Getting your greenhouse ready for winter may be a matter of just closing the door and walking away, to worry about next spring, but you will be much better prepared for the next gardening season if a few minutes are spent now to winterize the greenhouse.
Removing all plant residues from the greenhouse is one of the more-important tasks, both from a sanitation point of view as well as a preventative measure for weeds, insects, fungi and disease.
Plant residue can be put on the compost pile provided it has not been infected with aphids or is diseased. By the same token, I would not put chickweed on the compost pile unless your compost pile generates enough heat to kill the weed seeds.
In my experience, most home compost piles do not generate the heat required to kill chickweed; consequently, my advice is to leave it out.
All greenhouse equipment should be washed and disinfected. Cultivating tools, pots, saucers, trays and truss supports for crops should be soaked overnight in a 10 per cent bleach solution and then rinsed.
Clean and disinfect all surfaces if possible. Our greenhouses and benches were constructed with wood and, so, we relied on minus 40 temperatures to do our disinfection. But if your greenhouse is constructed with aluminum, disinfect benches and any place that plants have come in contact with the structure.
Remove and dispose of plastic that may have been used to cover benches, grow hills or used as mulch. Some people tend to cultivate the soil in the greenhouse benches, getting the soil ready for next year, but our policy has been to leave the soil alone until the following year.
Our theory for this was that because of the lack of snow cover on the benches in the greenhouses, the extreme cold would penetrate the soil and would “sterilize” it, thus getting rid of insect eggs and weed seeds.
Another important consideration in greenhouse cleanup is to drain your water lines and garden hoses. I usually roll the hoses up and store them in a dry, protected place.
Any packages of leftover seeds and labels should be brought indoors and stored in a dry, cool place. Although some seeds and fertilizers can be frozen, it is safer to just bring all of them indoors.
Fertilizers, whether chemical or organic, should be stored in a safe manner, preferably in a dry location and in such a way as to keep them out of the reach of children or pets.
These simple end-of-season cleanup steps will ensure that your greenhouse is ready for next year’s crop.
Ingrid Wilcox operates Lubbock Garden and Floral Consultant and offers gardening, greenhouse and flower-arranging workshops. Contact her at [email protected]