Preparing the Greenhouse for Spring

The greenhouse can be an unappealing place over winter. Most look rather deserted after the last tomatoes have been picked and they cease to be regular port of call in the garden. You might have thought that your greenhouse would be a winter refuge, but in reality most are deserted until the spring clean out ready for the first seeds to be sown in spring. Whenever you tackle it a good winter clean-up is essential and the sooner you get on with it the better. It’s a bit like servicing the lawn mower. It’s much better to do it when you are not using it rather than just when you want to.

A greenhouse is a closed environment designed to protect your plants. However it is also a protected environment for some of the unwanted visitors that pose a threat to your plants next season: overwintering insect pests and fungal spores. A good clean-up is the ideal opportunity to remove them. Never underestimate the importance of good garden hygiene in pest control.

First clear out any plant debris. Most can be composted and any old growing media can be spread on the garden or added to the compost heap. Store any garden chemicals, fertilisers or gardening equipment that is not in use in the shed. The damp, light environment of a greenhouse is no place for packets and bottles. Next wipe down the glass and all surfaces to remove dirt and algae. Vitax Greenhouse Disinfectant (£3.59 500ml*) or Agralan’s Citrox (£7.99 500ml*) ideal to use for this. They contain orange oil which is not only a natural cleaner, but can smell good too. Wash any tools, pots and seed trays with the disinfectant and make sure that you wash down the inside of the greenhouse framework. This is where over wintering pests lurk, or may have deposited their eggs. Dirty pots, trays and tools harbour fungal spores which can cause damping off: death of seedlings soon after germination.

The ready-to use spray Vitax Summer Cloud Greenhouse cleaner is perfect for cleaning the glass. Here too algae and fungal spores will be lurking. Dirt blocks valuable light which will warm your greenhouse in the early months of the year. You can use this handy greenhouse cleaner to remove greenhouse sun shading too. It’s a necessity through summer, but you must remove it ready for valuable sunlight to get through in the early months of the year.

Finally it is a good idea to fumigate. Using a “smoke” pesticide means that every nook and cranny is penetrated and flying and crawling insects are killed. You can use Vitax Greenhouse Fumigator (£4.99*), or the Doff equivalent (£7.99*), whether the greenhouse is empty or you are keeping plants in there over the winter. The smoke is generated from a fumigator that you light on the greenhouse floor. You leave the greenhouse closed up for a couple of hours after use and the job is done!

Of course once your greenhouse is clean and ready for spring you could start a few hardy seeds while the weather is still cold, even if the greenhouse is unheated. Peas, broad beans and sweet peas can be sown and will have time to make excellent root systems before you harden them off and plant them out. Start them off in fibre pots like Vitax Vitapots (£2.49*). They encourage root growth and there is no disturbance when you plant them out because you plant them in the pots which just biodegrade in the soil.

One word of warning: newly sown peas and beans are vulnerable in greenhouses. Mice may also have taken refuge from the cold and your newly planted seeds will be a welcome meal. A pre-baited trap where the bait is protected from wet as well as little people playing with the bait are safest to use all round. Just tuck one in under the staging.

Protecting too against slugs and snails from the outset is a must. Although the greenhouse may start the season free of them, you only need one or two to cause a major problem. As you can shut the door to keep birds and pets out, even the most reluctant slug pellet user can be confident in sprinkling a few pellets around the edge, under the staging or at the base of walls or glass. Any ferric phosphate based pellet such as Bayer Slug Killer 700g (£6.99 or 2 for £12*) or Vitax Slug Rid is nature-friendly pellet approved by organic gardeners. In a greenhouse it is always best to prevent rather than cure, so do not wait until you have a problem before you take action.

*all prices correct at time of writing

Content courtesy of Vitax Garden World

Principled and beautiful (at our age!)

Today has been the perfect rainy day to test  out Tropic Skin Care’s new Slate Waterproof Smudge-proof Eyeliner!  But we don’t have to worry about offending our animal and bird visitors as all Zoe Hill’s Tropic Skin Care products are all plant extract-based and natural.

great and small tropic 1 great and small tropic 3

I tried a tiny amount of Hand Lotion which still now feels like wearing a silk glove (and trust me, these gardening hands don’t get much attention!). Zoe tells me a tiny amount is all you need and a single tube goes a long way.

And all her products are gentle and freshly produced every 2 weeks from the beauty kitchen at Tropic.  So no nasty reactions.

If you venture down and are looking for Zoe, just follow your nose – the smell is delicious!

Bring some dynamic summer colour to your garden

Planting a selection of summer flowering bulbs such as cannas, lilies, begonias and dahlias will ensure you have a fabulously colourful and interesting summer garden all the way through to the first frosts of autumn.  You can plant in containers or in your borders.  Buy one pack now and get your second (cheaper one) FREE.

summer flowering bulbs

Divine Inspiration

Coming up with ideas for Mother’s Day this Sunday is tricky so we thought we would give you some inspiration. Why not give her an original piece of art – be first to choose at our Art Preview Evening tomorrow night? Or how about one of our beautiful planted arrangements? Or even Afternoon Tea for Two vouchers? Whatever you decide, you can always treat Mum to lunch in Cafe Gallery. Bookings still available!


If you’re at a Loose End…

Iain Hope‘s second watercolour course is coming to an end but don’t despair. Iain is running a new taster day on Saturday 6th April between 10am and 4pm, after which if you get a taste for learning to paint, you will be able to join him for 6 entertaining 3 hour sessions. And you don’t have to have any experience.  Just enroll on Tel: 01772 433777 and turn up – it’s a great idea for a novel Mother’s Day giftimg070

Meet John Gillmore!

We are really looking forward to Radio Lancs coming to Avant today.  John Gillmore will be joined by Diane Oakden from DO Fitness, Liam Dickinson and Judith Herring two talented local artists, the Red Rosettes singing group, Astley Park Pets Corner and the Owls and Birds of Prey Roadshow.

Come and meet the face behind the voice of the afternoon show…

Thanks Longton W.I. for a great night

We had a great turn out of ladies from Longton Women’s Institute, despite the frosty weather.

Diane demonstrating to Longton WI

They appeared suitably impressed with our ideas for planted arrangements and making them look that little bit special for Christmas.

Provided with some lovely homemade cakes from Cafe Gallery and a little shopping spree at the end rounded off the evening nicely!

Thank you to all the ladies who came to visit us for listening so intently and being a great audience.

4 days until Santa arrives by helicopter!

We’re getting really excited now and can’t wait for the fun to begin.  Father Christmas lands at about 11am (lets hope the weather isn’t to bad for the helicopter to fly!) and will be mingling with children until lunch time.

Pick up your reindeer food, shop for some unusual Christmas gifts or just have a mince pie while you’re here!  Just don’t forget to bring your letters for Santa…