Winter storms and cold temperatures have been a challenge for greenhouse businesses in recent years. Storm damage to greenhouses have included racking of the frame, bending of the hoops, broken glass or torn plastic and uplifted foundation posts.
Snow that accumulates on a greenhouse can put significant weight on the structural members. Snow can be light and fluffy with a water equivalent of 12 inches of snow equal to 1 inch of rain. It can also be wet and heavy with 3 inches of snow equal to 1 inch of rain. Snow having a 1 inch of rain water equivalent will load a greenhouse with 5.2 psf. This amounts to 6.5 tons on a 25' X 96' greenhouse.
While we do not know what is in store for this winter, a little preparation before a storm can minimize damage from severe weather events.
Here are a few resources to help prepare for winter storms this season.
Info by John Bartok, Extension Professor Emeritus and Agricultural Engineer, NRME Department, University of Connecticut
- Reducing Storm Damage to Your Greenhouses -UConn Greenhouse IPM.
- Reducing Storm Damage to Your Greenhouses (version 2) - UMass Extension (with additional links to MA resources on storm preparation and response)
- 10 Snow-Related Causes of Greenhouse Failure 2013. Greenhouse Grower Magazine.
- Snow Melting Tips 2015. Greenhouse Management Magazine.
Preparing Your Greenhouse for a Hurricane, 2013, Skip Paul, Wishingstone Farm, Little Compton, RI.
Also, in recent winters, frigid temperatures and frequent snow storms caused delays of shipments of plugs and cuttings for spring production which arrived chilled or frozen. The damage often showed within a few hours after exposure to warmer temperatures.
Learn to recognize the damage. See this article with photos: “Chilling Injury on Cuttings: What to look for” by Tom Dudek, Michigan State University Extension.
Tina Smith, UMass Extension and Leanne Pundt, UConn Extension