Greenhouses for Winter Growing Period
25th Oct 2001
One job that needs to be done with some urgency this coming week is to clear out my greenhouses and prepare them for the Winter growing period. At the moment they are not particularly tidy having just finished the showing season, but very soon they will be thoroughly clean. Currently there are some onions drying out in there as well as some old French bean plants that I grow on for seed production. These will be removed from their pots and dug into the far end of my garden where my pea trenches are located.
The first job is to completely clear out the greenhouse and brush it out clean making sure that all dead foliage etc. are removed. The next job is to thoroughly check out the electrical system to make sure everything will be working fine. All I can really do in this case is to switch everything and have a good look at all the plugs, sockets and cabling to make sure that they appear to be in good condition. The worst thing that can happen is for any item to pack in or fail when the temperature rally drops and the system is put under pressure. If you have any doubts at all regarding your wiring or electrical set up in any way, always contact a qualified electrical engineer for advice as well as to test the whole system for you.
Electricity is not a thing to play with so please do use qualified electricians so that you have the proper fittings for the job. Never use ordinary household sockets and plugs as they have not been designed to withstand the humid and often wet conditions that prevail inside any greenhouse. Never either depend on running an extension lead or cable from your house, if any water gets at them they could be dangerous. It is well worth the outlay to have your greenhouse properly wired up, you only have to do it once if it's done properly, believe me, if it prevents any nasty accident it will be money well spent
The growing cabinet that I use for growing my leeks and onions covers the whole length of the greenhouse and the frame work together with the lights remain there for the whole season. The lights will be checked over as well as the time switches and the lamps will be wiped over clean to make sure that I have the optimum light out of them. My lamps are currently SGR200 with a 400 watt SON T Aggro lamp fitted. If any of you have such lamps then please try and work out how many hours they have been working. Last year I worked out that my lamps had worked well over 6,000 hours and the plant underneath them were getting really leggy.
After investing in two new lamps the change in growth pattern was astounding and I am convinced that this was partly responsible for the excellent quality onions and leeks that I had this season. The plants were much sturdier and stronger right from day one resulting in short necked plants being planted out during March in my polytunnel. The lamps that I currently have are quite expensive to buy and are made to last a lifetime; however the cost can be prohibitive to most gardeners. I have now come across an alternative lamp that is much cheaper but will carry out the same function as the other unit but at half the cost. If you are interested in getting one of these lamps then please write to me for my seed and plant catalogue for 2002 where the lamp is listed as well as some new power battery operated sprayers. Send your catalogue request to Medwyns of Anglesey, Llanor, Old School Lane, Llanfairpwll, Anglesey LL61 5RZ.
Once I'm happy that everything is in working order the greenhouse will be thoroughly washed over using a strong dilution of Armillatox. I have a small power washer which is perfect for this job as it also has a short pipe coming out of it which sucks in and dilutes a portion of Armillatox whilst the water is being pumped through at high pressure. The beauty of these is that you can target the water to get underneath the glass overlap where the green algae can concentrate and reduce eventually the amount of natural light that can get through to your plants.
If you haven't got a pressure washer, use a hand brush with Armillatox diluted into a bucket and make sure that you get in to every nook and cranny where the pests are likely to be over wintering. Remember as well to clean underneath any benches as this is usually a favourite place fore the pests to hibernate. Before commencing on the washing, there two important things that you have to do. You must first make sure that you are well protected, so cover yourself over with some waterproofs because you will be handling a cleaning agent. Next thing is to isolate the wiring from the greenhouse by switching it off at the mains and also cover over all the electrical connections with a polythene sheet as well as some old towels, it's always better to be sure than sorry.
The propagating bench that I use is covered with sand underneath which there are soil warming cables, another are where tiny pests love to hide as they can lay their eggs within the sand. I carefully rake my beds over to a depth of 2 inches or so taking care not to disturb the cable and remove any moss or hard lumps until the sand is nice and loose. Screed over the sand, even adding some extra if necessary until the bed is nice and level, finally give the whole bench a strong dose of diluted Armillatox. After a few days there is nothing better than walking into greenhouse that not only looks clean, it smells clean as well.