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Greenhouse Crops FAQ

I want to start a greenhouse business to grow ornamentals. Where do I begin?

Attend the Northeast Greenhouse Conference or similar educational program. See the list of educational programs and events on the UMass Extension Greenhouse Crops & Floriculture Program website. These programs provide an opportunity to network with growers and product suppliers.

Subscribe to one of several trade magazines and purchase a good reference book. "Grower Talks", "Greenhouse Grower" and "GMPro" are trade magazines that will provide insight into the industry. "Ball Red Book" is a general overall reference book for greenhouse production. See these and other resources in the fact sheet “Starting a Greenhouse Business”.

The Massachusetts Flower Growers Association provides workshops, newsletters and membership directory.

For more information contact the University of Massachusetts Extension Greenhouse and Floriculture Program.

How do I grow greenhouse tomatoes and other greenhouse vegetables?

Our UMass Extension Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture website has a lot of info on greenhouse production – check out the fact sheets on the website.

Fact Sheet: Selecting and Building a Commercial greenhouse

Fact Sheet: Resources on growing greenhouse and high tunnel tomatoes

Fact Sheet: Details on Starting Vegetable Transplants (from list of fact sheets)

Details on growing vegetable crops in high tunnels from Cornell University

Organic Greenhouse Vegetable Production (ATTRA)

UMass Extension provides educational programming throughout the year.

Where can I find information on labor laws that affect my business?

There are several resources. Through the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation Inc.  This a membership organization made up of family farms and farm related businesses. They work to solve problems in agriculture through education and through support from their legislators.

Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation Inc.

List of resources for labor laws for MA agriculture: US Department of Agriculture, Massachusetts Government, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and US Legal.

How do I get a pesticide license to use pesticides?

How do I grow organic greenhouse crops and how do I get certified organic?

Here are selected UMass Extension fact sheets on organic greenhouse production:

  • Organic Growing Media and Fertilizers for Greenhouses
  • Organic Greenhouse Pest Management Tables for Vegetable Bedding Plants
  • Using Biological Control: Pesticide Compatibility, Testing Quality
  • Pests and Natural Enemies: Parasites and Predators

The Northeast Organic Farming Association and the Massachusetts Chapter also provide educational information on organic production of crops. NOFA is an affiliation of seven state chapters. Each chapter is a self-sustaining entity within its state.

Another good source of information is the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Information on Organic Certification: “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has put in place a set of national standards that food and plants labeled "organic" must meet, whether it is grown in the United States or imported from other countries." From:

Organic food and plants are produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Growers of plants (includes dairy and crop farms also) and handlers that have more than $5,000 in gross organic sales per year and are marketing their products as Organic, are required to become certified organic to be in compliance. People who sell or label a product "organic" when they know it does not meet USDA standards can be fined up to $10,000 for each violation.

Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the plants and food are grown to make sure all the rules are being followed that are necessary to meet USDA organic standards. If you are considering growing and selling organic products, contact a certifying agency. In Massachusetts, Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) 

The OMRI is a nonprofit organization that specializes in the review of pesticides and fertilizers for use in organic production, processing, and handling. OMRI provides guidance on the suitability of material inputs under the USDA National Organic Program standards . OMRI does not screen all possible products, only those submitted for review, so there may be other acceptable products not on its list. Suppliers can have products reviewed for a fee. Products that pass review can be labeled "OMRI listed". Some products on the list are regulated and subject to restrictions. In some cases, certain formulations of a product are permitted and others are not. Be sure to check with your certifying agency to be certain that the materials and practices you plan to use are approved.

How can I figure costs of production for greenhouse crops?

Here is a list of Greenhouse Crop Budget Resources from UMass Extension.

Where can I find information on calculating the number of containers that will fit in a greenhouse and number of containers per cubic yard of soil?

How do I manage pests in my greenhouse?

The “New England Greenhouse Floriculture Guide” contains detailed information on managing insects, diseases, weeds and growth regulators for commercial growers of greenhouse ornamentals. See ordering information.

For photos of greenhouse pests see the UMass Extension/UConn Extension Photo library.
For fact sheets on pest management for herbs, vegetable bedding plants and ornamentals go to the UMass Floriculture site.

How do I take a soil sample and where can I get it tested?

See the UMass Soil Testing website.

How do I fertilize greenhouse crops, manage plant height and learn about other greenhouse management topics?

See the Fact Sheets on Greenhouse Management,

or contact the UMass Floriculure program.

Where can I have a plant specimen from my greenhouse diagnosed?

If you do not know the general cause of the problem, contact the UMass Extension Plant Diagnostic lab or an Extension Specialist, University of Massachusetts Extension Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program.

What books would you recommend for someone starting out?

The “Ball Redbook” provides a good overview on greenhouse crop production. See:

Where can I obtain more information on greenhouse production?