Thursday, 21 January 2016

Is washing pots important?

With the advent of plastic pots and sterilised multipurpose compost there are some that think that washing pots after they have been used is not necessary.  I do not agree.  I always wash all my pots carefully in soapy water. 

The reason why humanity has improved health is not primarily because of breakthroughs in medical science but because of an improved sanitary and cleanliness attitude.  It is all down to washing hands and sewers. 

There are many bacteria and fungi out there ready to make use of a valuable source of organic material called human beings.  One of the best ways of avoiding them is to stay as clean as possible.  This may be difficult for one that is constantly up to his elbows in cow do dos but I sure make certain that I wash any cuts that I get on the allotment and cover them carefully with a plaster.  One of the most important kits on the allotment is the first aid box. 

In the same way cleanliness in the garden can improve the health of your plants.  It only takes one spore of a bacterial or fungal pathogen to cause disease.  Washing decreases the probability that that one spore will infect your plants. 

Plastic pots are really easy to wash and sometimes a cursory swill and wipe is all that is needed.  The compost washed out of the pots can be put onto the allotment top soil rather than to be left to fester in the pots.  I have acquired pots from several people who no longer want them.  I do not know what was in the pots before I was given them so the safest way to deal with them was to wash them carefully. 

As with pots so with plastic seed trays.  Not only do I find lots of compost stuck to the insides of the trays but also various invertebrate pests.  Washing solves a lot of potential problems. 

Last season, I washed all the canes.  Not a simple task with the number I have.  However, it meant that the sweet peas did not get the dreaded yellow fungal disease.  I will also be washing the blue water pipe that I use to support enviromesh and scaffold netting over the vegetables.  I use a significant number on the brassica bed.  Brassicas have a disease called club root, Plasmodiophora brassicae, and I don't want this spread throughout the allotment.  washing seems to be the best way of preventing this. 

Although the greenhouse floor is concrete slabs, I still like to wash it with soapy water just to remove any residues from the tomato tubs that I used last year.  I have also washed all the tubs ready for this years tomatoes.  I would rather not have any blight, Phytophthora infestans, spores  lurking in the greenhouse.  They are all too readily wafting about in the air later in the season. 

I wash all the glass in the greenhouse too but primarily to improve the light penetration during the spring.  It is amazing to see the seedlings thrive in a light cool greenhouse. 

Once I have finished using tools on the allotment, I always clean the soil off them and give them a quick wash.  It does not take much time and it prevents diseases from travelling from one part of the allotment to another. 

Percy Thrower, one of the first personality gardeners on television used to say a tidy garden is a good garden.  Leaving piles of debris about only attracts unwanted wildlife especially in the form of slugs and snails. 

While we are constantly dealing with composts and manures that are full of bacteria and fungi, it is still important to keep the allotment as clean as possible.  A healthy, diverse population of bacteria and fungi compete with pathogenic organisms for both food and space.  If  we can encourage useful bacteria and fungi then maybe there will be less of the irritating ones. 


  1. In answer to your specific question in the title, Anthony, my own answer is 'no'