February 2022 - 24

CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT AGRICULTURE
SITE, MARKET
KEY QUESTIONS
Consider growing greenhouse tomatoes
By Dean Peterson
VGN Correspondent
Greenhouses offer a controlled
environment for tomatoes, extend
the growing season and have
enabled the concept of locally-grown
food.
" It's locally-grown; that's the most
important description you can give
of what you grow when selling at a
farmers' market or a grocery store, "
said Rick Snyder, Mississippi State
University professor and vegetable
specialist. Snyder outlined issues to
consider before entering greenhouse
tomato production at the recent
Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm
Market Expo held in Grand Rapids,
Michigan.
Locally-grown, greenhouse
tomatoes are vine-ripened, have a
good flavor and color, and are more
uniform in size and shape. That
higher quality means a higher value
and better prices and that makes
greenhouse tomatoes an enticing
enterprise.
" It looks easy but anyone starting
to grow greenhouse tomatoes has a
lot to learn, " Snyder said.
" Will you be wholesale or will you
be retail? " Snyder asked. " If you like
talking to people, retail will get you
the highest price. If you're a small
grower, you're better off selling
retail. "
Understand the market
Don't even think about growing
greenhouse tomatoes unless you've
learned what the market in your area
wants.
" You grow what your market is
looking for, " Snyder said. " You want
to grow what you can sell. "
Planning the greenhouse structure
is important. If you will be selling
retail at the location, plan for
customer access and parking.
" Plan for drainage, " Snyder
said. " You don't want flat ground.
You don't want puddling in the
greenhouse. That leads to botrytis
22 | VegetableGrowersNews.com
Rick Snyder. Photo: Dean Peterson
and all kinds of problems. " A 1% to 2%
percent slope is generally adequate.
Start small with one or two bays.
" You don't know what varieties to
use, " Snyder said. " You've never seen
fertigation before. "
A bay is typically defined as a 24- or
30-foot wide structure that is 96 feet
long.
Plan on spending an average of
20 hours per week per bay over the life of
the crop. With one or two bays, you may
be able to have a full-time job elsewhere
or rely on family labor.
" More than that and you're really
looking at hiring some labor, " Snyder
said. " When do you start pollinating?
When do you start picking? Be sure
labor will be available when you need it. "
The bays must have heaters to keep
temperatures more than a minimum
threshold of 64˚ F. Fans are required to
keep temperatures under 90˚ F.
" Temperature is critical, " Snyder said.
" Will tomatoes survive down to 55˚? Yes,
but if you're selling for quality, no. "
Horizontal air flow fans can help by
keeping the air mixed and the plants
dry. Shading can keep temperatures
from spiking on sunny days and fogging
http://www.VegetableGrowersNews.com

February 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of February 2022

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