Keep­ing it clean in the green­house

The Leader (Tasman) - - UNDER ONE ROOF -

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.

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