Creating the Right Conditions to Grow Orchids

Creating the Right Conditions to Grow Orchids
by Jane Kavanagh

Fresh air is important at all times to prevent the air inside the greenhouse from becoming stagnant. Ventilation also controls the temperature and helps to prevent overheating. In early spring, there will be days when the increasing power of the sun heats up the greenhouse with amazing speed, and it will be necessary to open the ventilators to prevent a sudden rise in temperature (although, even with ventilators, this will be difficult to reduce until the sun goes off the greenhouse).

Thermostatically-controlled electric fan heaters are clean and easy to use, providing warm, moving air in the greenhouse, which makes them ideal. Because they dry the air, you will need to stand a water-filled tray directly in front of the heater so that the air carries some moisture with it as it passes over the water. Ensure that there are no orchids standing directly in front of the air flow, because this will cause dehydration.

In summer, the same heater can be used as a cooling fan to circulate cool air and reduce the temperature. Other forms of heater, such as paraffin- and gas-burning heaters, which are available for greenhouses, are only suitable for orchids if used with care. They emit ethylene fumes which can cause bud-drop and other problems.

Once the nights begin to get colder, you will need to close the ventilators earlier in the evenings to conserve as much natural warmth as possible until the heater is in operation. On cold, wet evenings, this becomes more urgent to prevent a drop in temperature that would leave the orchids cold all night. Likewise, in the mornings, it may not be possible to open the ventilators until the greenhouse has warmed up sufficiently. “ale aim should be to maintain a steady temperature that -ices and falls according to the time of Lay or night, without causing sudden ranges from one extreme to another.

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Creating the right conditions for the orchids is a combination of providing humidity, warmth and fresh air. These three important factors must always balance each other, so that the atmosphere always feels right when you enter the greenhouse.

When insufficient ventilation is given, the air can become stagnant, encouraging the growth of moulds and rots. This can be prevented by opening one ventilator for a short period during the middle of the day. Some greenhouses are equipped with a ventilator on both sides of the roof. This creates more opportunities for opening the ventilators, and on windy days you can open the ventilator on the leeward side to the wind. Bottom ventilators, sited on both sides of the greenhouse, just above ground level, are ideal for creating a natural current of air from the bottom to the top. This current of air creates a natural cooling breeze through the orchids.

You will need to visit your greenhouse two or three times a day, if possible, to check that the temperature and humidity are right. A visit first thing in the morning is a joy. This is the time when those fragrant orchids in bloom give off the strongest perfume; the scent of their flowers in the moist morning air is one of the delights of orchid growing.

By double checking the thermostat with the thermometer, you will be able to provide a more accurately controlled temperature. Checking the Temperature Heating in winter is the most essential part of orchid growing. While the plants can survive being dry for short periods, they will suffer if they get too cold. One bitterly cold night without heat can seriously harm the orchids. Monitor the heating continually, by making it part of a daily inspection. Check that the daily temperature is correct by consulting a maximum/ minimum thermometer, and keep a record so that you build up a pattern showing the average and also noting any severe drops. You can then adjust the thermostat accordingly.

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