I had been putting it off for a while (again) but this weekend, with some unexpectedly dry (although generally dull and overcast for the most part) weather on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, I finally started the laborious task of cleaning the greenhouses. To be completely honest, it was the need to set up the growbags for the tomatoes and cucumbers that was the driving force behind my spring clean and so I set to and started to clear out the smallest of the greenhouses.
My greenhouses were quite literally green ………. with algae!! So, once all the rubbish and clutter had been moved out of the small one, I moved in with a bucket of hot, soapy water, a sponge and the hosepipe and got to work scrubbing the polycarbonate panels, inside and out, before jet washing them with the hosepipe. It only took me 40 minutes to finish washing the panels but I had to leave the greenhouse to dry out for an hour or so before I could start moving the tomato and cucumber plants in.
During the winter I had used upturned wooden crates to lift the overwintering plants off the floor which had kept them out of drafts and off the cold concrete base on frosty mornings. After careful consideration, I decided to use these same crates to lift the growbags off the floor, allowing for better drainage and hopefully helping to keep the plants out of the reach of the slugs. The crates have quite a rough texture to them which will prove unappealing to the slimey pests, although they could still reach the plants via the smooth panels, if they wanted to.
As with the winter set up, I used the shelves from our old black plastic shed shelving, laid over the crates, to provide a strong base for the growbags and then moved the growbags in: one down each side with three holes cut into them, for the tomatoes and a third across the back with two holes for the cucumbers.
Next I needed to set up the supports for the plants. Three of the tomatoes will be growing in a tomato Halo, a plastic doughnut shaped ring with hollow spikes on its’ base which allows water and food to be reach the roots of the plant without coming in contact with the leaves and stem. Basically the halo consists of: a central ‘hole’ in which the tomato is planted, surrounded by a deep reservoir into which the water/food is poured. The hollow spikes also have a hole at their tip, allowing the water/food to get directly to the roots. In addition, there are side slots for canes to be fed into and then a fastener piece for the top of the canes to help with rigidity. Two Stupice and one Amish Paste have been planted into these and if they work well, I’ll look at getting more for next year.
Over the last year, I’ve seen several programmes showing cucumber and tomato growers and it struck me that many of these use string or single supports to grow their plants and not the cumbersome three support system that I’ve been using. After doing some careful research, it would seem that all a tomato or cucumber plant really needs for successful growing, other than food, water and sunshine that is, is one single but rigid support to ‘lean’ against. So with this in mind, this year I have secured a single cane per plant, to a wire strung across the greenhouse and I will carefully monitor how the plants manage, making adjustments where necessary.
The third growbag is now home to the only two Chocolate Cherry plants to have survived and a second Amish Paste but I did find a sizeable side shoot on the Chocolate Cherry which I have nipped off and popped into some damp compost, in the hope that it will root itself and provide me with a third plant. You will see in one of the photos, a set of very sad looking ‘plants’ sitting in pots, beside and between the Chocolate Cherry and Cucumber growbags. These are actually a dozen or so ‘side shoots’ taken from the various tomato plants which I hope will all decide to root and grow and, in actual fact, I noticed just yesterday that most of them were looking a lot perkier than they had been.
Even with the small greenhouse planted up, there were still 4 more tomato plants in the large greenhouse which needed to be planted up. The large greenhouse was going to be far more of a challenge to empty and clean and I felt that it would make more sense to plant these tomatoes out first. This year, for the first time, I am going to grow tomatoes against the lawn fence. This is normally reserved for the beans but I am determined not to grow too many beans this year as they don’t particularly freeze very well (3 months max) and we invariably end up with far too many. So the final three Stupice and the last Amish Paste have taken their positions which should offer support, shelter and sunshine in good measure.
The lettuces left in the large greenhouse had all bolted and so went into the composter (we have rows of pretty lettuces in the beds now anyway and more to sow) which just left the chilli plants. As the sun was shining, the chillis spent the entirety of the cleaning process outside sitting in propagator trays on the raised beds, enjoying some natural light and the occasional drizzle of rain which has probably done them the world of good.
Cleaning the greenhouses was quite a workout, especially the large one which took about 4 hours from start to finish but at least it’s done for another year and now the tomatoes and cucumbers are in position, there is space in the large greenhouse for trays of more seeds for the successional crops and maybe some flowers too ……