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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton

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By Mrs FM

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Alan J Hartley



Preparing My Green-House For Winter.

As it is getting colder the Tomatoes will be finished soon in my Greenhouse and it will become time to clear them out. The plants will be chopped up and used as a mulch on the garden along with some of the other garden “rubbish.” The spent potting compost from their large pots will be broken up and spread over the Garden as a bit of a soil improver. Hopefully, the worms will slowly take a lot of this “Rubbish,” into the soil over winter and mix up the compost with the garden soil.

After clearing the Tomatoes out it will leave me with one side of the Greenhouse completely empty, so I will at last be able to make a new piece of staging for the greenhouse. This season I only had staging down one side and could have done with more space to put small pots and trays. As long as I get the size of the staging correct, I will be able to get it out through the door if I need more floor space in future. Most Greenhouse Staging is “Slatted,” because traditionally it was made of wood that would rot if it wasn’t allowed to drain and get the air round it to keep it dry. My staging will be even more open and will be of a “Skeleton,” design that will support standard gravel trays and no more. It will save on timber and in the Winter any plants that I put on the floor underneath it will get more light - as long as the Gravel trays are removed from above.

The nights in the month of October can get quite chilly on the odd occasion, so it will soon be time to start thinking about putting some bubble polythene insulation back up. When I take it down every Summer I carefully fold it and loosely tie it up with string before storing it in the top of a cupboard, in the house, away from the damaging effects of light. This way I get several years use out of it before it needs replacing as it isn’t cheap to buy. I also save every last plastic Clip that I use to put it up with and keep them secure in an old jam jar over the Summer.
However, with the shorter, cooler days also comes lower light intensity. So, it is always a good idea to first wash down the glass in your greenhouse, both inside, and especially outside, if you had put whitewash on the panes in the hotter Summer months to help keep it cool. This will allow any still growing plants the chance to make the most of what light there is. On the subject of cleaning your greenhouse in preparation for Winter, it is also a good idea to give everything - the floor, benching and Gravel Trays, a wash down with a proprietary disinfect to get rid of all of the hiding slugs, snails other pests that will be taking shelter in the nooks and crannies. It isn’t a bad idea to Fumigate the greenhouse with a “Smoke Bomb,” but I think they are out of favour these days apart from for commercial growers as their misuse can be distinctly harmful. Indeed their incorrect use will not only harm people, but will even kill many plants, so if you do use them do follow the instructions very carefully.

On a different subject, every year since I first had my Allotment I have grown some Chrysanthemums for cut flowers and usually, I have dug up and roughly potted the old “Stools,” in the Autumn, just as the first frosts have taken the last of the flowers. They have then been over-wintered in my Greenhouse, or Cold Frame, but a couple of years ago I came across a reference to Chrysanthemums that were fully hardy. So, one Spring, I bought a small batch and grew them on hoping that they would provide cut flowers like the usual sort. However, the flowers on the varieties that I had were nearly all small, simple flowers like Daisies and not much bigger. They flowered here and there over a long period with the constant need for dead heading to keep them looking anything like. Only one plant, in my opinion, had worthwhile flowers and that is the one in the picture. I was not impressed by the batch at all as they also had a sloppy, sprawling, growing habit and the flowers were not held upright in tight bunches, or even Sprays. They were no good for cutting at all. Consequently, after a couple of years in the ground, I recently decided to remove them and replace them with some other herbaceous plants. However, the plants did not entirely go to waste because, after digging them up, I cut them down and gave them to a friend.
It was a bit of an experiment growing them, but in future I think I will continue growing the traditional type of Chrysanthemum for cut flowers that may need a bit more attention and will need digging up every Winter to give them protection, but they give much better flowers.

Chrysanth’s are not the only thing that need taking inside with the coming winter, because with the cooler nights upon us I have already taken in a Banana plant, my small Orange tree and other Citrus trees, along with a non hardy Olive and a Palm. Also I have dug up and potted my Cannas, from my front garden, which, along with an already potted and tender Lemon Bush Eucalyptus that was on my yard, have all gone into my Garage where it will be a bit warmer over winter. The other plants will stay in my cold Greenhouse.

To make more room in my Green House for all of these Over Wintering plants I decided to clear out my stash of old plastic Plant pots that were stored in there while waiting to be re-cycled and re-used. They are normally stacked up under the staging which is not a problem in the summer as that space can’t be used for growing plants which need the light, however, in the winter the space becomes valuable as dormant plants like Chrysanthemums can go there, as they just sit in their pots and do nothing during the cold spell.
I usually do my potting up in my Garage/Workshop and normally keep a small quantity of Pots in there as well, but there wouldn’t be room for my whole stash, so I decided to clean out the plastic Toolbox on my Yard and the Toolbox on my Allotment where between them I would have plenty of space to put all of the assorted Pots and Trays.
As I sorted them I found some of the pots were brown in colour, so, any of these that were broken went in the normal re-cycling bin with the other assorted, kitchen and household plastic items, but the broken black pots and black trays had to go in the household waste bin as the council machines apparently can’t sort black plastic. However, it dawned on me that many broken trays and 6 packs could still be re-filled with compost and reused simply by putting one broken tray inside another as long as they are turned inside each other so that they support each other and the broken parts aren’t together!

There isn’t much watering to do in the greenhouse over winter and most of my over wintering plants will barely want a little drink once a week, or even less if the Sun doesn’t shine, but I will have to keep an eye on ventilation and make sure that I open the door on the warmer days. With the Glass all covered in Bubble Wrap there will be very little natural ventilation from draughts and of course the Windows won’t open, so the conditions will be primed for problems. Keeping things on the dry side will help generally, but any Citrus plants in particular will want a regular drink and must not be allowed to get too dry so there will still be some moisture in the air.
One important point worth making is that if the door is opened in the day time it must be shut up well before the sun goes down to trap some of its heat before the night turns things colder. In recent years there haven’t been many nights much below freezing that have warranted putting on Heating for the Greenhouse especially as they always used to say that a Glass Greenhouse will keep out 5 Degrees Fahrenheit of Frost and covering, or wrapping plants with Horticultural Fleece, will keep out another 5 Degrees.
Horticultural Fleece is always available from any garden retailer and although light and apparently flimsy will last for many years if folded up and stored away safely when not in use in the Summer. It will eventually get very dirty and slimey though, but it can be washed as it is surprisingly tough.
When I was younger we always used to use Paraffin Heaters that were very messy and dirty to heat the Green-Houses. They are still available, but with the price of fuel these days they are not even a cheap option and they need constant attention to keep them burning efficiently. These days I use an Electric Fan Heater for added warmth and although there are many safety issues to be aware of with them, they are reliable and running costs are cheap using Thermostatic controls that mean they only come on when really needed. You also have no fear of the Flame on the Burner going out unlike with Paraffin ones. Unless you have a long Power Cut, or a mouse chews through the extension lead cable - the heat stays on ! ! !


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