Definition - What does Sterile Environment mean?
In horticulture, a sterile environment often refers to an indoor grow facility that is free from plant pathogens like bacteria, pest insects, molds, mildews, and weeds. In most cases, the operator of the facility has taken great steps to ensure the environment is sterile by using a variety of methods that won't negatively affect future plant growth.
A sterile environment may also refer to any smaller gardening area, grow system, or potting mix that is clean, healthy, and free from contaminants. For example, a hydroponics system may be a sterile environment for plants once everything has been cleaned. Techniques to achieve a sterile environment include ozone generators, steaming, UV filtration, diluted bleach solutions, and general tidying up.
In gardening, a sterile environment is important for the proper growth and development of plants. Indeed, soil can harbor weeds, diseases, and pests, all of which can prevent a plant from thriving. Gardeners can easily purchase a sterile potting mix but it is also possible to sterilize your soil at home. Steaming is one of the most popular ways to create a sterile gardening environment at home.
MaximumYield explains Sterile Environment
To create a sterile soil through steaming, you can fill a pressure cooker with several cups of potting soil and water. If you choose to go for a pressure cooker, it is important to close the lid but leave the steam valve open. Once the steam escapes, it is important to let the pressure cooker boil for 30 minutes to ensure that all the bacteria from the soil has died. Alternatively, it is also possible to create a sterile environment by using the oven. In this case, gardeners can bake the potting soil until it reaches an internal temperature of 180F.
Once a soil or grow medium is sterile, a grower can easily add back beneficial microbes through amending with compost.
For a sterile environment, it is equally important to regularly prune and trim the plants to keep weeds at bay. Excessive moisture (humidity levels in the environment and wet roots) should also be avoided to prevent an outburst of bacteria that can lead to different types of plant diseases. In other words, prevention goes a long way in ensuring your garden is and remains a sterile environment.