Get Your Grow Space Clean and Fresh For Spring
With spring just around the corner, let Steve Cather give you some tips on what you can do to help your garden stay healthy and pest-free.
While spring may be the proverbial season for cleaning, these helpful tips should become a regular part of your gardening regimen. Most issues can be traced to a failure in preventive measures, which we may have become lazy about as the seasons while away. The effort you make now will pay dividends in the form of a healthy harvest.
Sweep your garden's floors regularly
A common mistake made by indoor gardeners is allowing organic debris and material to accumulate in the space they use. These small bits of plant matter and soil attract and feed pests of all types. The ruinous and notorious spider mite is tiny by virtually any standard. A floor that is free of organic material is a wasteland to a bug. The journey to your garden is a marathon of epic proportions. If a mite doesn't find any sustenance on the way to the promised land it will starve to death long before it reaches a suitable meal.
Clean your plastics in your grow room or greenhouse
A plastic surface may seem non-porous and uninviting as a habitat. When that same plastic has a layer of slime, dirt, and nutrient salts adhered to it, the situation changes dramatically. Between crops you have unlimited access to all portions of your system. Reservoirs and trays should be washed using a light hydrogen peroxide or bleach mixture. Three per cent hydrogen peroxide should be mixed 1:1 with water.
Bleach can be mixed at ¼ cup bleach to one gallon of water. Wipe all surfaces and remove any accumulated material from the cracks and corners. Remove bulkheads and other fittings and soak or scrub them. Bulkheads are easily cleaned with a bleach water soak followed by a cycle through the dishwasher. Take your time and do it right. This is the cost of doing business.
Clean your hydroponic pumps
An item many gardeners overlook is the common water pump. When cleaning your system, be certain you dismantle the pump inlet assembly and clean the components. The impeller on most aquarium style pumps is removable and should be completely cleaned prior to reuse in the next cycle. Use paper towels and/or an old toothbrush to clean the cracks and corners. I'm not going to lie to you. It isn't a fun job. However, taking five to 10 minutes to dismantle and sanitize your pump will ensure proper operation throughout the coming cycle.
Clean or replace your tubing
Along with the pump cleaning you should begin a standard practice of cleaning your tubing as well. Short sections of tubing can be cleaned using a paper towel moistened with your bleach water solution. Using a coat hanger or a chopstick, you can push a wad of paper towel through the tubing to remove organic deposits which may have accumulated inside. If the prospect of this slave labor doesn't appeal to you then it may be time to pony up a few bucks to replace the tubing. $20 worth of tubing goes a long way toward maintaining your sanity and the health of your garden.
Scrub your pots
When was the last time you actually cleaned your pots? Most gardeners dump the dirt out and consider the container ready for reuse. Those used pots still hold organic material, nutrient salts, old soil, and possibly pests. A good blast with a garden hose is usually enough to restore them to a like-new condition. If the accumulation is more persistent, you may need to use a small brush to break the chunks loose. When using fabric pots, you may be best served by replacing them after two to three crops.
Clean the glass in your indoor garden
You spent all that money on the latest and greatest equipment. Make it work for you at peak efficiency. If you have vented hoods with glass, you need to keep them clean. You're paying for the light. Make sure it reaches your plants. A layer of dust inside a light fixture can prevent that valuable light from reaching your leaves. Clean the glass inside and out at least every 90 days.
Calibrate your pH meter
That fancy pH meter you bought needs to be regularly maintained. If you haven't been consistent with calibrations, now is the time to correct that situation. If your meter isn't calibrated those nutrient problems you have been battling will just continue to get worse. Correct pH is critical for healthy plants with strong defenses. Establish a routine of cleaning, calibration, and testing your meters.
Test your safety equipment
A safe garden feeds a safe gardener. Pre-planting and post-harvest are the best times to replace smoke detector batteries, check your carbon monoxide detectors, test your carbon dioxide regulators, sensors, and alarms for proper operation. CO2 can be dangerous. Don't cut corners on this equipment. Keep it in fine fettle so it will do the same for you.
Clean or replace your filters
If you use air conditioners, carbon filters, or water filters, now is the time to restore their efficiency and efficacy. A dirty water pump filter will reduce flow and may be a source of disease and disaster. Wash your water pump filters and check your filters often. I can't stress this enough. A carbon filter with a thick layer of dust on the pre-filter is not working as well as it could. Clean or replace your carbon scrubber pre-filter once per year.