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Maintain Your Greenhouse

How to Maintain a Greenhouse

SUMMER IS A BUSY AND DELIGHTFUL TIME for gardeners everywhere. From the sweet fragrance of flowers in bloom to the quiet anticipation of tomorrow’s harvest, gardening can be a rewarding hobby and lucrative business.

The beauty of having a greenhouse is nearly self-explanatory. Aside from their simple, crystal beauty, greenhouses are an effective way to control your plant’s environment and protect them from a host of fates. Moreover, it allows you to still piddle around with gardening while waiting out the winter if living in a season-changing part of the country.

Time to Clean Up-the How and Why

The end of summer portends the coming winter and essentially, the end of outdoor gardening. Should you have a greenhouse, however, there is still much work to do cleaning up the debris of summer and preparing your greenhouse for next spring.

We are all aware that greenhouses need cleaning at some point but with so much to do, where does one begin? We wondered that too so we’ve done the homework for you and put together a comprehensive tutorial on the proper and step-by-step way to clean your greenhouse. If greenhouse cleaning is new to you, you’re about to learn how to do it correctly. How to properly clean your greenhouse is as important as the why to clean it.

 

3-Fold Rewards

Following these tips and instructions we’ve gathered from the experts is good not only for your greenhouse but also your garden and even your soul. Having a clean greenhouse is rewarding in many ways to include the physical (a good workout), mental (completing the task) and spiritual (the self-satisfaction of a job done well). Not to mention the place will look great, your growing plants will love it, and you’ll have created a safe and clean environment in which to work and play.

Make Your Greenhouse a Clean House

Regardless the type greenhouse you may have, be it large or small, glass windowed, Plexiglass or even plastic sheeting, you’re going to need to maintain it. Any place you have a number of plants growing in an enclosed area, there is plenty of debris from falling leaves, soil spills, plastic containers, bags, and lots of other clutter that requires cleaning up. It is also the perfect time to remove any and all dead insect carcasses you come across.

Greenhouse maintenance is essential to ensuring a clean work environment that keeps both you and your plants healthy and safe. A handful of preventive measures today can save you some time, money, and perhaps a few headaches tomorrow. Good greenhouse hygiene is worth the effort.

'Tis the Season

In preparation for winter, many greenhouse owners designate fall as the perfect time of year for a thorough house cleaning and maintenance on the entire facility. For others, a good springtime cleaning works best. Whether you clean your greenhouse in early spring or wait until the growing season is over is purely a personal choice.

Either way you choose to go, once cleaned, experienced gardeners recommend regular inspection and greenhouse maintenance throughout the year. To maintain a clean facility means less eventual big cleaning at some point and it’s a healthy habit to develop that will help keep your plants growing strong and keep you in harmony with your greenhouse.

If you’re one of those greenhouse gardeners who prefer to do their cleaning in the fall, a breezy, warm day before the temperature drops for the season is an ideal time. If feasible, set all your plants outside for the indoor cleaning process. Be sure to not place sun sensitive plants in direct sunlight.

Fall or Spring, it really doesn’t matter when you clean your greenhouse as long as you do. There are a few necessary precautions one should take before you begin cleaning. Naturally, if you have a small structure that isn’t wired for lights or heat some of these safety measures won’t apply to your greenhouse. But for those whose greenhouses are electrically wired, here’s what the pros recommend.

Water and Electricity-A Deadly Combination

Some of the safety tips offered here are primarily for larger greenhouses you can bring a hose into for cleaning and rinsing. If you have a bigger greenhouse that you can hose down, the first thing you need to do is to make sure the electricity running through the greenhouse is turned off. If you have a Main switch that controls the power or a Breaker box, use that to turn off the electricity if feasible. If you can’t turn off the power directly, follow these next steps for your safety.

Before you begin cleaning, unplug all electrical cords and electrical appliances in the greenhouse. Make sure to cover the wall sockets if spraying water from a hose is used for cleaning indoors. A thorough cleaning of the glass or plastic is an excellent way to ensure growing plants receive the full dosage of sunlight they require.

Clean glass also helps regulate the temperature inside your greenhouse. Temperature and humidity play a big role in successful greenhouse growing. Keeping the glass clean is an important step in helping maintain the proper balance between the two elements.

  • Be sure the electricity is turned off.
  • Unplug all cords and electrical appliances.
  • Cover the wall sockets.

Growing Panes

For the interior glass or Plexiglass panels, use a garden hose with a multi-position sprayer. Select the setting that works best for your greenhouse and rinse all the windows down with water. The advantage of a hose is that you don’t have to be standing on a ladder and wiping overhead windows at the same time.

Plants thrive on late summer sunlight so be sure to wash well any windows that are dirty or have film over them. Tougher dirt may require a soapy, wet sponge or cloth.

When spraying isn’t feasible, for washing overhead panels, use a damp sponge mop and be careful not to press too hard. An extendable painter’s roller-pole can also be useful in reaching those higher panels.

Outside you can freely use soap and water to clean the glass.

While there are many glass and surface cleaners you can buy, few can match the natural cleaning power of plain ol’ white vinegar and water. Vinegar and water cleans, disinfects, and leaves no chemical residue on your windows or surfaces. Although the smell of vinegar isn’t all that pleasant, it dissipates quickly.

If you prefer a more natural way to clean your greenhouse and don’t want to spray a bunch of soapy water or use a heavy scented pine cleaner, vinegar and water is a practical alternative . Aside from being inexpensive and chemical free, it is effectual. The recipe is simple enough. Add one cup of vinegar to a gallon of water. The temperature is your call but don’t make it too hot. A warmer temperature works best, we’re told.

A Few Tools

The few other items you may need include a good soap (there are organic/natural soaps) and clean water, a disinfectant (optional) and a broom or rake. If you don’t want to use soap in your greenhouse, baking soda makes a wonderful surface cleaner. Baking soda a nd warm water disinfects, cleans and leaves no residue when rinsed off. If you follow the instructions within this article you may be using vinegar as an alternative to chemical glass cleaners. In that case, you don’t want to combine the baking soda with vinegar. It doesn’t work as they cancel out each other’s effectiveness.

One thing you should note is, if you happen to have one of those greenhouses with a stone floor, the pros say DO NOT use vinegar on stone floors! It is our understanding the acidity in vinegar leaves an unsightly white wash on the stone that may not rinse off. As an added bonus, insect pests detest the smell of vinegar and will go elsewhere to dine and take up residents.

Cleaning Greenhouse Glass

Be sure to inspect each glass pane and replace any that are cracked or broken. Be careful when cleaning glass. You don’t want to crack or break a glass pane. Also, do not stand directly beneath any overhead glass panels you are cleaning. Stand a few panes back of the panel being cleaned in the event the glass should break. You don’t want to be standing under a shower of glass raining down upon you. Protective eyewear is always recommended, especially when working overhead.

I See the Light

From the bright light of spring, through the heavy rays of summer and on into the fall, sunlight is life to plants. The orange, coppers and golds of autumn fall into the cool spectrum of the light category and are less intense but contain the necessary elements to allow them to eat, survive, grow and reproduce.

It is no secret plants thrive on sunlight. As autotrophs, plants create their own food. The energy taken from the light is the trigger that allows this process to begin. How this works is, through a process known as photosynthesis, outdoor/greenhouse plants absorb the sunlight from the air. From the atmosphere, they extract moisture and gasses and use these to make the glucose upon which the plants feed.

This why clean glass is more beneficial to growing plants in a greenhouse during any growing season. Clean glass means more sunlight, which translates to more food and healthier plants. Growing plants need light. There is no gardening without light. Clean glass is a benefit to growing plants because the good rays of light aren’t being blocked or filtered out by the dirt and dust of dirty glass.

There’s More to the Glass Than Cleaning

While you’re cleaning the glass, make sure to inspect the window frames for any dirt or dried matter such as leaves. These areas may be harboring parasites, molds, microorganisms and other pests which could be detrimental to your growing plants. These little bugs can wreak havoc in greenhouses. Even if you don’t see any live ones, their eggs can be living in the debris so be sure to clean them out good.

As for tools, a toothbrush or those white plastic plant labels work really well for loosening up any dirt that may have accumulated in the frames over the summer or winter. 

You can blast out the loosened dirt with the hose water. Even if you have plastic sheeting over your greenhouse you’ll want to rinse it thoroughly (or wipe it down inside) to remove any light-blocking dirt, dust. On the exterior, you’ll want to rinse away any business cards left behind by our fine feathered friends. I have seen on TV those hose attachments that contain soap in them that emit a soapy spray through the nozzle. They seem to work well.

Mold and Mildew Grow in Greenhouses

Mold and mildew can begin growing inside the greenhouse as moisture and warm temperatures are constantly present in a sunny, enclosed area and especially in summer.  If any mold is discovered, there are simple ways it can be eliminated.

You can mix up a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water in an atomizer or misting bottle. Spray that elixir directly on the infected area.  Naturally, you don’t want to spray any plants with this solution. This is for surfaces and/or sinks, only. In addition to the mold, this bleaching rinse kills any eggs, parasites, and microorganisms that may be present.

People have also reported having success against white mold using pure isopropyl alcohol from a spray bottle.  This alcohol solution can be lightly sprayed directly onto the plant without harming it if mold is detected.

Next, you will also need to wipe down all work surfaces with a good disinfectant. This also keeps pests from returning. There are many natural cleaning solutions designed specifically for greenhouse cleaning that don’t contain chemicals which can be potentially harmful to your plants.  If you have cement or tile floors and even wood, clean them with a biodegradable cleaner and then rinse them down thoroughly as well. With a gravel floor, you can replace the old gravel with new or at least give it a fresh topping if necessary.

Cleaning up the Cleanup

When you have finished cleaning and disinfecting, it is important to rinse everything really well with plain water before bringing the plants back inside. However, be careful, you don’t want them coming in contact with any type of cleaning solution dripping from the walls or ceiling. Bleach, especially. That is why it is helpful to clean on a breezy day with open entrances to allow in wind to help dry the greenhouse out. 

While you have all your plants gathered outside, this would be an excellent time to give them the once-over and cull any plants that appear sickly or with possible parasites, as well as removing the dead or dying leaves and old broken or weak branches.  You don’t want to bring back into your greenhouse what you just spent so much time eliminating.

Your greenhouse can harbor mites, aphids, or any number of microorganisms which is why a strong maintenance clean-up is required every fall making for a lighter cleaning each spring.

Keeping the greenhouse doors open on a warm, breezy day will help shorten drying time while providing some fresh air as an added bonus. Another little perk for choosing a windy day is the wind helps eliminate the streaking left behind by wiping with paper towels or cloths. But that’s up to you. If you prefer a day when the temperature is a little cooler for your cleaning, then that’s the perfect day to clean.

Time to Get Picky With Your Plants

While all your plants are gathered together outside, this is an excellent time to give them the once-over and cull any plants which appear sickly or with possible parasites, as well as removing the dead or dying leaves and old broken or weak branches. You don’t want to bring back into your greenhouse what you just spent so much time eliminating.

The beauty of having a greenhouse is nearly self-explanatory. Aside from their simple, crystal beauty, greenhouses are an effective way to control your plant’s environment and protect them from a host of fates. Moreover, it allows you to still piddle around with gardening while waiting out the winter.

Your greenhouse can harbor mites, aphids, or any number of microorganisms and other pests which is why a strong maintenance clean-up is required every spring/fall. Clean greenhouses are safer to work in, easier to maintain, and provide a better environment for your plants.

The downside however (if there is one), is that greenhouses are the perfect breeding ground for all manner of pests which are harmful to the very plants you are trying to protect. With a nice warm temperature and eclectic salad bar, it’s the pest de resistance…what plant predator could resist?

Inside Out

Outside cleaning, is somewhat like inside cleaningsans the disinfectant. This is pretty much common sense. Simply find an effective pressure setting on your garden hose, spray the outside of your greenhouse in a back and forth motion starting at the top and rinsing down.

Blast away any built up crud such as dirt, dead leaves and twigs from the corners of the panes when possible. For glass houses this would also be good time to check the window seals to see if any caulking has come loose that could lead to water leaks. These leaks can promote the growth of moss, lichen or mold which can grow to be a problem. These undisturbed areas also provide an egg laying haven for other garden pests.

The beauty of having a greenhouse is nearly self-explanatory.  Aside from their simple, crystal beauty, greenhouses are an effective way to control your plant’s environment and protect them from a host of fates. Moreover, it allows you to still piddle around with gardening while waiting out the winter.

The downside however (if there is one), is that greenhouses are the perfect breeding ground for all manner of pests which are harmful to the very plants you are trying to protect.  With warm and moist air flowing through its often open doors and an eclectic salad bar, what plant predator could resist?

Regular Greenhouse Maintenance is Best

Experts tell us it is just as important to keep up with the task of maintenance on a semi-regular basis. These proactive steps ensure a clean working environment that will help keep your plants healthy and reduce the risk of contamination from infected soil or other sickly plants. Not to mention the interactivity goes a long way toward keeping us connected to the wonderful world of gardening. The more you know, the better you grow.

Moreover, 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 and the continued good health of your favorite greenery. Clean greenhouses produce healthier plants, healthier states of body and mind, and often a state of well-being for the garden tender.

The End

Although there is always more to learn, this how-to clean and maintain greenhouses article should give you a really good start and with the necessary effort, take your gardening knowledge to the next level. Gardening is a personal endeavor and is often a reflection of the connection between us and Mother Nature. A good garden is the result of good and satisfying works. In greenhouses the world over, fruits, vegetables, plants, bushes and flowers are being grown as you read. Join in!