Gardening During Wet Winter Weather Conditions? Madness Or An Opportunity? Here Are Some Tasks That Will Improve Your Garden.
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In cold wet wintery weather many gardeners hunker down around the fire and read gardening books, watch gardening programmes and order next years seeds. They know the damage that can be caused by working wet soil or even walking on sodden beds. These are some of the gardening mistakes that some amateurs make but soon learn never to make again.
So what can be done in the wet wintery garden that is going to do more good than harm?
Boosting Year Around Light Levels
Without sunlight the plant world would cease to exist. They need sunlight to photosynthesis and grow.
And, all other things being equal, if we shade our crops their rate of photosynthesis and hence growth slows down.
Of course there are times when a bit of light shade might be necessary for some crops. Especially during hot wether when smaller greenhouses and tunnels can suffer extreme changes in temperature when the sun shines. But earlier in the year a local of light can limit growth. And this is most marked during the winter when light levels are already low and the number of daylight hours air their lowest.
So clean glass and polythene is important. It’s easy to add more shade if we want to. Adding more light is what cleaning gas and tunnel sheets is about.
Cleaning Greenhouse Glass, Polycarbonate and Polytunnels
Dried-on algae and other rubbish is really hard to remove from glass. But when it’s wet is is much easier to remove.
But there are cleaning techniques that work better than others and some to be avoided.
Well secured glass can be brushed off with a long handled soft brush and the wet algae is soon loosened. A quick swill off with a hose will wash the glass clean and the job is soon done. I prefer to do the work when it’s raining as not only is the glass wet to start with but the rain washing away the dirt. Call it efficient or lazy gardening .. but I love making life easy for myself.
Inside a greenhouse it is harder to get the brush into the difficult to reach places and that’s made harder if you have plants growing. It’s easy to put off cleaning until another day. Don’t!
Early morning, when the glass is wet from condensation, is a good time to clean it. Again use a soft brush and rinse clean afterwards.
Commercially growers clean glass between crops and will use pressure washers to get into the crevices where algae, pests and diseases lurk. And some will use water additives such as formaldehyde to ensure good hygiene. Safety precautions and PPE is needed when handling such materials. On an amateur basis additives aren’t needed and there job is easier.
Cleaning polycarbonate is a bit harder. Mainly because so much of it is poorly secured and rubbing with a brush soon pops it out of the frame. And a pressure washer can send it high in to the sky!A soft brush and patient soft brushing is the only answer in most cases.
Cleaning polytunnel sheets is a problem for many people and they put it off for years. In the early days of plastic tunnels the sheets only last two season so cleaning was rarely undertaken. But modern plastic sheets last for years and the plastic can get very dirty.
Inside the use of a long handled soft brush rubbed over the plastic works wonders if the plastic is wet from condensation. My commercial tunnels were 9-10 feet high so a long handled brush was necessary and often I worked form the top of a trailer behind my tractor!
The soft brush is essential as the vigorous use of a hard brush can easily penetrate the plastic.
Outside the curvature of the tunnel, and height in the case of the bigger structures makes a brush unusable except for low down on the structure.
So how can they be cleaned?
Easy, pull a wet bedsheet over the tunnel. The easy way is to have a person either side and a rope attached to the sheet so that it can be seesawed back and forwards along the ridge and sides when the algae is already damp. This is a very efficient method that only gets hard when we have multi-way tunnels and you have to be stood up in the gutters to work some 7-8 foot above the ground. Don’t try this at home!
Other Winter Gardening Work
Turning compost heaps is the next thing that comes to mind. Personally I tend to do this on drier days, but a bit of wet underfoot is no problem provided we aren’t walking on the beds we want to grow on.
Likewise spreading compost or farmyard manure is fine in wet weather provided we don’t damage the soil structure with machinery or by standing on it.
Digging, ploughing and cultivations of any sort shouldn’t be attempted in wet weather. I hear people talking about how this aerates the soil but they often forget how it causes soil compaction which then limits root penetration, drainage and deep aeration.
No Dig overcomes all this and negates a lot of drainage issues as the soil is far more open due to the decay of the roots left in the soil, worm activity and improved soil structure.
Bird Feeders Need Filling- More Gardening During Wet Winter Weather
My next gardening job in wet cold weather is to ensure bird feeders and clean and fuel of food. That way I can sit inside and enjoy seeing them feed.
There are dozens of other winter gardening jobs from winter pruning and frost protecting outside taps to moving pots into a sheltered position and planting winter crops in a polytunnel or greenhouse. But this post is specifically about Gardening During Wet Winter Weather Conditions .. with emphasis on the wet! The rest I’ll write about another day.
But before I go why not look at this article on winter garden work from years ago.
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