Saturday, 20 October 2012

Keeping Pests out of the Greenhouse

After I lost most of my tomatoes to pests this summer, I've decided that one way I can avoid this happening again next year is to completely re-design the inside of my greenhouse.  I believe that the inside of my greenhouse has, over the years, become a little too pest-friendly and I need to make sure that the pests don't get the upper hand again.  At the same time, I'm putting together my own good practice notes for greenhouse growing to keep on hand for the future (for information - my greenhouse is unheated and rests on old railway sleepers).

Greenhouse Pests

These include aphids, white flies, mealybugs, caterpillars, ants, spider mites, slugs, snails, mice and rats.

The old floor is dug out.

Re-designing the Greenhouse

These are my key tasks for re-designing the greenhouse:

1.  Take down the netted shading.  This was put up some time ago after my tomatoes were scorched through the glass one summer.  Since then, a hedge has grown up close to the greenhouse and I realise now that the extra shading is no longer needed.  So the netting has to go; I believe it's created shady conditions for slugs to flourish.

2.  Create a hard floor and grow tomatoes in pots.  Years ago, I started to grow the tomatoes in soil in the greenhouse, but I believe this has encouraged a range of pests to feel at home there (from mice to slugs).  I now want to create a hard floor and grow the tomatoes and cucumbers in pots and I'm fortunate that I can source some bricks for free from a family member who no longer needs them.  Putting in a hard floor is very much a trial and I'm aware that I must keep these pots well watered otherwise, in greenhouse conditions, they could dry out very quickly.

3.  Re-fix the chicken wire over the lower part of the entrance.  Because I have a problem with rabbits on the smallholding, I've put this in to keep them out just in case they're tempted to venture in and have a look.  It also keeps out rats.

4.  Repair any broken glass panels in the greenhouse. 

Good Practice Notes for Each Year

Spring Cleaning (i.e. from autumn to early spring!)

With clean water and an eco-friendly washing up liquid, I'll do the following:

1.  Scrub the greenhouse glass, inside and out.
2.  Scrub the staging.
3.  Clean out the pots for the next seedlings, tomatoes and cucumbers.
4.  Sweep/clean the new floor.

The new floor starts to go in.

On-going Care for the Growing Season

1.  Maintain daily vigilance for pests, but thoroughly check over the vegetables each week.  Keep a good book handy that has clear illustrations of pests, so that I can quickly identify exactly which pest has appeared (if it has!)

2.  Hunt those pests down! Look for slugs and snails in dark corners, under pots etc.

3.  Keep organic pest control solutions to hand.  Make sure pre-prepared pest controls don't use harsh chemicals that are harmful to beneficial insects and that will also enter the food chain.  Have mouse traps, slug beer traps and jam jars with a small hole in the top (i.e. these are wasp traps that can be effective for catching slugs) to hand.

4.  Make sure that the tomato plants don't become too overcrowded when they grow to create shade for pests and conditions where pests can spread around more easily.

5.  Keep the greenhouse well ventilated for the health of the plants and to stop pests flourishing in airless conditions.  Check the air vents and the door of the greenhouse are open in warm weather.

6.  Keep a daily eye on the pots to make sure that they don't dry out at all.  Create a drip irrigation system to keep the soil moist.

7.  Keep up companion planting i.e. other plants and flowers that can also be planted in the pots to draw insects away from the main vegetables.

8.  Store soil well and always use fresh soil for new planting.

9.  Check over any new plants, brought in from a nursery or garden centre (or other source) for pests and diseases.

10. Promptly clear away any old plants and vegetables at the end of the growing season to prevent overwintering bugs and the possibility of disease developing.

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