15 August 2012 By Sarah Wain
Recently you would have found me on my knees cleaning the propagation house at West Dean (or Wet Dean as I’ve rechristened it this year) with Chris the glasshouse gardener.
It’s the smallest of our glasshouses, erected by our founder Edward James for the production of his beloved trees but now used by the gardens team for the production of tender perennials bedding and glasshouse crops. Normally our glasshouse cleaning for all the other glasshouses takes place in winter when trees like the fig and nectarine are dormant and much of the glasshouse stock in pots is reduced. However the propagation house is cleaned in summer so that it is ready for the influx of cuttings later in the season.
First of all any stock in the house is relocated elsewhere temporarily, then equipment such as buckets, sponges, jay cloths and a selection of brushes, kneelers plus a hose lock attachment are gathered together. Where to start? Blasting out the joints between the panes of glass is our point A, as over lapping panes of beaver- tail shaped glass tends to gather moisture thus creating a fine environment for undesirable algael growth. A spray of detergent on the inside helps to dislodge the algae - we use a professional glasshouse cleaner which is left for ten minutes or so prior to turning on the hose with the hose lock attachment and refining the flow of water to a powerful needle point for accurate blasting between glass house panes. First we clean from the inside and then we blast the joints from the outside to remove the growth and it’s quite an effective system.
Point B is cleaning the whole of the interior. There is no magic in this cleaning lark it’s just a case of going over the whole of the interior of the glasshouse vigorously with a wet soapy sponge and scrubbing problem spots, particularly on bricks, using our selection of brushes - a kitchen brush, a loo brush with added kitchen cleaner like CIF allowing us to reach difficult spaces below the benches effectively. Even the concrete path gets a good scrub with our steam cleaner. I take odd pleasure in seeing the grime blasted away and a pristine surface revealed; I just wish it’d stay that way a bit longer than it does. Finally we spray the whole interior with a commercial glasshouse disinfectant and then I really know that I’ve done my bit to keep pest and diseases under control.
If you’ve read this far you’re probably thinking this person needs a reality check! Seriously though, glasshouse pests like spider mite and mealy bug, fairly undetectable to the human eye, are capable of surviving on the structure of glasshouses rather than on plants ready to re-infect your plants in the New Year and who wants that? Not me!
To learn more about West Dean Gardens and festivities (Chilli Festival over bank holiday weekend) click here
For help with the clean and care of your greenhouses we do have our own Alitex team which may be able to help you. For more information click here.