Seasonal Greenhouse Maintenance
Greenhouses are an effective way to control the environment of your plants and protect them from a host of ill fates. The downside is that greenhouses are the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of pests. Keep things clean, though, and pests won’t become as much of a concern.
From the sweet fragrance of flowers in bloom to the quiet anticipation of tomorrow’s harvest, gardening can be a rewarding hobby and a lucrative business. And with the advent of newer, lightweight materials and smaller-scale designs, people everywhere are discovering the joy of working in a greenhouse to prolong their growing seasons. Having a greenhouse to work in provides shelter from the weather for you and your plants.
As with any house, a greenhouse gets messy and requires some tidying up now and then. Any time you have a number of plants in an enclosed area, there is plenty of debris from falling leaves, soil spills and other clutter that requires some clean-up. In preparation for winter, many greenhouse growers designate fall as the perfect time of year for a thorough housecleaning. Greenhouse maintenance is essential to ensuring a clean working environment that keeps you and your plants healthy and safe. A few preventive measures today can save you money and a headache tomorrow.
Many greenhouse gardeners prefer to do their fall cleaning on a breezy, warm day, before the temperature drops for the season. If you are able, set all of your plants outside during the indoor cleaning process. Do not place sun-sensitive plants in direct sunlight. Before you start, turn off the electricity, unplug all cords and electrical appliances and cover the wall sockets. Next, take these simple steps:
- For the interior, using a garden hose with a jet-spray setting, or the setting that works best for your house, rinse all of the windows with water. Plants require sunlight to survive, so wash any windows that are dirty or have film over them. Some may require a soapy, wet sponge or cloth. Depending on your situation, you may need to use a damp mop to reach the higher panes. A painter’s roller pole can also be useful in reaching those higher panels.
- Inspect each glass panel and replace any that are cracked or broken. I want to caution you, though. When cleaning, do not stand directly beneath any glass windows. Stand a few panes back from the panel you are cleaning in case the glass should break. You don’t want to be under falling glass.
- Additionally, check the window frames for any dirt that can harbor parasites. A toothbrush or one of those white-plastic plant labels work well for removing any dirt that might have accumulated in the frames at the joints over the summer. You can blast out the loosened dirt with the hose.
- Look for signs of mold or mildew that can begin to grow wherever moisture and warmth is constantly present. If any mold is discovered, mix a solution of one-part bleach to 10-parts water and spray directly on the infected area. Aside from the mold, this bleach rinse kills any eggs, parasites and micro-organisms that may be present. People also report success over white mold using pure isopropyl alcohol from a spray bottle.
- Next, wipe down all work surfaces with a disinfectant. If you have cement, tile or even wood floors, rinse them down thoroughly as well. With a gravel floor, you can replace the old gravel with new.
- When you have finished cleaning and disinfecting, it is important to rinse everything really well with plain water before bringing the plants back inside. But be careful, you don’t want them coming in contact with any type of leftover cleaning solution, especially bleach. Keeping the greenhouse doors open on a warm, breezy day will help it dry faster while providing some fresh air as an added bonus.
- With your plants gathered outside, this is an excellent time to give your plants the once-over and cull any that appear sick or infected with pests. Also remove dead or dying leaves. You don’t want to bring back into your greenhouse what you just spent so much time eliminating.
Don’t Forget About the Outside
Outside cleaning is somewhat like inside cleaning, but without the disinfectant. Find an effective pressure setting on your hose or pressure washer and spray the outside of the greenhouse in a back-and-forth motion, starting at the top of the greenhouse and rinsing down. Another reason for choosing a windy day to do this is the wind dries the windows faster, helping to eliminate some extra work and avoid the streaking often left behind by paper towels or cloths.
Greenhouses are an effective way to control the environment of your plants and protect them from a host of ill fates. The downside is that greenhouses are the perfect breeding ground for pests. Greenhouses are warm and moist, with an eclectic salad bar. What plant predator could resist? Your greenhouse can harbor mites, aphids or any number of micro-organisms, which is why maintenance is required every fall and spring. Just as important is keeping up with the task on a regular basis.
Staying on top of cleaning and culling on a regular basis is a proactive step towards not only providing yourself a clean working environment, but also keeping plants healthier by reducing the risk of contamination by infected soil or a sick plant. When your greenhouse is clean, your plants are healthier and you create a more pleasant and harmonious environment in which to work, contributing to your own peace of mind.
Written by Alan Ray
Alan Ray has written five books and is a New York Times best-selling author. Additionally, he is an award-winning songwriter with awards from BMI and ASCAP respectively. He lives in rural Tennessee with his wife, teenage son, and two dogs: a South African Boerboel (Bore-Bull) and a Pomeranian/Frankenstein mix.