There are a several factors to consider when determining the layout and design of your greenhouse. Like most things in the greenhouse, the size, material and placing of the benches depends primarily on the plant material. Layout of a greenhouse can change drastically depending on whether seed is being sown in large flats, plants are being finished in 5 gallon containers or something in between. The purpose of the greenhouse is another deciding factor. The amount of bench space and floor space varies from hobby and multipurpose houses to large production and retail houses. Whether you are constructing it yourself or leaving that to the professionals the key is always efficiency.
When choosing a bench type, think structural materials. Factors that can affect your decision are; weight capacity, durability, air and water flow, cost, mobility and appearance. A rule of thumb is to plan on at least 14 lbs per 1 sq ft. If you are considering a less expensive material such as wood, remember to use a wood resistant to decay; locust, cedar, redwood and cypress are all good choices. More expensive options are steel, galvanized metal or plastic,( like benchmaster brand), or a combination of them both. Their longevity and resistance will make up for the cost. Ideally you will want there to be adequate air flow on top of the benches, where the plants are growing, and good drainage below and on the actual bench, where the plants are sitting.
Another attribute to the efficiency of the greenhouse benches, is their size. Regardless of what the benches are actually made of, a standard bench placed against a wall should not exceed 36 inches tall or wide. The plants can only be reached from one side. If the bench is freestanding it should not exceed 36 inches tall, but can be made up to 6 feet long since it can be reached from both sides. Odd shaped and less practical spaces such as corners can use triangular benches as well as other shelving options.
The most important decision in your layout is what style of benches would be the most practical and useful for the type of greenhouse you are aiming for. With so many styles available, the question remains; what is the primary reason and crop for the greenhouse? Once you know how much access and mobility you will have moving though the greenhouse you can decide if you want a “fixed” or “movable” set up. Keep in mind the amount of traffic and employees that will be in the greenhouse, as well as what is growing and being moved. Will you need lightweight trays, five gallon pots, or carts? Each of these answers will factor into your layout and design.
There are a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles of benches available:
The most popular and traditional bench set up is the Longitudinal. In this style, the benches run the length of the greenhouse and are stationary with long aisles, which means lots of walking.
Another stationary design is the A-frame, one available is the Hummert “A” Frame Bench. It is tiered down on both sides providing a nice display and access on both sides.
Peninsula style has benches that run the width of the greenhouse with shorter aisles, good for moving larger pots.
Island layout is used mostly for sales areas due to the convenience of being able to walk around the bench like the Dura-Bench Ultra.
Sliding or rolling benches, such as the A-V Bench system, create a technique that maximizes floor space. They roll back and forth leaving only one aisle at a time for every 5 benches utilizing the majority of the greenhouse space.
The bottom line will always be the wider the benches and the narrower the aisles, the more space utilized.
Space Utilization for various Benches
Movable Longitudinal Benches
Movable Peninsula Benches
After you have decided what you are growing and how much space you have, you will be able to configure a layout that optimizes your greenhouse. Remember to keep all factors: material, durability, mobility, cost, appearance, circulation and weight capacity into consideration. Once set up, you will be growing to new levels.