Spring Clean

I cleaned my greenhouse the other weekend. It’s a job I tend to put off; the mood has to take me and so far it hadn’t. Then a few Saturdays ago the sun appeared, tempting me outdoors. The burgeoning growth in my windowsill seed trays was telling me they would need a new home in the not too distant future too, so I knew I needed to get cracking. So I set about emptying the greenhouse of its contents on to the patio with any tender plants taking up temporary residence in my cold frame. It’s always a bit of a motley collection of plants that reside in my greenhouse at this time of year. A pelargonium which had seen better days, sempervivums sheltering from the winter wet, a Chilean guava which I didn’t want to risk outdoors and a lemon verbena plant which to most eyes looks dead, beyond hope, a goner. I know however that as the greenhouse starts to warm up over the coming months new buds will slowly emerge from this unpromising specimen.

Just as the greenhouse was cleared out I noticed the looming dark sky overhead. Within minutes I was sheltering inside as hail pelted down. And so I spent much of the afternoon. Sweeping the floor and cobwebs, washing the glass, the frame and the staging, the whole time doing a strange manoeuvring act as I repositioned the staging to enable me to shimmy my way into a gap – my greenhouse is compact and bijou. Outside the sky alternated between charcoal grey or glorious blue with beaming bright sunshine. It’s surprising how much warmth can build up behind the glass though if there’s a break in the clouds.

With clean staging replaced along with the plants, I set up my seed sowing area ready for the weeks ahead. There’s a bag of compost inside the greenhouse warming up, seed trays and pots are stacked, and labels and a pencil are ready to hand.

The next few months will involve a juggling act with windowsills, a heated propagator and the greenhouse becoming a production line of seeds and young plants. Hardy veg such as broad beans and peas, already growing away on the kitchen windowsill, will move into the greenhouse to make way for the sowing of hardy annual flowers and salad crops. Once these have germinated they’ll move to the greenhouse to make way for the half-hardy annuals which I’ll sow towards the start of April.

So is cleaning the greenhouse worth the effort? Well, there is something to be said for having a tidy workspace ready for the frantic seed sowing of spring. The nooks and crannies of greenhouse are the perfect spots for overwintering pests which will reappear just as your young plants do, so better to get to them now before they can do any damage. Perhaps the most compelling reason though is to maximise light. It’s surprising the impact a layer of dust and dirt can have your amount of light entering your greenhouse. Your seedlings and plant will relish the extra lux levels from your newly sparkling windows, and your effort will be rewarded with strong, healthy plants ready to plant out in a few months’ time.