Trees?
Dwarf fruit trees are small trees that produce fruit at a very young age (under 5 years old). They are often called “dwarven” because they resemble dwarfs in stature.
The term “fruit tree” refers to any plant that produces fruit. Some dwarf fruit trees produce edible fruits such as apples, pears, plums and peaches; others produce non-edible fruits such as berries or nuts. There are many types of dwarf fruit trees, but they all share certain characteristics:
They usually grow only to a height of 4 feet or less.
Their branches tend to be short and slender. Their leaves are typically small and pointed. The trees themselves don’t have many leaves to shade the fruit, so they must rely on sunlight.
Many of them bloom in the spring and produce fruit in the late summer and fall. They also require specific temperature conditions throughout the year in order to grow properly. This is why having your own greenhouse can be perfect for growing dwarf fruit trees. A lot of them are also hardy creatures, surviving even during winter.
Dwarf fruit trees can be grown in containers or in the ground. They require a lot of sunlight and water, so you will have to water them on a regular basis.
Make sure to always monitor the moisture level of the soil. If it gets too dry, add some water. Most importantly, have fun!
Hoophouses: What’s The Difference?
There are many different types of greenhouses. These can range from a simple plastic tent to a large, multistory building. The key feature of any greenhouse, however, is the use of glass (or sometimes plastic) to let in light and heat, but keep wind and cold out.
Hoophouses are similar to greenhouses in that they are built with a frame and covered with a material such as plastic to let in sunlight. They are different in that they are usually open on the bottom (like a hoop) to allow for air to flow under the structure. This is beneficial because it allows you to walk or work underneath them, but also allows pests such as rats and mice to crawl underneath and potentially damage your plants.
Greenhouses and hoophouses are sometimes used interchangeably, but greenhouses are often larger and not always covered with the same material on the floor (ground) of the building.
The Greenhouse Design
Your backyard greenhouse will consist of a few main parts. This includes the walls, roof, floor, and windows. The walls are, of course, what encloses the inside part of your greenhouse. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Yours will be a simple square (or rectangular) shape.
You can buy these pieces either ready-made or you can have them made at any local lumber yard. They will need to be made out of something that won’t rot or decay over time. Common choices for this are plastic, wood, and vinyl. If you live in a colder climate, you may also want to have a few windows that you can open during the summer for extra ventilation.
The roof is what protects your plants and fruits from the elements (rain, sun, etc). Most greenhouses have either a glass or plastic roof. Of course, glass is a bit more expensive and heavy so it won’t be as common. The less expensive and common choice for the roof will be plastic. You can get these either in rolls or pre-made pieces.
Be sure to get the right size so that it covers your wall properly
For the floor of your greenhouse you have two main choices: wood and plastic. As with the walls, you can have the floor pieces pre-made or have them made at your local lumber yard. If you choose wood, you’ll need to make sure it’s a decent quality so that it lasts several years. Otherwise, the floor can sag or even rot. The advantage of wood is that it can be refinished when necessary.
The other choice for the floor is plastic. There are many different types of plastic that can be used for this purpose. One of the most common is high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This plastic is usually either dark brown or blue in color. It’s often used to make artificial ponds, so if you’ve ever been to an indoor water park, you may have seen this material before.
It’s also very strong and doesn’t break down over time like a lot of other plastics do.
The windows of your greenhouse will probably be the item that you’re most concerned with when it comes to keeping the right temperature. How many you should have, what size, and what material are all things that you’ll have to think about. A good starting number is around six to eight windows. This will allow enough sunlight in during the day to keep your plants healthy. The size of these windows can vary but they should be around 3 feet by 5 feet.
This will allow enough sunlight in but keep your greenhouse from getting too hot.
The materials that you’ll be choosing from for these windows is much like the rest. You can get glass, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), or fiberglass. Each of these comes in a variety of thicknesses and quality levels. The thicker and higher quality the material, the more expensive it will be. Start by getting the lowest grade of each of these materials and see how they operate.
You may find that these are sufficient. If not, you can always replace them at a later time.
After you’ve built your greenhouse, you need to consider the plants that you’re going to put inside. This is a project that you can do year round but certain times will be better than others for planting. Spring is always the best time since the plants haven’t been growing all that long and it’s just after winter, so the soil is still loose and workable. If you’re growing your plants from seeds, this is also the best time since they’ll have plenty of time to get established before the hot weather arrives.
One of the most important things to think about when you’re planning out your garden is where you’ll obtain your plants. If you plan on getting them locally, check around to see what types of flowers and vegetables do well in your area. You may find that there are certain kinds that seem to do a lot better than others.
If you want to have a greater variety, you’ll probably have to get your starts somewhere else. There are many mail-order companies on the Internet that can send you seeds or young plants to help you get started. You can also try local nurseries or even big box stores such as Wal-Mart that sometimes carry plants.
Whichever source you get your plants from, be sure to start them inside about a month before you plan to put them in the ground. This will give them time to establish root systems and become well established.
Assuming that you’re starting everything from seeds, you’re going to need four things to get them started: heat, light, plastic and something to plant them in.
The heat can be as simple as a regular incandescent light bulb. Most seeds should sprout with no problems under such conditions. If you’re planning on putting a lot of plants in the same area, you may want to think about using something a little more permanent like a “heat rock.” These are self-regulating heaters that keep the soil at 90 degrees, which is perfect for young plants. You can get them at most any nursery or garden center.
Light can also be added in the form of regular incandescent light bulbs but, for the best growth, you should consider something a little different. Many gardeners are switching to fluorescent lights since they give off more light than incandescent bulbs but use less energy. They also last a lot longer since they aren’t getting as hot. If you decide to get them, make sure that you get the right type of bulb. If you’re starting seeds, you’ll need “grow lights” which have a blue tint to them and are sold as daylight bulbs.
These will help the plants grow their best with the least amount of “growing pains.”
For the plastic, you can start out with simple plastic grocery bags. If you’re really wanting to be organized, you can get a few large plastic trash bags and cut them up so that you have a bag for each seed variety. This will help to keep them separated and make things easier for you to keep up with.
Finally, you’ll need something in which to plant the seeds. You can get seed starting flats at most any nursery or garden center. These are usually a combination of peat and some type of fiber material. You can also use potting soil from the garden center, but you may want to add perlite to the mix since peat tends to retain a lot of water. This will help to prevent the seedlings from getting root rot.
Whatever containers you use, be sure that they have holes in the bottom for drainage or at least poke some holes in them so that excess water can drain out. Also, only fill each container about 1/2 full of soil. This allows room for the seeds to fall and enough space for them to send out roots. Finally, remember to label each container with what’s planted in it. That way you’ll know when to start watering them.
Seeds need a lot of attention and love if you want them to grow and not just rot in the ground or dry out and die. The first step is to pick out your seeds. Gather them in one place so that you don’t lose track of what needs to be done.
Next, you need to decide what containers you’re going to use. If you’re using containers that you’ve purchased from the store, they should have come with some sort of identification information on them. If not, write what’s planted in each container on the side so that you don’t get them mixed up.
Now it’s time to start planting. Place a small amount of soil (or peat-perlite mixture)in the bottom of each container and wet it down until it’s fairly damp but not soaked. Take the seeds and rub them between your hands (or roll them between two sheets of paper) to remove the outer shell. This is very important since it won’t allow them to sprout or grow. Now you’re ready to plant.
Plant one seed in each container. You don’t need to cover it with soil since they need light to grow, but you should water the soil after you’ve placed the seeds in it.
The next step is to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. You can water from above using a watering can with a very fine rose (a small circular opening at the top) or, for larger seeds and containers, you can fill up a gallon milk jug, rinse it out and use that to water the soil. If you’re using small containers, use a spray bottle (like the kind used to mist houseplants) to keep the soil damp, but not soaked.
Make sure to keep the containers in a lighted area, but not in direct sunlight since this will cause the soil to dry out too quickly.
After a few days (the amount of time depends on what you’re growing), you should see sprouts beginning to break through the soil. Continue to keep the soil damp and at this point you can stop keeping them in the light since the sprouts will be able to get enough light from the room they’re in.
Once your seeds sprout, you can transplant them into larger containers or into the ground. For most plants a milk jug with the bottom cut out works great as a seedling container and once they get bigger you can transplant them into pots or the ground.
Weed your garden daily to keep the moisture in the soil and fertility level up. And don’t forget to mulch around your plants. Leaves, grass clippings, even shredded paper all work great as mulch. They keep moisture in the soil and prevent the soil around the plant from drying out. Your plants will grow stronger and be less prone to disease with this added protection.
Watering cans–either a simple type or a rose type–allow you to water your plants (and their immediate surroundings) without wasting a lot of water. You simply fill the can and water the plants, being careful not to drown. A watering can is also great for seedlings or plants that are in containers too small for a sprinkler to adequately cover.
You’ll need to stake or trellis some of your vining plants–these include tomatoes, melons and squash. Most garden centers carry affordable stakes and nets that will do the job nicely. Other plants such as peas and beans are best grown up a screen of some kind. This allows the plants to get maximum sunlight and keeps them off the ground.
When purchasing seeds, it’s a good idea to buy more than you think you’ll need. It’s better to have too many than not enough since many seeds have a high failure rate for one reason or another. It’s always good to keep some back up seeds.
Finally, harvest your garden when the plants are ripe, not before. If you do this, you’ll have fresh food for months to come.
Reviewed by Kate
Sources & references used in this article:
Greenhouse gas emissions from conventional and organic cropping systems in Spain. II. Fruit tree orchards by E Aguilera, G Guzmán, A Alonso – Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 2015 – Springer
Urban tree planting and greenhouse gas reductions by G McPherson – Arborist News, 2007 – dnr.wi.gov
Growth, yield and water use efficiency response of greenhouse-grown hot pepper under Time-Space deficit irrigation by S Guang-Cheng, L Na, Z Zhan-Yu, Y Shuang-En… – Scientia …, 2010 – Elsevier