Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cleaning your home greenhouse

I was delayed leaving for a ski trip one year because of clean-up. My husband offered to help and asked if there was anything in particular that needed cleaning. I suggested he clean-out the fridge. After all I hate coming home to left-overs but I especially hate green two-week-old leftovers.

After making beds, doing laundry, and walking the dog I checked in with hubby. He was still working on the fridge. I could see he was carefully scrubbing each and every corner of the fridge and then grandly re-arranging all the leftovers. I had hoped for clean-out and he had provided clean-up. The left-overs were still primed for decay in their somewhat cleaner containers. Clearly something was lost in gender translation.

Both clean-up and clean-out is happening in my greenhouse right now. Yes, there are still green leaves and even flowers on the tomatoes. The basil is technically still alive, and the Cape Gooseberries are in bloom and in rot, depending on which part of the plant you study. But it is time to clean it all out. I will be away most of December and need to make sure there is nothing left to fester or create a problem.

It is time to tear out plants, dumping them on the compost where they can freeze and die back. I will also empty pots onto my veggie beds and move my tomato containers to a shed where it will freeze. I am getting out the power-washer - a big "tool" my husband usually reserves for driveways and exterior house cleaning. This is because I know spider mites are like grizzly bears. They go dormant in the lower light of winter but they don't die. They will appear again as brightly as seedlings in spring once we get the longer sunny days of March. Spider Mites cause the stippling white spots on leaves and irritating webbing on greenhouse crops in the growing season. They will raise havoc with their hunger when they emerge in spring.

The best solution for home greenhouses is both a clean-out and clean-up of the greenhouse come late fall. Power washing or a good dose of bleach will get mites and other pests out of the nooks and crannies where they like to hang-out. After that I let the freeze-thaw action have its impact. This resets the clock on pests and by the time I feel like starting little seedlings again the clean greenhouse will be ready and waiting.

Photo above is of Cape Gooseberries continuing to ripen indoors after being harvested in the greenhouse (shown behind).


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