How to start your greenhouse business, so as not to fill the cones and not go into the negative

Have you decided to turn your favorite hobby into a business and start growing cucumbers and tomatoes for sale? Excellent and very profitable idea! But only on the condition that you build the right greenhouse, get the necessary seeds and take into account many more nuances.

An expert shares with the readers of how a novice farmer can understand all the intricacies of industrial growing vegetables in a greenhouse and all the pitfalls of this difficult task.


Vladislav Shabanov - an agronomist with 20 years of experience, the head of the greenhouse complex of one of the largest agricultural enterprises of Belarus.

Starting a business is always difficult, especially if you have absolutely no experience. But if you take the issue seriously, take into account all the nuances and calculate all the risks, the first experience will not be sad.

Vladislav, let's start with the main question: what is more profitable for a private trader to grow for sale - cucumbers or tomatoes?

There is no clear answer to this question. Each culture has its drawbacks and its significant advantages. Tomatoes, for example, produce more gross output (up to 25 kg of tomatoes and up to 14-16 kg of cucumbers can be harvested per 1 sq. M per square meter). Plus, at the beginning of the season, the purchase price for tomatoes is higher, and the harvest is stored longer. If today you have not sold something, the fruits can lie quietly for up to 14 days. Cucumbers are a perishable product that quickly fades, but they enter fructification before tomatoes. If you do not have a refrigeration unit, you can save the crop in the form of a maximum of 2 days. Then the fruits lose turgor, begin to turn yellow, etc.

But, on the other hand, it is possible to gather cucumbers early in the morning and immediately take them to the market. To avoid slowing down the growth of the following brushes, tomatoes will have to be picked up barely pink, then give them a few days to rest until redness and then sell.

As you can see, the choice is not at all obvious. And, in principle, you can try to grow both one and the other culture - greenhouses and equipment for them will still be the same.

At home, a tomato is a perennial plant. Is it possible for a farmer to take advantage of this feature and grow bushes for, say, 2-3 years? Will it be profitable?

In the middle lane, it is economically unreasonable. In winter, plants require additional lighting with special sodium lamps with a power of 400 to 700 watts. But natural solar activity, of course, is much more than any, even the most powerful lamp. Therefore, the harvest in winter is much lower, and the cost of growing it is very high.

In addition to the huge electricity bill, you will still need to add heating costs.

Also disadvantageous will be the use of greenhouses for one turn of plants. If the sale of grown produce is your main income, I recommend making two turns over the season: spring-summer and summer-autumn. For the first turn, tomato seeds will need to be sown in mid-February, and cucumber seeds in late February. For the second turnover: tomato seeds - in mid-June and cucumber seeds - in early July.

And you can grow as a single crop, and alternate them:

  • first and second turnovers - cucumbers;
  • the first turn - cucumbers, the second - tomatoes;
  • first and second turnovers - tomatoes.

What cultivation technology would you recommend to a newbie?

This, again, is a matter of preferences and abilities of each particular farmer. Those who have limited means, often choose the ground. Such a technology will cost the least, because You will not need to purchase mats and install an expensive drip irrigation system. However, to get a very high yield on the ground is unlikely to succeed.

Growing on low-volume technology (in mats with mineral wool or organic substrate - top peat or coconut substrate), despite its complexity and cost, has obvious advantages. First, it is a significant increase in yield. Secondly, cleanliness and order in the greenhouse.

The farmers, whom I advised, started with growing cucumbers in the ground. They collected 5-6 kg of crop per square meter and had a constant headache - where to put the spent soil and where to get good land for planting new seedlings. When they finally decided to switch to low-volume technology, the problem of disposing of several tons of land immediately disappeared, and the crop of cucumbers rose to 14 kg from 1 sq. M.

And what does low-volume cultivation technology mean - is it the same as hydroponics?

Not really. Hydroponics - it is growing plants in mineral wool cubes in such a way that their entire root system is in water (nutrient solution). Low volume cultivation technology implies that the roots of plants are not in the water, but in the substrate (mineral or organic) in a small volume.

Growing tomatoes and cucumbers in hydroponics or low-volume technology does not accept any amateur. Here you need to strictly adhere to the technology and follow the advice of experts. Plants need to be watered regularly (3 times a day), applied in doses and fertilizer composition specially selected and calculated for your specific conditions, carried out a garter, pinching, graying, and harvesting in a timely manner, maintaining the required temperature and humidity, etc. Failure to fulfill or untimely fulfillment of at least one item entails a loss of the crop and, as a result, huge losses.

If you compare the mineral wool and coconut substrate - which is better?

By yield, both substrates are practically the same. But the price of many farmers confusing them. A good coconut substrate is almost 2 times more expensive than mineral wool.

It turns out that mineral wool is more profitable. But this is only at first glance. Mineral wool, for example, can only be used for 1 year, while coconut substrate lasts for 4 years. Moreover, the yield of the latter during all this time will remain at a high level:

  • 1st year of use of coconut substrate - the yield is the same as when grown on mineral wool;
  • 2nd year of use - yield is higher than on mineral wool;
  • 3rd year of use - yield is lower than in the second year, but higher than in the first;
  • 4th year of use - the yield is the same as in the first year.

Another nuance - recycling. In essence, mineral wool is basalt (volcanic rock). There is nothing so terrible in it, it can be processed at special factories. Abroad, waste mineral wool is used as a component of asphalt concrete pavements. We do not have such technologies yet. Greenhouses simply store tons of spent substrate, not knowing what to do with it further, because take out a dump worth a lot of money. Spent coconut substrate is the most valuable organic fertilizer containing all the nutrients that plants need. After use, we simply sprinkle it on the field, and recycle the plastic bags in which it was packed, as usual recyclable materials.

If you compare the manure with the spent coconut substrate, then 10 kg of the latter on nutritional value is equal to about 1 ton of manure.

Now the market has begun to appear many different companies that offer coconut substrate at a lower price. Blindly rush to such proposals is not worth it, because Often in packages is a low-grade product. As shown by our experiments, the best coconut substrate is the one that has a three-layer structure (the bottom layer is “chips”, the middle one is medium-sized coconut fiber, the top one is chopped coconut fiber). In such conditions, the roots grow best, and the plants produce the greatest yield.

Many traditionally believe that cucumbers and tomatoes grown in low-volume areas are pacifiers, in which there are very few vitamins and minerals, and, plus to everything, nitrates go off-scale. But the soil, which fed exclusively with organic matter - is quite another thing, a solid benefit ... What can you say about this?

In greenhouses, the dose of fertilizer is clearly regulated by agronomists and special programs, i.e. the plant does not receive more than objectively for normal growth and development. Firstly, because an excess of mineral substances (especially nitrogen) leads to an increase in the content of nitrates in fruits, which is why later the products will not be able to pass sanitary control. Secondly, because on the scale of greenhouse farming, even an insignificant excess of a dose of fertilizer results in large additional costs.

By the way, domestic greenhouse plants make tests for the content of nitrates, radionuclides and pesticides in products in specialized state laboratories every 10 days.

Also, once a year, products are checked for the content of harmful substances and heavy minerals (more often it is not required, since they do not exist in the fruit if the technology is observed)

And those gardeners who grow cucumbers and tomatoes in the ground should remember that nitrogen (the excess of which leads to the accumulation of nitrates in fruits) is a very mobile element that is easily absorbed by plants and constantly renewed in the soil due to microorganisms. Even growing vegetables without the use of chemical fertilizers, sprinkling and feeding them with organic matter and all sorts of infusions and decoctions, you cannot be sure that you are getting an environmentally friendly crop, free from nitrates, because Nitrogen is contained in any organic mass and it is very easy to overdo it. Any summer resident who generously decorates the beds with manure and compost, nitrates in products will be off the scale.

What varieties / hybrids would you recommend to choose a beginner farmer?

In greenhouses (no matter cucumber or tomato) varieties do not grow at all. And that's why:

  • they are very unstable (some bushes can give a good harvest, and others - quite small);
  • the fruits on the bushes of varietal plants are heterogeneous in shape and size (which means there will be a lot of unconditioned);
  • varieties are less resistant to adverse conditions and more susceptible to diseases than hybrids.

Varieties can be planted by private owners for their own needs, to eat from the bush and roll up. To those who grow cucumbers and tomatoes for sale, I advise you to choose only modern highly productive hybrids.

Picking up a hybrid for your greenhouse, talk with colleagues in your area, ask what they grow, if possible try the harvest, talk with experts. Select and plant a few items. In no case do not start a business with the cultivation of a single hybrid! If something goes wrong (turns out to be too naughty, low-yielding, tasteless, the plant does not like your conditions, etc.), you will lose the whole season. First, I advise you to try to grow several different hybrids, see how they will behave, what kind of crop they will give, how much their customers will like their fruits, and only then dwell on some options.

If you can afford the construction of expensive high greenhouses, you have a large family, all members of which are ready to join the work and plunge into the greenhouse wisdom, choose foreign hybrids (Dutch, German, Polish, etc.). With all its demands on the growing conditions and the high cost of seeds, with such plants you can get the greatest amount of products. If you have a low greenhouse and you are going to grow crops in the ground, it is better to opt for domestic hybrids. They are less demanding of growing conditions and will forgive you certain flaws in agricultural technology, but, true, and the crop will give less.

Those who are going to grow cucumbersI recommend choosing parthenocarpic hybrids that do not need pollination. They always give a consistently high yield and have a low percentage of substandard products (usually not more than 5% of the total crop).

Those who are just starting to grow tomatoesI advise you to practice first on the determinant hybrids that are mastered. They are less demanding in the care and give a faster harvest (after 70-80 days after germination). There are also semi-determinant hybrids, but they need to be properly formed, otherwise they can be completed at the knee level. The optimum height for such tomatoes is at the level of a person's chest of medium height.

To obtain a good crop of tomatoes in the greenhouse need insect pollinators.

Best of all, bumblebees deal with the role of pollinators. On the greenhouse area of ​​20-25 acres, you will need 2 beehives. The first one is placed at the beginning of flowering of the lowest hand, the second - after 4 weeks.

One bumblebee beehive will cost you about 65 euros

Over the years of work, we have tested many different hybrids of domestic and foreign selection in our greenhouses. For our cultivation technology (in low-volume organic substrates), Dutch hybrids turned out to be the best in terms of yield, taste and keeping quality. Although I repeat, it is not easy to grow them, and greenhouses for these plants need high, not less than 4.5 m in the ridge.

By the way, about the greenhouse: what should it be?

For a working family consisting of three or four adults, the best option would be a greenhouse with an area of ​​20-25 acres. This is the area with which it will be possible to cope physically and get a good profit. But you need to be prepared for the fact that the whole season will have to be worn out - from early morning until late evening.

On its sides, in its lower part, the greenhouse should be at least 2.2 m high, and better - 2.3-2.4 m, in the ridge - 4-4.5 m. This allows you to create the optimum angle of inclination of the roof so that in winter the snow load did not tear the film or, worse, did not fold the entire structure.

It is not necessary to install a very long greenhouse. A 40 meter length is enough. And the optimal width is 11 m. Let me explain why. If you make rows across the greenhouse, in the middle you will have a 1 m wide passage (this is a technological zone where you will walk, put boxes with harvested crops, etc.), and to the right or left of it will be rows 10 m wide each. So you will be easy to lay the mats, do not have to cut anything. Also in such a greenhouse, optimal proportions of the height of the roof and walls will be observed, which will minimize the snow load.

The width of 12 m - this is the ceiling. Wider to do at this height of the roof is not worth it, otherwise in winter your greenhouse may simply fold under the weight of snow or you will have to spend a lot of money on additional rafters, which will significantly increase the cost of construction.

In the middle lane, the rows of plantings should be directed from north to south — with this arrangement, the sun illuminates all parts of the plants during the day and they do not obscure each other. And already how to put a greenhouse, this is a mastery. Build it from north to south - arrange in the same direction and rows, build from west to east - make short rows across the greenhouse. It does not matter how the greenhouse is built, the most important thing is how the rows of plants will be located in it.

Many summer residents and beginning farmers think that, the more plants, the better - the greater the yield from 1 square meter they can gather. Not! It has long been calculated and proved that the optimum, in terms of comfort for plants, their health and the number of crops harvested from them is 2.5 (maximum 3) plants per 1 square meter. If, say, you have a 20 hectare greenhouse, a maximum of 6,000 bushes should be planted in it.

Polycarbonate, glass or film - which coating should be preferred?

The best coating for greenhouses is still glass. It is better than polycarbonate and film, it lets in the sun rays, which is very important in the conditions of a middle band. But this material is easy to beat, it is expensive and very bulky, which will entail additional costs for strengthening the greenhouse frame. This option is not for everyone. As an alternative, I can recommend to stretch a multi-year light-stabilized film on the roof (it has a yellowish or green-blue tint), and finish the side walls and ends with polycarbonate. And it is not necessary to buy thick sheets, you can do with the "five" and even the "four".

And do not forget about the vents. They must be in the greenhouse necessarily. Place them in the ends at the very roof and on the sides in a staggered manner.

Which is better - one big greenhouse or two smaller ones?

Better - one large room, divided into two functional areas: in fact, the greenhouse, in which the crop is grown, and a small utility room for growing seedlings. This room (breeding ground) is necessarily equipped with lightening lamps (for example, we use high-pressure sodium lamps with a power of 600 W) and heating equipment.

To properly install the lamp, you need to get a luxmeter. Для выращивания рассады освещенность в любой точке, где будут находиться растения, должна быть минимум 8000 Лк, т.е. лампы должны быть расположены так, чтобы не было неосвещенных зон. Причем измерять освещение нужно ночью и желательно при большой облачности. Делается это просто: включаете все лампы и начинаете их туда-сюда двигать, измеряя уровень освещенности люксметром.

Если освещенность в теплице будет недостаточной, растения вытянутся и вырастут ослабленными, из-за чего в последующем не смогут дать высокий урожай

It is also necessary that the hotbed always has a constant temperature. At the greenhouse construction stage, be sure to think about how and with what you will heat it.

How about heat guns and fan heaters? Or is it better to have a proven old-fashioned method - a stove?

Heat guns are expensive. It is better not to use them at all. they burn a lot of oxygen. If there are people in the greenhouse during operation of the devices, they may simply get angry. Fan heaters are the same; they burn oxygen and consume a lot of electricity. Water heating is also very expensive.

Stove heating is the best and budget option. If finances allow, it is best to install a gas or solid fuel boiler. Well, if not, put a stove-stove. This is the cheapest, but also the most time-consuming option, since the firewood in it burns out very quickly, and they will have to be thrown every 1.5-2 hours if it is -10-20 ° C outside.

For heating of 6 hundred parts it will be required 5 such stoves, welded from 200-liter metal barrels, each of which should have its own chimney. It is best to have a stove in the center of the greenhouse, right under the ridge. It is better to do chimneys "recumbent", first they are sent along the walls and only then taken outside - so the greenhouse will be better heated. But be prepared for the fact that firewood will need a lot. My farmer’s friend takes about 500 cubic meters of firewood for a greenhouse with an area of ​​about 30 acres for the winter-spring period.

Next to the greenhouse, be sure to provide a place for storing firewood.

In addition to stoves, it is also desirable to get fans that will accelerate warm air throughout the room. And do not forget to buy several thermometers to control the temperature in the greenhouse. They will need to hang in the coldest places.

Another important point that should not be forgotten during the construction of the greenhouse is the irrigation system. Is it possible to save on it and get by with the most budget option?

If you are going to grow cucumbers or tomatoes in the ground, you can get by with even the simplest tape systems. But for a low-volume technology, a “real” drip irrigation system is already needed, which is not cheap. For understanding, 1 dropper assembly will cost about $ 1, not to mention the fact that you still need to purchase a 16-mm hose, filters, pumps, vat water storage tanks, etc.

The most expensive launch of a low-rise greenhouse farm is the installation of an irrigation system. Therefore, it is better not to engage in amateur performances, but to turn to professionals.

A properly designed and properly installed system should supply the same amount of fluid for each plant, no matter how close or far from the main hose it is. From this directly depends on the state of the plants and the amount of the crop, which they can give.

Remember the rule: for normal growth and fruiting, the soil (substrate) in the habitat zone of the roots should always be slightly damp. As soon as the soil dries, the plant is under stress.

And another important point that newcomers often miss: when watering plants, huge amounts of water are consumed. To be clear: in a greenhouse with an area of ​​25 acres on days with peak solar activity, 12 tons of water are consumed per day. If for such volumes of water to pay on the meter, then you just fly into the pipe. My advice: drill a well.

What are the nuances stillshould consider a novice farmer?

All that we talked about above and what will be discussed in the following articles will not make sense if you do not take care of how you will realize the harvest. After all, to grow and collect is only half the battle, it is important to think over to whom, where and for how much you will sell it.

To hand over the grown products to wholesale to dealers is very cheap and unprofitable. The best option is to take care of a place in the market and hire a salesperson who will return the proceeds daily. You can also take products to stores - they usually offer a more or less reasonable price. Small private shops do not take a lot of products, but they are usually calculated right away, and large networkers usually take large lots, but you can wait several months for your money.

Also in advance you need to think about what you will deliver and where you will store the goods. With a good choice of hybrids and compliance with the technology for the day from the greenhouse area of ​​25 acres, you can collect 1 ton of crop. Where to put this amount of products? Obviously, in the trunk of your sedan and even a station wagon, you will not shove it all. At least, it is necessary to get the small trailer with an awning.

And you need to equip some cool storage space for ripening / unsold crops - a barn, a garage, etc.

In addition, do not forget to do a water analysis for the content of mineral salts (and when grown in low-volume - also for carbonates). When grown in soil, it is also necessary to analyze the soil for the main nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium). All this is necessary in order to calculate the required dose of fertilizers, thanks to which the plants will develop properly, but in the fruits, nitrates and other elements dangerous to health will not accumulate. Fertilizer doses are calculated in millimoles (mmol). And if you do not have perfect molecular chemistry, it is better to seek help from a specialist.

As you can see, the desire to become a farmer and the availability of seed capital is not always enough. In order for your dreams of a big harvest and growing profits not to remain just dreams, you need to carefully think through everything and listen to the advice of specialists.

Revision thanks Vladislav Shabanov for assistance in preparing the material. And for anyone interested in cucumber and tomato production for sale, we advise you to follow our publications on the site. Ahead you will find a lot of useful information about the cultivation of seedlings, the technology of growing cucumbers and tomatoes in the ground and low-surveying, tips on pinching and staining plants, ways to combat diseases and pests in greenhouses without the use of "chemistry".

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