Proper greenhouse sanitation is an important concept in the reduction of insects and diseases as well as minimizing the use of pesticides. Effective sanitation requires a commitment by users to establish a certain state of mind or awareness. To be effective, sanitation should always be practiced. It should be carried out in the greenhouse and adjoining structures, in the immediate external environment of the greenhouse, and during every stage of crop production. Proper greenhouse sanitation is a continual, year-round process.
Wash your hands before working with plants.
Maintaining a “clean area” is part of the awareness needed in preventing the spread of pests. The bench tops should be considered a clean area and should also be chemically sterilized. Keep dirty equipment off the benches. Establish an area for dirty containers and tools to insure that they will not be reused prior to cleaning. Under the bench in the greenhouse is not a good place for dirty pots!
Equipment and supplies
Start with clean materials. All pots, flats, tools, etc. are to be steamed, washed, or chemically sterilized before being used in any greenhouse project.
The floor is not a desirable work surface. Keep hose ends hung up. Avoid putting plant material, containers, or tools on the floor or other contaminated surfaces. Do not use potting soil that had been spilled on the floor. Don’t use the same cleaning tools on the floor and on benches.
Keep greenhouse surfaces sanitary, dry, and free of algae. Expanded mesh benches are good for cleanliness and air circulation. Lime can be used under benches on gravel floors if algae are persistent. Dirty cooling cell pads can harbor insects and diseases. Notify Greenhouse Staff if pads need attention.
Infected, diseased, or suspicious plants should be removed from the greenhouse with minimal disturbance. Use plastic bags or covered containers such as small trashcans with lids to carry these materials to the outdoor compost pile or the autoclave. Proper cleanup between projects can lessen disease and insect “carry-over”.
Remove all weeds and debris from the greenhouse. Benches and floors must be swept to remove debris, paper, pots, tags, etc. Minimizing soil accumulation on the floor can result in fewer weeds.
Remove old leaves from plants. This will increase air circulation, remove pest eggs (if any), and aid in thorough pesticide coverage.
Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing, especially yellow and blue, that may attract insects to hitch a ride into the greenhouse. If you have to enter a known infested greenhouse, make it your last greenhouse visit for the day, and don a lab coat while in the infested greenhouse.
Keep surfaces clean through proper watering technique. Splashing water from plant to plant should be avoided. Flooding of pots can result in soil on the bench and floor, leaching of fertilizer and systemic pesticides, and problems with slugs.
Most people are more productive and happier in a clean working environment. If cleanliness practices are presented with a positive “can do” attitude, many people find additional ways to apply the concepts and encourage others to follow their example.