Growers should consider climate, lighting inputs and plant needs when considering shade curtains during holiday crop production.
Photo: Chris Manning

For many growers, holiday crops are an essential part of their business. Poinsettias, begonias and cyclamen are among the most popular varieties for consumers. From a grower’s perspective, they are an in-demand crop year in and year out — making them a highly valuable commodity.

As a result, holiday crops are important to manage and maintain. One way to do that is with shade curtains, as proper lighting and shading levels are essential to ensuring crops to look their best at shipping time.

Here are three tips for utilizing shade curtains during holiday crop production.

1. Understand the benefits of using shade curtains.

According to Nathan Deppe, the Plant Care Facility Coordinator at the University of Illinois, growers should first be aware of the benefits shade curtains can offer. Different curtains, he says, offer different lighting percentages that merit use for different crops and different climates.

“Some of these [curtains] also can diffuse light,” he says. “But let’s say you have a glasshouse. If you have a lot of light coming in that’s not being intercepted through a glazing where it’s going to diffuse the light, you can get cloths that certainly can help with that so you don’t get the long shadows across your growing area.”

Deppe notes that what kind of shade curtain is right for each individual grower depends on a number of factors, including climate, what plant is being grown and what stage of plant production the greenhouse is in. He adds that growers can consult their local university extension and/or other greenhouses for advice.

When temperatures rise, growers should take extra steps to protect their crops.
Photo: Chris Manning

2. Consider the time of year and the climate.

August is when holiday plant production really kicks into high gear and it’s also a time when plants could be especially vulnerable, says Deppe. Across most — if not all — of the United States and Canada, August is a hot month. This makes it a potentially good month for growers to take an extra step to protect their crops and keep the greenhouse at the right temperature.

“[Shade curtains] can definitely help with cooling,” Deppe says. “Minimize the light energy coming in and the heat energy coming into a greenhouse environment.”

Growers can purchase indoor, automated shade curtains to better manage the process, Deppe says. But he also says there are external options for growers whose operations are better suited for something on the outside of the structure.

3. Be aware of specific plant needs and the greenhouse environment.

Deppe says proper shading does largely depend on what is being produced, as each plant has different needs. If a plant may later be put outside, for example, there may be less of a need to shade it during production. But, if a crop is better suited to be placed indoors, then it may require some protection during production.

To best accommodate specific plant requirements, Deppe says to monitor the overall greenhouse environment. “Solar gain, that energy from the sun, will heat a greenhouse up,” he says. “So, [growers] will be running their fans and whatnot. For growers with fans and evaporative pads, you’ll be running them a lot more. And this should maintain a better environment for plants.” He says this, as well as the right use of shade curtains, could better prepare plants for the environments they’ll be in once fully grown.

Additionally, Deppe says to look out for warning signs that a crop may be receiving too much sunlight. For example, burned edges or leaves, general discoloration and shorter, thinner leaves are three signs to look out for when growers inspect their plants.