Controlling pests in a greenhouse can be a green gardener’s nightmare. Many greenhouse pesticides end up being bug bombs that require HAZMAT suites and respirators in order to safely apply. The residue left in the greenhouse can have questionable effects on the greenhouse manager, employees, hobbyist, and consumers. All these individuals plus more become exposed to chemical pest control when the greenhouse door opens and products are sold. Greenhouse owners and operators have a green option that uses one of the oldest technologies that has existed since the beginning of time. This technology is solar energy.
Solar energy and greenhouses go together like milk and cookies or peanut butter and jelly. Greenhouses use solar energy or the sun to warm the structure and create a year-round environment to grow plants. This technology was incorporated into some Victorian homes built for the wealthy and were called a conservatory or sun parlor. Hospitals also used this technology to create solariums to aid in rehabilitation. Today rooms or buildings that are made of large windows or glass walls are called greenhouses or sunrooms.
The old age technology that warms these structures and at the same time makes them inviting to humans can also be used to control pests. Solar energy is a great tool that a gardener should keep in his or her gardening apron. To use this technology is as simple as closing all doors, windows, and vents in the greenhouse during the summer months. The professional greenhouse manager may have some problems with this if the greenhouse space is used not only to grow plants but also as a show room for clients. But sometime during the gardening season the greenhouse will be cleaning out inventory in preparation for the next season. This down time is a perfect time to close up the greenhouse and let the sun shine in while sterilizing the environment.
The best time to do this solar sterilization is during the summer months but really anytime that the greenhouse can be shut up for a month will work. But keep in mind that a shut up greenhouse in the heat of the summer can reach 225F, so make sure doors are locked or safety guards are established to keep unwanted guests out.
Once the greenhouse is opened up wash everything down with a mild bleach/water solution of 2 Tablespoons to 1 gallon of water. Then let air-dry with all vents and doors open for a day.
Natural greenhouse pest management may take some time but it is well worth it to protect workers, customers, and the environment. Generally greenhouse housekeeping can keep many pests at bay, but to completely eliminate the problem solar greenhouse sterilization is the best IPM to follow.
Mother Nature gave us the sun that warms rooms, helps grow food, and can control pests. But the best aspect of this gift is that it is free and for every gardener that is better than reading the first seed catalog of the season. So whether a gardener is dealing with a greenhouse, solarium, solar parlor, or conservatory, give solar pest management a try. And as Elton John would say, “Don’t let the sun go down on me.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.