What You Should Know Before Install Greenhouse

Greenhouse as Hobby

Greenhouses are becoming more and more popular especially in inhospitable environments.  Year round access to fruits and vegetables, flowering plants and medicinal herbs, makes this DIY project appealing to many. The key to a successful greenhouse project is managing the water supply. All plants need water. If the space is small enough, then the old green plastic watering can works fine. But a true greenhouse has a dedicated irrigation system for monitoring moisture content and regularity with regards to watering your plants. This is often an automated system as it is hard to be consistent on our own and crops may suffer. This is why greenhouse plumbing is important. The good system of plumbing can help the plants to grow better.


Efficiency is the Key

Each plant needs its own specific amount of water at the right time. The time between watering must be sufficient for the soil to absorb and drain properly. Bottom line, water must be managed efficiently.

It sounds relatively straight forward. Water the plants. But there are a variety of methods for going about this project and a number of different technologies you should be aware of in the design phase of your project. Let’s consider some of these.

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The Design Concept

There are so many options of greenhouse design. There are greenhouse setups that are completely off grid and need no outside water supply. Then there are systems that boast every degree of automation.  Meditate ahead of time on what you are hoping to accomplish in the long run. The reason this is so important has to do with the drainage system. This aspect of the build process influences how you lay out and foundation of greenhouse construction. If you know that at some point in the future you’ll want to automate your greenhouse, be sure to install the supply water lines and appropriate drainage systems for future expansion before the concrete is poured.

greenhouse drainage

Mating With Capillary Action

Capillary mats are extremely effective in a greenhouse setup. Similar in function to a sponge, this capillary matting is composed of an absorbent material. When installing your planter boxes or potting arrangement, a layer of the material is to be placed underneath the pots and growing trays. Through a process called osmosis, the soil will reverse saturate, drawing water up into the growing medium until it is completely saturated. Water molecules are naturally drawn to one another. As the capillary action causes the water molecules to progress upwards, they stick to each other forming something like a chain.  These mats can be kept moistened by adding water manually. Another semi-automatic system for supplying water to this membrane is called the container method. A large bucket-like container is installed below the planter boxes and growing trays, attached to the bottom of the benches that the plants are resting on. This reservoir supplies each capillary mat with the water it needs to do its job. Be sure that the supply chamber is at a lower elevation than the actual capillary mat, to avoid over-watering the plants. Capillary matting can also be used in the base of hanging plants.

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The Bottle System

Individual plants can be cared for utilizing the bottle system.  In this system, the units are sometimes referred to as “water spikes”.  Hollow spikes attached to a watering bottle are driven into the soil near the plants roots.  This system leaks just the right amount of water to meet the plants requirements.  This method can be elaborated upon as in the “double-pot” system which pulls water from a common source via a water valve and tube arrangement.

Drip Irrigation Systems

This is the system that has become synonymous with greenhouse gardening. Greenhouse builders prefer this method.  This setup allows optimal control over your water flow.  Very efficient and simple to install these systems save water because you can customize the volume used for each individual plant.  In a way, it’s the best of both worlds. Water spikes and tubes are utilized for administering the water to each plant, but the flow is controlled via control valves and nozzles. The thin and often black tubing is placed on the soil surface and water drips out at the base of the plants. This tubing can also be hung above the plants watering their leaves, running down the stems and trunks. In the overhead setup, gravity provides the pressure necessary for the water flow. This method is great for an off-grid system as no electricity is needed. A supply water reservoir must be kept full for this to continue functioning.

drip irrigation

Vacuum Breakers and Water line Connections

If you choose to plumb your greenhouse with pressurized supply water lines, then a more sophisticated setup becomes possible.  These irrigation systems need the proper water line connections from your home plumbing and vacuum breakers.

These vacuum breakers act as back-flow prevention valves.  You don’t want the water from your greenhouse garden to migrate back into the fresh water supply. If the pressure in the supply line drops below the drip irrigation line pressure even momentarily, backwash occurs. The main supply valve connects to the back-flow prevention vacuum breaker.  Next you install a pressure regulating valve and a strainer or filter as the irrigation tubing is generally quite small and can easily plug up with debris.  If you use a garden hose to supply water to your greenhouse, there are simple spigot mounted vacuum breakers you can screw in between the supply valve and hose.

greenhouse hose

Water Calculations for Greenhouses

Water supply is important to keep your plants still alive. But the question is how much water will a greenhouse use?  This is greatly influenced by the type of plants you chose to grow.  For example tomatoes and fruiting plants are water intensive.  While only time will tell you precisely how much water your greenhouse uses each month, there is a calculation that will get you in the ballpark. Most greenhouses posses 80 to 90 percent plantable space.  Take the total square footage of your greenhouse layout and multiply it by 0.5 gallons of water used. Then subtract 20 percent.  Another way is to add up the plants and multiply by half a gallon. Plants growing in pots and planting beds absorb approximately half a gallon of water each day. So be sure first of water supply you need when you do your greenhouse installation.

With a little planning and research you can DIY plumb you own greenhouse. Enjoy the fruits of your labors, or the flowers and vegetables of your labors.  Send us some photos of your final build.  We are interested in what you are up to.  We’re also ready to help you with this project. We are a plumbing company that professional in irrigation install. Contact Emergency Response Plumbers for an estimate!

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