Liz Felter of the University of Florida offers a few tips to consider before you get started. There’s a lot to know, but you can learn it in advance to diving in. This will prevent you from making costly mistakes.
Have a business plan
Create a business plan that includes your goals for the next 3-5 years. This is required if you need to get financing to start the business. Before you ever plant the first seed or cutting, know your market. Who will buy your product? Are you going to sell wholesale or retail? Find out what business licenses, fees and or permits are required by your county or municipality.
Make sure the property is zoned for an agricultural business. Check on water availability; will you need to dig a well? Contact your water management district. Also, how difficult will it be to get electricity to the site? Are there large trees that need to be removed in order to prevent shading the greenhouse? Find a greenhouse builder. Plan for drainage. The floors should have a slight slope to encourage drainage. Standing water encourages disease development.
What you need to know to grow
Fertilizers: Plants have different fertilizer needs. It is important to know what nutrients are required by the crops you want to grow.
Pest Management: Learn the most common insects and diseases your crops are most likely to encounter. Learn to scout, or routinely check, the greenhouse daily in order to catch problems in a timely manner. Early detection allows you more choices to correct the problem.
pH: Soil pH or soil reaction is an indication of the acidity or alkalinity of soil and is measured in pH units. Most plants like to grow in a pH range of 5.5 -6.5. pH that is too high or too low causes problems with nutrient uptake and can limit yield potential.
Problem Resolution: When problems pop up, contact your local county Extension agent for help. Here’s a website to help locate your local county Extension office, http://solutionsforyourlife.com. Take some pictures to document the problem, whether it be environmental, disease, insect, nutritional, or something else. Include in your notes the date it occurred and what the weather was like. This can help determine what contributed to the problem.
In summary, you’ll want to learn as much as possible before you spend a lot of money and time. You might even consider taking classes offered through county Extension offices or local community colleges or go to work for an established greenhouse business to get some hands-on experience.