Geenhouses, Hose Pipes and Water Butts
15th Jan 1997
We are now right in the middle of Winter, a time when light levels can be very low with only the odd few days of sunshine to add some glow to a bleak and dreary period of the year. Freezing conditions, although highly beneficial to the soil outside can bring problems to the greenhouse grower. One of which is the obvious increase in heating costs as we strive to maintain a growing environment above 45°F.
Another drawback that I find a nuisance is the fact that my hose pipe inevitably freezes over so that I am unable to easily get access to water.
I was caught out on one occasion with hard frost freezing over my hose pipe as well as the lance connected to it, to such an extent that when it thawed the lance had cracked. The lesson to remember of course is to obviously lag your tap and pipes leading up to the hose pipe as well as draining your hose pipe from the tap or even removing it and store it away until it thaws again.
At this time of year I always make sure, on a daily basis, that the 50 gallon water butt that is always inside both my greenhouse are kept topped up with water. This certainly saves on the monotonous hike up the steps from my back garden to the house to fetch water with two watering cans. It also means that when watering the young plants, the water is at the same temperature as the compost in which they are growing.
As the temperature inside both greenhouses are kept at a minimum of 50°F, there is always going to be considerable humidity around with most of it arising from the moist propagating bench that runs the length of both 12 foot greenhouses. Such warm and humid conditions are often good growing conditions with both the onions and leeks thriving in it. However there is a down side in the that disease such as botrytis can spread, moist humid conditions create a perfect environment for all sorts of spores to multiply. These spores are always in the air around us and as water is always the perfect carrier for such spores I always make sure that I add a capful of Armillatox to every water butt to make sure that the problem is minimised.
As I have already intimated, light conditions at this time of year are very poor, just at the time when your plants need it to grow away sturdy, so the warm humid conditions can actually make the situation worse by creating a steam like effect on your greenhouse glass which can seriously lower the amount of available light to your plants. You must therefore clean the glass regularly or leave one window slightly open so that the glass can remain relatively clean.
When Mel Ednie came over to my garden last year, one of the comments he made was that he always keeps one of his windows slightly open by pushing a small piece of batten in between the window and frame, this is kept there through the day and night. The amount of heat lost is minimal and this loss can be more than compensated for through having created a much improved growing environment.
There no doubt that my leeks thrive in these conditions, they were first pricked out into trays and when growing away strongly they were potted up into Plantpak 24s and last week they were moved on into 3" square pots. From these they will be moved on into 5" square pots which should suffice until planting time. The mixture I used last week was as follows : 3 parts M2, 1 part soil which I had previously sieved from the leek bed and kept in bags in the warm greenhouse and 1 part moist vermiculite. The final potting will be 4 parts M3, 3 parts sieved soil and one part moist vermiculite. The gradual introduction of soil means that the plants are slowly getting used to an environment similar to that which they will be growing in when planted out in their beds.