Friday, November 17, 2006

Cleaning gardening pots

Hi there

I found your blog recently and am really enjoying it.

I have a quick question as I recently tidied up the garden a bit and have put the pots aside (which I grew courgettes in this year) to be washed out. I wasn't sure whether to just use water or soapy water or water with a bit of tea tree oil. Do you just use a bucket of water with some vinegar added to it? About how much? Any particular kind? Sorry if these seem like silly questions but I'll take advice from anyone who's already done something I plan on doing!

Its raining today so washing pots is not on the agenda as I usually choose one of those sunny days.
There are many ways in which you can wash the pots, many suggest using bleach or some antibacterial and antifungal liquid but this is what works well for me so far :

I use 3 buckets, one water to get the dirt off, one with soapy water ( ecover or something eco friendly) to get the dirt off and lastly a bucket with cold water in which I put cider vinegar. One part to nine parts of water. Adding tea tree oil and rosemary oil acts as an antibacterial and antifungal agent.

If you want to sanitize them after that you could always put them in the dishwasher to get them pristine, without any detergent, just to get them steam cleaned as such but I have found that the above usually is sufficient to keep pests at bay.

I found out the hard way, by not cleaning my pots and trays this way, small slug eggs would hibernate and hatch into lovely tiny slug and snails and feast on my little seedlings. Better to spend some time cleaning than to have to deal with the pests that you are carefully nurturing.

I have 3 sizes of pots, small, medium and large as well as some trays that take 6 seedlings per tray and they are all stackable and washable and thus each year, I need no new pots. When I give plants to people, when I barter I ask them to return the pots to me if possible and I explain that by doing so they will save me to have to buy any more.

As with everything, general garden hygiene is a good thing to observe. It is never going to be spotless but a bit of time scrubbing between now and spring will not only keep you warm and active but also prevent gardening disasters in the next season.

During Victorian times, the smallest boy in the gardening team, probably about aged 8 would be given the task to work in the ‘ pot house’. His task was to keep the posts clean and tidy, sorting and tidying them. It may sound a menial task but the success of producing year round produce for the manor house depended to a certain extent on the boy’s work. It was usually done in the cold winter months, not only to keep the gardening boy busy and earning a wage during the winter months but also to prevent diseases spreading between plants. In those days, the pots would have been made from clay and had different sizes to them. I have a few older pots and they are not winter hardy. The clay pots were cleaned before the frost could get at them which would freeze in the pores of the clay and break them.

I prefer clay pots to plastic ones but I have what I have at the moment and am happy to make them work until they crack. I have no pothouse but pots are shelved in the polytunnel under the bench. I can work there any day really, even when it rains as it is under cover.

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