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Develop an Efficient Materials Storage System

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Provisions should to be made to store the materials and supplies needed to operate your business.  Some of these, such as growing mix and containers, are stored for short periods of time.  Others, such as hardware and tools, need a permanent storage location.

The amount of area needed is substantial and every effort should be made to make it as efficient as possible.  Although most materials should be stored under cover, bagged growing mix and pallets of shrink wrapped containers may be stored outside in a well-drained, easily accessible area near the headhouse.  An empty hoophouse can be used for temporary storage of mix and containers.

Maximize the use of cubic space
Storage space, especially within a building is expensive to build.  Use racks, shelves, pallet stacking and overhead and under bench areas to increase the amount of cubic space available.

Most headhouses are built with a high ceiling to allow for bucket loader and forklift operation.  The area above the office, utility and restrooms can be fitted with a mezzanine to hold lighter materials, such as cartons of containers.  Attic areas, if designed to carry the load, can serve to store materials that are not used frequently.

Provide immediate access to everything
An organized storage area reduces the time and labor needed to retrieve items.  Walk aisles should be at least 2’ wide.  Fork lift aisles need to be a minimum of 5’.  Small items should be placed in bins on a labeled rack.  Like items, such as labels, bolts and plumbing supplies should be segregated. This will reduce the time it takes to locate them and also make inventory easier.  Also when supplies are received, they should be moved directly to the storage location. Space can also be saved by discarding items that are no longer needed.

The following categories of materials have special storage considerations:

Growing Mix - Bags or bales of growing mix take up considerable space. A limited quantity of this should be stored indoors for use during inclement weather.  The remainder can be stored outdoors in a paved or graveled area that has good drainage and all weather access.

Containers - Most containers are delivered shrink-wrapped on pallets.  A fork lift or pallet jack and dock are needed for unloading.  For small growers without this equipment, hand unloading is necessary.  Storage outdoors is satisfactory but a small supply should be under cover.  Delivery when needed, just-in-time (JIT) will limit the amount of extended storage space needed.

Fertilizer - Locate this in a dry place on pallets or racks in the area near the injector or in a storage locker.  Bags should be kept closed to prevent moisture from caking the fertilizer.


Pesticides - Specific storage requirements for each pesticide are given on the Material Safety Data Sheets and on the label.  For small quantities, a steel cabinet is adequate.  Larger quantities may require a separate room or building with heat and ventilation.  The storage should be locked and properly labeled.  The fire department should be notified of the location and materials stored.

Plastic glazing - Extra rolls or sheets should be kept on hand to replace failures or damage by storms.  Store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to prevent deterioration.

Labels - A bin storage system works well for label storage.  Each bin should be clearly marked to save retrieval time.  The rack should be easily accessible to the transplanters.  Full cartons of labels can be stored overhead.

Hardware and spare parts - It is convenient to have a shop area for repairs and maintenance of equipment.  One section of this should be allocated to storage.  Smaller items and quantities can be kept in bins or drawers.  Larger items may fit on open shelving.  Segregating by type, such as plumbing, electrical, etc., or by the piece of equipment it fits is best.  Labeling will speed finding what you need.

Tools - The shop should be designed for flexibility and convenience.  Some floor mounted tools can be on wheels for portability and access.  Hand and portable tools can be stored on wall mounted racks or closed shelving.  There are several good books available on shop design and layout.

Office supplies - Locate these in the office or nearby.  Records can be kept in drawer units or moved to a dry storage.  Back-up computer disks should be stored in a fireproof safe in a separate building.

Tractors and carts - Materials handling equipment is frequently stored in the headhouse area as it is in almost continuous use.  Larger tractors and trucks can be stored in a garage or pole building for weather protection.  Battery powered carts need to have an area with chargers.

The saying “A place for everything and everything in its place” if practiced will save time in locating materials.

John W. Bartok, Jr., Extension Professor Emeritus & Agricultural Engineer
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT - 2015

Last Updated: 
Apr 15, 2015
Topics: 
Commercial Horticulture
Commercial Horticulture topics: 
Greenhouse Management