Greenhouses, Part 3

Getting rid of insects doesn't require a battery of devastating sprays or chemicals. Prevention is the best way to keep pests at bay; start by managing the greenhouse correctly:

*Keep benches and all work areas clean. After potting or feertilizing remove spilled soil and liquids.

*Remove and destroy dead leaves and spent blossoms.

*Give plants plenty of room to prevent over crowding and poor ventilation

*If an infested plant has no hope of survival, suppress sentimental attachments and throw it out. A terminally ill plant will only threaten the well-being of other plants

*At least once a year, preferably during the summer months when the plants can be moved outside, give the greenhouse a thorough cleaning. You can sterilize all the benches, ground, interior plastic, any pots, etc. with a solution of household bleach mixed 1 to 10. Remove any unused pots, containers, trash, etc, so no little guests will have a home over the winter. An aphid can live under a leaf in a greenhouse to survive until Spring comes and hatch a major population at that time. Spider mites are also great at hiding, especially in sand floors. Sterilize all your tools, scissors, knives, potting bins and anything else you use on your plants or to dig in the dirt. 

Some gardeners make a lifetime avocation of juggling soil ingredients to come up with the ideal mixture. A good greenhouse soil will be open and friable (easily crumbled) enough to allow air to penetrate and at the same time permit water to drain freely. I have found most plants grow well in a single basic mix; two parts soil, one part peat moss, and one part perlite, coarse sand or vermiculite. Succulents need a different mix; equal parts coarse sand, sterilized potting mix and leaf mold will keep them well drained. If damping off is making your life miserable, use sterilized soil. Some experts will tell you to place a pan of soil in the oven. Don't do it, it will stink up your house for days. If a purchased potting mix is out of your budget, try placing flats of good, screened garden soil covered in plastic in the hot sun and let the solar rays sterilize your potting soil. 

For the greenhouse, both dry and wet forms of fertilizer may be used. Slow release feritlizers are valuable because their nutrients are relased gradually, providing a little at a time. Keep in mind, though, that fertilizers come in concentrated form. Too much is worse than too little. If over-applied, it can burn roots and stems or result in plants that produce all leaves and no blossoms or fruits.

Some hints to keep in mind:

*Make sure the soil is moist before applying fertilizer. If soil is dry, plant food can burn the roots.

*Mix fertilizer at half strength for plants that demand less feeding, such as geraniums and most herbs.

*Do not fertilizer dormant plants. Most growing things lapse into a period of inactivity when days shorten and nights lengthen. When days begin to lengthen, plants renew activity and will welcome fertilizer.

*Avoid the buildup of salts (whitish deposits on the soil and pot rims) by periodically "leaching". To leach, drench the soil with tepid water until excess runs out the bottom. If deposits are heavey, repeat two or three times at half hour intervals.


Gardening can be more fun if you garden with your children. Plan your vegetable garden in advance and teach them the importance of preparation. Scan the internet with your children, looking at kids garden projects together. Visit to the library and bookstores together in the winter months.


Garden Lore

When dandelions are blooming plant beets and carrots. Plant tomatoes and peppers when daylilies start to bloom. Plant corn when oak leaves are the size of a squirrels ear.

When the daffodils begin to bloom it is time to plant peas.


Sometimes, in spite of the best care, a plant will die. You have given it water, sun, food and care, dies. There is often no good reason, certainly it´s not your fault. Remember, nature has a way of weeding out the weak from the strong. Don´t get discouraged. It happens to all of us.



"Flowers...are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. "



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