Andrew Mefferd draws from seven years of growing expertise to create an extensive guide for greenhouse and hoophouse growers. A review follows below.
As someone early in their farming career, there is one thing that scares me more than flea beetles, quack grass, and drought; it’s greenhouses. Yes, greenhouses. The reason why I say this is that they are expensive and complex systems. My biggest fear is purchasing a greenhouse and either not spending enough money, resulting in an inefficient greenhouse that collapses under snow load, or spending too much money and not seeing a viable return on investment. For many small market gardeners, the greenhouse is one of the most expensive pieces of infrastructure they can buy. It can and likely will be a game changer in the ability to grow quality produce by mitigating the main season weather effects and extending the growing season.
The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook by Andrew Mefferd is a manual directed at both small scale and large-scale farmers providing assistance in explaining some of the complexities and more importantly the advantages of protected growing. The book starts off with a brief history of protected growing and moves on to the high-tech computerized level of greenhouse production today. Mefferd discusses all types of protected culture from field tunnels to glass houses with a good round up of the advantages and disadvantages of each including a deep dive into materials, building orientation, building height, heating and irrigation and how they integrate or not with the various protective growing options. The book does a great job at distilling many of the complexities of a greenhouse system into a format that is digestible by anyone with a desire to use protected growing techniques.
The real value of the book for me is that Mefferd examines how many of the techniques adopted by large-scale growers can be adapted to the smaller scale and, to keep things simple, he chooses to focus on the eight most profitable crops: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, and leafy crops (including lettuce, other greens, herbs, microgreens). As explained in the book, tomatoes have easily been the most researched and have the most developed seed stock out of any of the other crops mentioned in the book and Mefferd covers the topic extensively. A good portion of the section on tomatoes is a primer for grafting tomatoes and discussing various advantages of grafting and different techniques to try based on your scale of operation.
Protected growing is about trying to control the variables of production to create consistent high-quality production of produce. A big part of that involves plant health. Utilizing temperature control techniques, Mefferd shows how crops can be directed to put more energy into vegetative growth during the earlier stages of life and more energy into the generative growth as the plant matures and begins to bear fruit. For each crop type, Mefferd has succinctly laid out temperature profiles for each of the crops to aid in the understanding of crop steering between generative and vegetative growth. It might also help to explain why you have beautiful healthy tomato plants but are simply not producing much fruit. Protected growth is really about maximizing yield and profit in a small space.
With this book in hand, I feel more comfortable than ever to save up some money and invest in a piece of infrastructure that can really take our farm to the next level, in terms of season extension and quality of product. Before spending hundreds or thousands on a piece of protected growing infrastructure, spend a fraction of that and get this book.
You can find this book, and many more including ones about greenhouses in the COG Library here.
Books are shipped across Canada for free!