Greenhouse Electrics & Growing Cabinet
5th Nov 1997
For the vegetable grower this is the perfect time of year to be getting on with cleaning up the garden ready for the digging as well as tidying up everywhere around the garden plot. There are however two other locations that are probably in need of more urgent attention and that is the greenhouse and polytunnels.
In my case both greenhouses are connected to the mains electricity with 3 KW heaters in both as well as bench heating and artificial lights so there is a real load on the cables when everything happens to be on at the same time.
If you are contemplating wiring up your greenhouse so that you can use an electric heater as well as a number of other aids that are available to you, it's vitally important that you don't dabble in these things yourself unless you are qualified to do so. Both my greenhouse heaters are from Parwin and have served me well over the years, but before you purchase anything or carry out any work, consult a qualified electrical engineer. Explain to him fully what your intentions are so that he can work out the loading on the system in order to specify the correct cable as well as the correct fuses and all the other necessary fittings.
The actual connections are also important, never use the ordinary household power points and plugs in a greenhouse, you wouldn't use them in a bathroom so the same damp humid atmosphere applies to the greenhouse; all your fittings have to be damp proof and preferably kite marked to show that they are up to British Standards.
Checking and Cleaning
The first job for me therefore will be to physically check over all the equipment for any damage and test everything to make sure that all is working well. The next job is to clear the greenhouse out completely of all plants that you may have there so that the whole area can be given a thorough clean out and a wash down. I always wash mine with Armillatox at their recommended dilution rates which means that if you apply the dilution to the glass with a brush then it will remove the algae for you. This inevitably gets into the overlap between panes of glass but by brushing the Armillatox in between the panes and then washing it off with a water hose it will allow a higher percentage of light to get at your growing plants.
Before you get on with any washing though make sure that the electricity is switched off at source, also cover over all the switches with a towel and polythene sheet to make absolutely certain that you haven't driven in any moisture to any electrical connection. The beauty of Armillatox as well is the fact that not only is it excellent for removing algae it will also get rid of any unwanted spores or eggs that may well be lurking in the numerous nook and crannies that we have in greenhouses. It is also excellent for cleaning out the algae that inevitably forms inside the skin of your polytunnel after a few years, if this was left to it"s own devices the amount of light penetration is drastically reduced. Being formulated from a non petroleum derivative it wont affect the UV qualities of your polythene either.
The next stage for me after thoroughly cleaning out the greenhouse is to set up my growing cabinet, this was constructed in panels last year and lined with the silvery foil material backed with polystyrene to bounce light all over the growing area, so it shouldn't take me too much time to set it all up including my 400 watts Phillips SGR 200 SON T Aggro lamp. This growing cabinet will be fully utilised from the middle of this month onwards for growing the blanch leeks from bulbils and later on for growing the exhibition onions as well.
Over the years of course I have accumulated all of this material so that every season they are mostly there to be re used. I do fully realise that for anyone contemplating growing both leeks and the large onions to a good size they will need to have such a set up, particularly if they are keen to compete at the highest level. However I also realise that a number of growers can not afford the capital to spend on these projects so inevitably they have to grow everything on a reduced scale or buy the plants in at a later date.
Creating a Growing Area
You can though create a small growing area very cheaply in a spare room, whether it be a shed or a garage or even an out house, it won't need any daylight initially and once the plants are well grown they can then be moved on into the greenhouse with no need for further light. A small bench or floor area covered over with Black and White polythene is very adequate together with a few ordinary warm fluorescent tubes to give the required light level. Do make sure however that the level of light is adequate for the plants otherwise they will become drawn and leggy and even the smallest amount of money spent will have been wasted including your valuable time and patience.