Vegetable Garden

It’s Bath Time!

February 19, 2014

Bath Time

Spring Cleaning in the Vegetable Garden – There’s a Good Reason Why We Should Bother

Is there a job in the garden you try to avoid at all costs? One that has you procrastinating or ignoring altogether in the hope it will go away?

When I’m outside there’s not much I don’t enjoy, though I do like help and company when it comes to digging and sorting out the compost, but that’s as much to do with having a weak back and a fear of anything small with a long tail and sharp teeth than anything else.

My personal pet hate however, is cleaning the trays, pots and modules. Thoughts of standing at the kitchen sink, surrounded by sluggy, cobwebby then wet, drippy plastic has never filled me with joy and I’ll confess to avoiding the job altogether for a couple of years, just knocking the bits of old soil and compost out of the modules as I needed them. That was until now.

With thanks to a tip from Philippa over at Leighlinbridge Community Garden, spring cleaning the garden, and in particular washing the plant pots, just got more pleasant. 

It's Pot & Module Bath TimeAll you have to do is fill the bath with warm water and a good squirt of phosphorous free washing up liquid (Ecover/Lily’s), give the pots a good scrub with a brush, rinse them and if being especially good, fill the bath up again and sterilise them with Milton which will also protect the seedlings from Damping Off Disease.

That’s it, no bother and job done. A quick tip having just done this, make sure there’s a drain protector covering the plug hole to catch all the debris or you may block the pipes 😉

If you’re wondering why the big deal, why on earth should we be washing our pots, or spring cleaning our polytunnels or greenhouses, there’s one very good reason:

PESTS AND DISEASESLittle bugs and bacteria can hide in all the cracks and crevices and populate or infect our new season seedlings and plants.

Cats often make holes in polytunnel plastic

Cats often make holes in polytunnel plastic

Last year our polytunnel became so seriously overrun by red spidermite that after I’d had a good cry, I stripped the tunnel of everything, including my precious asparagus seedlings and shut the door, not returning inside again until this week.

If you’re wondering what that particular pest looks like, here’s a post I wrote when the community garden polytunnel became infected – I’ve seen enough red spidermite I shouldn’t have let my own garden get out of hand, but lesson learnt. I’ll never take my eye off the tunnel again during a hot summer, however busy I find myself elsewhere and it acts as a reminder of the number one rule of pest and disease prevention – VIGILANCE!

Once the pots were clean they were ready to be carried back into the polytunnel in preparation for some seed sowing that will be taking place this weekend. The tunnel is now basking in shininess following its top to toe clean this week. With the help of Mr G, we weeded, brushed, recycled then cleaned it inside and out, this time with a bucket full of soapy water that a touch of tea tree oil had been added to it for its antibacterial properties.

Before and After

Before and After

Taking the time to clean a polytunnel is a great opportunity to check it over for rips or tears, all of which can be fixed with polytunnel repair tape, a really worthwhile investment as it will help to prolong the life of the polythene.

Part of the clean up should include taking everything out of the tunnel that shouldn’t be in there such as pieces of wood or stones that have piled up over the previous year for various reasons, giving slugs and snails a cozy hiding place. Old bags of compost can be tipped into the beds, to be replaced with fresh, new, sterilised bags ready for the new season ahead. Finally, if you didn’t do it in the autumn, add a good layer of well-rotted manure or home-made compost to your beds, giving the worms and microorganisms a chance to do their work and get your soil ready for the plants that will soon be filling it.

February polytunnelIt might be too wet to be getting on with much outside in the garden, but there’s still lots we can get on with inside.

What’s your pet gardening hate or does nothing phase you?


  • Reply cathsveggies1 February 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Well after reading this, I will be scrubbing the inside of my tunnel over the weekend as it will be wet here and before I plant anymore. I don’t really dislike any garden job,even cleaning pots, maybe the thought of water running down my arms when washing the tunnel is my one dislike,but not anymore..Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply greensideupveg February 21, 2014 at 10:19 pm

      Glad to hear it’s helped Cath, cleaning the tunnel was a lovely job last weekend. It was surprisingly warm inside, so much so I was in a short sleeves! We even cleaned the top this year, soaking a very large old sheet and pulling it back and forth across the top between hubby and I. Enjoy!

      • Reply cathsveggies1 February 21, 2014 at 10:53 pm

        Ya, gotta really do the top outside, must find an old sheet or two. Might even take a pic of all the “fun” 😉

  • Reply Keep an eye on your seeds and plants with a garden diary February 28, 2014 at 8:45 am

    […] last post mentioned one of my gardening dislikes but keeping notes in a diary is high up there in my likes, mostly because I have a bit of a thing […]

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