Greenhouses - Electrics and Cleaning
19th Oct 2000
It will soon be time to start pricking out leek bulbils from the heads of my stock blanch leeks that are currently under cover to prevent the rain from rooting them too early on the head. However before I start to do any propagating I have to make sure that everything is ready for them. By that I mean the greenhouse is completely clean, I have enough compost and the electrics in the greenhouse are working satisfactory.
The first task therefore is to clear out the propagating greenhouse of all plant material, in the main I have some nice new geraniums there as well as cucumber plants. The cucumber plants cropped really well for me this year, I had eight plants 4 Carmen and 4 Macao, both of which are top varieties for the show bench and produced and abundance of fruits right up to now. Once the greenhouse is empty of all plants I can then start to thoroughly clean it through using Armillatox in a bucket of water.
One thing is certain, water and electricity do not mix, and I have quite a lot of electrical fittings in both my greenhouses. The first thing I do is to remove from the greenhouse everything electrical that is unattached such as the propagator and the electric fan heater and take them to the shed. The electricity is then switched off at the mains, and all the fixed fittings are covered over with some old towelling and polythene to make sure that no water can get at them.
Make sure before you start washing out the greenhouse that you are adequately clothed, it can be an awful job with the dripping water getting all over you, so you really need some wet weather clothing for this job.
Wearing rubber gloves I use a small soft hand brush and brush the diluted Armillatox onto the aluminium frame and glass and in particular rubbing it well in between the overlapping panes. The area of the verlapping glass, even though only perhaps 10 to 15 mm wide, when added together for the whole house it can be quite a bit, sufficient to reduce light levels getting through to the plants later on.
Once everything is washed clean you can then rinse the whole structure and on completion you have the satisfaction that your greenhouse not only looks clean, it smells clean as well and any bugs thinking of over wintering in the crevices will have been destroyed.
Testing Electrical FIttings
Once the greenhouse has dried, the next task is to test all the electrical fittings to make sure that they are in good working order. At this time have a good visual look at everything, particularly the condition of the cabling and plugs etc. If you are in doubt regarding any aspect of your electrics, please don't dabble with them yourself unless qualified to do so, call in an electrician.
The frame work of my growing cabinet covers totaly one side of my greenhouse which is 12 foot long and 3 ft wide and is always left in position throughout the year. It's made from lightweight aluminium angle and from the roof are suspended two SGR 200 lamp units with 400 watts SON T Aggro lamps. One important point to remember here, these lamps are not meant to last for ever. Even though they might appear to be transmitting light, that light level starts to deteriorate after a few thousand hours. To work it out, my lamps are going to be on for at least 16 hours a day from November right through until the end of February which amounts to approximately 1800 hours in one season.
I have had my lights for many years now and the lamps have never been changed so the light spectrum must have altered by now. I therefore intend to change the lamps on the three units that I have which should give me the correct light spectrum.
The next stage is attach the hardboard panels that I have in between the steel structure to completely enclose it and form a growing unit or cabinet. These panels were made a few years ago and a couple of them are starting to deteriorate so I shall have to renew these as well. Each hardboard panel has aluminium foil backed with polystyrene glued on to them in order to reflect or bounce the light all over the growing area. This aluminium foil can be purchased in wallpaper size rolls from your local DIY store and is generally utilised to reflect heat from behind radiators.
The compost that I shall use initially to prick out the bulbils will be Levington F2 with added sand, this does a great job of producing a strong root system. If you can not get F2 with sand, use Levington multipurpose and either add your own sand to it or use vermiculite which is also excellent for producing a good strong root system. Make sure therefore that you have these to hand, there's nothing worse than going to start a job only to find that you haven"t got the right material.
Next week I shall be writing about potatoes.