In stark contrast to Friday morning, Saturday dawned bright and warm, just right for pottering about in the greenhouses, potting on some of the seedlings. After a coffee or three, I trundled down to the vegetable patch to check that my newly planted potatoes were still buried, as the blackbirds have been know to scratch about in the fresh mounds of earth looking for food, making a right mess in the process, and also to check on the seedlings already in the greenhouses. With the sun shining brightly, I turned towards the greenhouses, expecting to be dazzled by the glare of the sun on the polycarbonate panes, only to find that, well, there wasn’t any glare because the panes were filthy with a mixed coating of green algae, dust and tree detritus.
With sinking heart, all thoughts of compost and seedlings disappeared to be replaced with visions of hot soapy water, cloths and hours of emptying out, washing down, rinsing of, re-washing the bits I missed in the first place, re-rinsing and then washing the staging etc etc etc. It was going to be a long, long day.
By 11am, Mud and the Littlest Mudelt had taken themselves off to town, in Annie, armed with a long shopping list, Middle Mudlet was happily watching CITV and I was starting the tedious process of emptying the smallest (6’x4′) greenhouse and filling a bucket with hot water and a Non-bio Laundry capsule, figuring if it was tough enough to get the stains out of the Mudlets clothes without upsetting Little Mudlets eczema it would be able to handle the filthy panes without harming the plants around it. Lugging the hosepipe and a garden chair to the greenhouse, completed my preparations and with a sigh of regret for a missed gardening opportunity, I climb onto the chair which I needed to do to be able to reach the top of the roof.
I would like to make it clear at this point, that climbing onto chairs, precariously placed around ones greenhouse, is not something I would ordinarily do, nor would I recommend this as a suitable method for reaching the roof of ones greenhouse but the step ladders were all suspended from the workshop roof above the newly resprayed Ciggy, and nothing was going to compel me to try and get one down. No way. Not a chance!
I could just imagine Muds’ reaction to seeing me perched, albeit more securely, on top of a step ladder which he knew for a fact had been stored above his Land Rover – no, all things considered, the chair was the better option at this stage, even if it was wobblier than a jelly on a roller coaster.
By 12.30pm, I had finished the small greenhouse, was soaked through, thanks mainly to the leaking nozzle which is attached to the end of the hose and which managed to send more water down my arm, front and legs than onto the panes during the rinse process, had emptied the large greenhouse in preparation for its’ wash down and I was in desperate need of a cup of tea.
I had literally just sat down with my nice, hot cuppa, when Mud and the Mudlet returned from shopping and with a sigh and a groan, I hauled myself back to my feet and went to help get the shopping in. There then followed an hour of upacking, putting away and then making lunch before I could go back out to start the larger greenhouse, not that I minded the distraction. Greenhouse cleaning is one of my least favourite tasks in the garden but it is absolutely essential, as it gives me the opportunity to wash away many of the pests and diseases which might otherwise cause me problems later in the season.
At around 1.45pm I headed back outside and started the whole cleaning process again but with twice as much greenhouse (8’x6′). Mud put in an appearance once or twice with helpful suggestions such as:
“You are using Jeyes fluid aren’t you?”
And then to my ‘no because I didn’t know where it was’ reply he said, peering into the gleaming little greenhouse, “You could really do with Jeyes fluiding the floors.”
“I know but I don’t know where it is!”
He ambled off, returned a short while later to inform me that it didn’t look like we had any Jeyes fluid and then went back inside.
We had two, 4 foot long, single shelf aluminium (aluminum for those of you living across the pond :)) bits of staging in the large greenhouse which were located down one side of it and ideally I would have preferred to get these outside, so that I could have unhindered access to the interior of the panes. However, the two double shelf sets of staging (also each 4 foot long) from the little greenhouse, were already outside, as were the seedlings, herbs, 62 little pots of last seasons strawberry runners, tubs, pots and assorted items of garden equipment, so there simply wasn’t any room. In addition, I had decided that this year we were going to put all the staging in the larger greenhouse and use the smaller one for the cucumbers and tomatoes and so I hadn’t bothered putting the staging back into the smaller greenhouse once I had finished cleaning it.
“A bit like crop rotation for the greenhouse crops,” I’d explained to Mud when I had told him my plan.
Anyway, as removal wasn’t really an option, I decided to place the staging either side of the door whilst I washed and rinsed the back half of the greenhouse down. I then washed and rinsed the staging itself before moving it back to either side of the back of the greenhouse.
At this point Mud made his next visit and commented that “It’d be better to put the double shelf staging on that side because it gets more sun.”
I toyed, fleetingly, with the idea of ‘accidentally’ hosing him but he was conveniently out of reach, I was just as likely to get as soaked as him if not more so, due to the temperamental nature of the nozzle and its’ connector and Mud was cooking a Thai Fish Curry for tea and one mustn’t look a gift horse in the mouth …………….. no matter how annoying it’s being.
“I know! I’ve only put those two bits of staging at the back temporarily because I need to clean the front half now and there isn’t any room outside for them whilst I finish the inside.”
By 4.30pm the actual cleaning of the panes and staging was done but the temperature was dropping and so I decided to put all the staging back in (with the double shelf units on the sunny side of the greenhouse), put the various seedlings and plants back in for the night and the empty tubs, pots and assorted gardening paraphernalia into the little greenhouse. I intended to sweep the floors while they were wet as this would make the job easier but at this point Mud wondered over again and suggested that I leave the floors until the morning. This was one suggestion I was happy to agree with and so with one last look around I came indoors and collapsed on the sofa.
Fast forward to this morning and I’m feeling every single one of my years plus a few hundred extra for good measure. The sun was shining, it was nice and warm but a strong wind was blowing. I have to say that at this point my enthusiasm for finishing the greenhouse spring clean was sadly lacking and so I opted for a coffee or 3, a bit of hoovering, followed by yet another coffee.
Finally I could put it off no longer and trudged to the vegetable patch.
My first problem was where to put the seedlings and herbs. They needed shelter from the wind, if I was to avoid snapped sweet pea stems and upended little pots of strawberries. Thankfully the long black trays we use in the greenhouse were a perfect fit for the gap between the raised beds and so I was able to put the seedlings in the trays and the height of the beds gave them the much needed protection from the gusts we were experiencing.
Once the staging had been removed, again, I was able to see the extent of the grime that had accumulated in the months since November which was when Mud had last cleaned the greenhouses. With the hose nozzle on ‘Jet’ I went to work, pausing every now and again to sweep the water under and out of the frame base. It was a mucky job but 2 hours later the large greenhouse floor was looking decidedly cleaner than it had.
I suggested to Mud, who had been out once or twice to check on my progress, that now would be a good time for a coffee – please – as I need to allow time for the rest of the water to drain away and for the panes, which I had had to hose down again to get rid of the splash marks and mud, to dry.
“Oh, I made you one a while ago,” was his reply, “It’s probably still warm.”
So I sat with my luke warm, coffee, at the garden table, enjoying the sight of the birds at the feeder and the daffodils bobbing their heads in the wind.
Some twenty minutes later, I started to put everything back into my beautifully clean greenhouse and I have to say, I was impressed with the end results, even if I do say so myself. I will admit at this point that the temptation to leave the smaller greenhouse for another day was very, very strong but I knew that if I left it, the likelihood of me getting around to that job was remote and so I bit the bullet and emptied the pots, tubs and assorted gardening equipment onto the paths.
This floor was worse, in my opinion, than that of the first one but it was only half the size, so I was reasonably confident of a speedy conclusion to this mammoth spring clean. It took less than an hour to do, after which time I staggered back to the house, kicked off my sodden boots and, once more, collapsed in a heap on the sofa. I allowed an hour or so for the floor and panes to dry out a little before putting everything back in.
It is fair to say that this is a job I loathe with a vengeance but the end results are worth it. The greenhouses look amazing and the plants can now take full advantage of maximum sunlight and I don’t have to worry about cleaning them for another year.
I can hear a glass of wine calling me and a soak in the bath later ……. much later ……. after tea, dishes, Mudlet bedtimes ………….