As you know, the greenhouse at my farm is home to the hundreds of beloved plants I have in my collection.
I love having so many plants, not only because I am a botanist at heart, but because I enjoy bringing different plants inside the house--and changing them around often. I especially love bringing them in when I have dinner parties—doing so helps create a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Like anything else, the greenhouse needs to be cleaned and maintained properly. Unfortunately, we fell behind and have not cleaned the greenhouse for two and half years! We couldn’t wait any longer and wanted to get this huge task done before the onset of winter.
With its vast span of clear windows, the greenhouse concentrates heat and sunshine to maximize plant growth. But this kind of warm, enclosed environment can encourage algae to grow on the glass. Algae are single or multi-cellular organisms that are often found in water. ‘Algae’ is the plural of 'alga’ which is Latin for seaweed.
Also, because the plants are watered regularly, and we have hard water at the farm, calcium can also be deposited on the windows when water droplets evaporate. Hard water is water that has a high mineral content. It's formed when water percolates through deposits of calcium and magnesium-containing minerals such as limestone, chalk and dolomite. The more the algae and calcium accumulate on the windows, the less light enters the greenhouse, and the less heat and light the plants receive.
This huge cleaning project was also a great time to do some regular maintenance and rearranging.
We moved my begonia collection from the west side of the greenhouse to the east side. And we moved the cacti from the southeast side to the southwest—where they belong!
We also made time to groom the plants, repot some of them, and gave some away. The project took several days to complete.
I hope you enjoy the photos and leave your remarks in the comments section.
1 This is my greenhouse just before the cleaning process. If you look closely, you can see the green algae on the bottom of the windows, just to the left of the front door.
2 We moved the agave outside before cleaning.
3 You can see how the calcium and algae have accumulated on these windows. We absolutely must not wait two and half years between cleanings again.
4 A closeup shot of the calcium and algae.
5 This glass just has calcium buildup, but no algae.
6 Needless to say, there are a lot of plants to be moved!
7 Wilmer Artiga, one of my gardeners, is moving some Boston ferns.
8 Wilmer is working hard to move everything--even the empty pots stored underneath the greenhouse tables.
9 Here the plants are in the process of being moved from one side of the greenhouse to the other to make way for cleaning the windows.
10 This table has been emptied and the glass above is ready to be cleaned.
11 Here are the two products we used - CLR, to clean off the calcium and Simple Green to take care of the algae, and for general cleaning.
12 We also used a diluted bleach solution to remove the algae in areas that needed extra help.
13 Here Carlos Restrepo, one of my hard-working maintenance men, is cleaning the glass. You can see how much calcium has built up on the windows.
14 Carlos is wiping the glass with CLR and a soft rag.
15 Here Carlos is wiping down the window with CLR.
16 Carlos is working hard on a very big project!
17 Carlos is using a hose to wash down the windows after cleaning with Simple Green.
18 Carlos is drying the glass and seeing good results from the cleaning.
19 This is my longtime maintenance man, Fernando Ferrari. He has the Simple Green cleaning solution in a bucket and is using a mop to clean the roof.
20 Here Fernando is washing off the Simple Green solution with a hose.
21 The windows are looking cleaner already. Here they are just before being dried with a cloth.
22 This is an "after" shot of the cleaned glass. Beautiful!
23 Wilmer is repotting a begonia. I know my plants will continue to thrive in their newly cleaned home.