Greenhouse Equipment and Accessories
Greenhouse staging, the platforms on which plants are stored, is usually fixed so that the plants are about waist level for an average-sized person. Sometimes, too, if the layout of the greenhouse allows, as in a lean-to or three-quarter span house, they are arranged in tiers to allow attractive plant display and make the best use of the space available. The staging may be either open (with spaces left between wooden slats) or solid as in the case of cement, concrete or corrugated iron sheeting bases, these last being covered with a layer of gravel or small stone chippings to retain the moisture.
In recent years there has been a rapid advance in the use of plastic pots as opposed to the traditional clay pots. Light in weight, unbreakable, easier to store and clean, and cheaper than their clay counterparts, they have indeed much to offer the home gardener. Plants grown in plastic pots have been found to dry out less quickly than those in clay pots. Watering techniques for the two kinds of pots are rather different but this presents no problems.
The most frequently used sizes of pot are 3-1/2in., 5in. and 7 or 9in. (for the final potting of large plants). Two-inch pots are useful for rooting single and seed pans of 6in. diameter are sometimes preferred to seed boxes or trays for certain jobs. Seed boxes with a standard measurement of 14-1/2in. by 8-1/2in. by 2in., once only available in wood, are now offered in plastic and it is thought by some gardeners that and pricked out plants come on faster in the latter than in wooden boxes.
Other equipment which is necessary or useful to have in the greenhouse is as follows:
- A watering can with both fine and coarse rose attachments.
- A 1/2 in. sieve for and a small perforated zinc sieve for covering seeds with compost.
- A sharp knife for and a dibber for inserting them.
- A widger (a small tool for lifting young plants from seed boxes etc., loosening old topsoil in pots and so on).
- A hand sprayer for insecticide and fungicide application.
- A measure.
- A bucket (many diverse uses).
- A ‘patter’ (a wooden block fitted with a handle for firming compost after ).
- Finis, stakes and labels.
Watering and Damping Down
It always seems to be watering which, in greenhouse terms, separates the men from the boys. Watering, correctly done, is a skilful job and its mastery is one of the goals of every newcomer to greenhouse gardening.
Coarse and fine roses are available for watering cans, but these are only used when watering very young plants, seeds and cuttings. All other plants should be watered from the spout, this being held close to theso that the latter is not displaced. When water is given it should be given in good measure — sufficient to soak right through the pot.
The most difficult thing for the beginner is to tell when plants need water. With clay pots an aural check is a good indication – make a wooden ‘hammer’ by pushing an old wooden cotton reel (if you can get one) on to a cane and be guided by the tone when the pot is struck on its side: if dry it will give out a ringing sound, if wet the response will be dull and muted.
Some gardeners find that lifting the pots is another good guide for, with practice, they can tell by the weight how wet or dry the compost is. With plastic pots this is the method we must adopt for the aural test does not work.
A form of automatic watering which has become very popular is the capillary bench. Like so many good ideas, it is essentially a simple device which makes use of a plants’ ability to absorb water by capillary attraction from a base of damp sand on which the pots are stood. This bench with its sand covering is kept supplied with water automatically by means of perforated piping laid in the sand and connected to a water tank whose water level matches the height of the bench – the plants simply take up water from the bench according to their needs and their water requirements are therefore more accurately met than is possible by human means. Plants in clay pots must have wicks placed in the drainage holes of the pots to ensure capillary action.
It is important that the atmospheric moisture should be correct for the types of plant being grown. Some plants,for example, like a much dryer atmosphere than or . There are various ways in which the moisture in the air can be increased:
- by damping down the paths and the ground under the staging,
- by having trays filled with water dotted around the house, and
- by syringing between the pots on the staging and, where the plants enjoy such treatment, on the leaves.
Cleaning and Fumigating
In winter, most plants need all the light it is possible to give them and when the shading (if permanent shading has been applied) is removed at the end of the season it is a very good plan to wash down the inside glass of the greenhouse as well. Use a long-handled broom, warm water and detergent for this job. The dirt which accumulates between the overlap of the glass can be removed by taking a thin strip of metal and slightly bending it so that it can be inserted between the panes and worked along.
In winter all woodwork and walls need scrubbing down with warm water to which some disinfectant has been added but do not let this come in contact with any plants. If possible remove them before work starts. Brick or concrete walls look neater and are certainly more hygienic if they are lime-washed at this time. The light-reflecting properties of the lime-wash will also be beneficial during the duller months.
If there are cast-iron heating pipes in the greenhouse brush these thoroughly with a wire brush and then paint with old sump oil. This will act as a preservative and make the pipes more efficient at radiating heat.