Scrub up for winter salad

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CLEAN your greenhouse or conservatory and make the most of its extra heat over winter to grow salad crops.

IT’S a horrible job, but a vital one – disinfecting and cleaning out your hothouse.

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Whether it’s a greenhouse, conservatory or a plant house, if you don’t clean it from top to bottom now, pests will overwinter and reinfect your crops next year.

If you’ve had aphids this year, their sticky honeydew provides a great environment for moulds to live on – not great for plants or your environment.

As you can see in the photo on the left, my 30ft-long conservatory is used very much like a greenhouse.

There’s the remains of the tomato and pepper plants, mixed with a build-up of dumped stuff (and the cat, of course).

The windows are filthy, covered with horticultural soap residue and honeydew. There’s nothing for it but take everything out and scrub from roof to floor.

Six hours later, it’s a much lighter, tidier place, thanks to elbow grease and a mix of antibacterial cleaner and washing-up liquid.

It’s important in the winter to have as much light coming in as possible. I don’t heat it – too much warmth and too little light leads to leggy, unhealthy plants.

Cool, bright conditions mean you can keep it earning its keep even during winter.

I cleaned up the tomato growbags, removing the ring culture pots and freshening them up with a little new multipurpose compost.

Cut the top of the bag off and it will make a great home for winter salad crops.

Last Sunday, I sowed Thompson and Morgan’s Salad Leaves Winter Blend; Salad Leaves Speedy Mix; rocket and the Japanese spring onion Shimonita (it was the end of a packet and a shame to waste the seeds). By yesterday, the first two had already germinated.

In another bag, I’ve planted parsley seedlings from the garden.

They quite happily seed themselves around and survive outside in a normal winter but I always like to have herbs close to hand so I don’t have to go out with a torch when I’m cooking tea!

I’ve also brought indoors a large rosemary in a pot and the pelargoniums (geraniums) which have been filling gaps in the borders.

Whatever you bring indoors, make sure it’s not harbouring any pests (or slugs at the base of the pot) or you’ll infect everything else.

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