Keeping it clean in the greenhouse
When it is time to tidy, don’t overlook your greenhouse.
If it is not already in use to produce seedlings for your spring garden, it soon will be.
When that happens, you need to be sure that it is fully functional and free of any pests that might dine heartily on the tender new shoots when they appear.
Pests and diseases thrive in the warmth of your greenhouse, flourishing during the frosty months in the shelter you have provided for them.
One of the more obvious pests is the slug which secretes itself in hidden cracks, beneath old pots and in any damp, protected place.
Aphids lay their eggs before the winter becomes harsh, often on existing plants. That’s why it is important to remove all old plant material, inspecting the undersides of overwintering plants and check there are not weeds or leaves under benching. Aphids are a medium of viruses being transmitted between plants.
Red spider mites multiply rapidly in the hot, dry conditions of a greenhouse. Watch for colonies of mealy bugs that resemble blobs of sticky cotton wool. They suck sap from plants in the same way that aphids do.
Mildew, fungal mould (botrytis) and blight can run rampant if permitted to do so.
You need to take everything out of the greenhouse and clean the glass because plants need as much sunlight as they can get. If you use disinfectant, ensure it is based on natural ingredients and is suitable for use near plants.
Scrub surfaces on which pots and trays are going to rest so that all traces of mildew, grime and pests are removed from any area where your plants will be placed. Ventilate the greenhouse to allow everything to dry. Tip out all old potting mix from pots and trays then rinse them thoroughly.
Dig out the surface layer of dirt in your greenhouse every year because the soil can become depleted of nutrients or nurturing diseases like blight.
When you emerge from your greenhouse, it will be time to cast your eye over the garden outside. The job is not pleasant but it is time to dig out the weeds that have accumulated insidiously over winter. You will be pleased you have tackled the task when the time comes to plant out.
It is also time to clean out flower pots that you plan to use at various vantage points around your garden. Bacteria, fungus and a multitude of pests can congregate in dirt pots. Use a hard-bristled scrubbing brush to clear away as much of the buildup as possible. Wash and scrub with water.
Avoid using soap as this can leave a residue that can be difficult to remove. Salts that are found in water and fertilisers can leave a white crust on the outside of pots.
To remove this build-up, make a paste from baking soda and water. Spread the paste over the build-up and use a soft brush to gently scrub it away.
Once finished fill a bucket that is bigger than your pot with a mixture of 10 parts water and one part bleach. Use bleach sparingly because it can cause wear on the pot.
Pots that are too big for a bucket can be left to soak inside a sturdy rubbish bag instead.
Allow the pot to stand in the mixture for 30 minutes before taking it out and allow it to stand for another 30 minutes in clear water.
Remove and repeat the rinse as many times as needed to ensure all bleach has been removed.
Succulents and other small plants thrive in pots but you need to ensure they are clean and free of pests.