My little greenhouse doubles as a garden shed. In it, typically, besides shelves for plants and in-ground growing beds, are assorted hand tools, bags of peat moss, fertilizer, pots, trays and a long list of other planting-associated items.

In winter, the greenhouse/garden shed becomes even more packed. For instance, it now contains bags of salt for my walk, an ash bucket, full of wood ashes for treating my soil and at least temporarily, a very long and heavy telescope.

I suspect that this predicament isn’t just unique to me. It seems very likely that others have used their greenhouses as repositories for items that just don’t seem to fit anywhere else. But now, with spring rapidly advancing, greenhouse maintenance time begins in earnest. For those who don’t have a greenhouse but store their garden equipment in sheds, barns or basements, the same admonition applies.

Clean containers

Seed-starting trays and flats, flowerpots and other containers used for growing sit stacked in piles, with residue from last year’s growing season clinging to them. These must be thoroughly cleaned prior to reuse in order to kill soil-borne diseases. The best way to do this is to first rinse the containers and then soak them for at least 10 minutes in a mild solution of laundry bleach and water. After that, rinse in fresh water and allow to dry. Then store in a clean, dry area.

Dead flowers in containers also sit on my growing shelves. For instance, I decided not to try and keep my geraniums over for another year and knowing that the soil in the pots had some value, placed the frost-killed plants, in their pots in the greenhouse for the winter. Now it’s time to deal with them.

Often, in fall, I’ll empty pots of dead annuals directly on my garden. But now, with snow still on the ground, I can’t find my garden beds. So instead, these will go into the composter. A bit of loose potting soil won’t hurt a bit. And the composting process will heat it up so that it becomes part of the whole.

Next, and this is often a difficult thing to do, it’s time to take inventory and after that, disposal of unneeded items. A quick tour of my greenhouse/shed reveals a list of things that have no business being there. This includes empty peat moss bags, last year’s calendar, wood scraps, some broken dishes once used as trays, a broken indoor/outdoor thermometer, a lawn ornament that was given to me but never used and of course, that big, old telescope. All but the scope are headed for the dump.

Finally, my in-ground beds inside the greenhouse need weeding (clover and other weeds have already come to life) and turning. Planting can commence some time in March. Such things as radishes, turnips (grown for their tops only) and lettuce are just some of my early-season treats that can go in the ground in March.

All these tasks will take a while. But when they are completed, the greenhouse will become my late-winter respite. Temperatures easily reach more than 60 degrees on a sunny day and as such, the greenhouse makes a pleasant spot to visit in the morning and sip tea or coffee. And, of course, the time draws near when I’ll set out seedlings started in the house.

So arrange those garden tools, clean and sterilize flower pots and make ready, for spring is coming soon. And here in Maine, with our short growing season, we can’t afford to waste a single day.

Quick light

Ever contemplate installing a wall-mounted light somewhere in your home, but decided against it because running the wiring requires tearing out a wall? Well, I have an easy way to circumvent a major construction project. Just purchase a wall-mounted fixture, a small, metal picture hanger (these come in packages of several) and a small rectangle of wood. Perhaps a wood scrap (such as what abounds in my messy greenhouse) will fill the bill. Here’s what to do.

First, tell the salesperson in the store that you are not going to tie in to the house’s electrical wiring, but rather, want to just wire the fixture the same as per a table lamp. Then that person can direct you to either a pre-made cord and plug, or, and this is more likely, to a length of electrical cord and a plug end that you install yourself when you get home. It’s easy to do, just by trimming the wires on one end of the cord, sliding the plug assembly apart and hooking up the wires and screwing them down tightly.

Next, the other end of the cord needs to attach to the light fixture. In case the fixture doesn’t come with explicit directions (which they usually don’t), ask the salesperson which wires to select. Some fixtures come with a selection of wires for different purposes. You want the no-nonsense choice. It pays to bring some masking tape and wrap it around the end of each wire for later identification.

Also buy some threaded, plastic wire caps. These are conical and have a threaded, brass insert. These screw on to the wire “pigtail” formed when you join wires by twisting them together. Ask the salesperson which size caps will best suit your needs.

After hooking up the wiring, cut out your wooden mount. This can be as simple or fancy as you wish to make it. The light fixture will have come with mounting screws and a metal cross-piece meant for mounting directly on the wall. You won’t need the cross-piece, so discard it. Just don’t do as I often do, and put it with the rest of the clutter in your greenhouse. Anyway, mount the fixture directly to the wooden mounting board. You may have to dig, saw or gouge out a trough to lay the wire in so that the fixture does not bear directly on it.

Finally, attach the picture hanger to the back of the board and hang on the wall above an electrical outlet. This whole process shouldn’t take more than a half hour, certainly shorter and far less expensive and intrusive as tearing out sheetrock in order to gain access to the house’s wiring. And best of all, you did it yourself.

Weekly tip

Here’s a spring cleaning tip for cane-bottomed chairs. When the cane begins to sag, scrub it well with boiling-hot water and soapsuds. Then set it out in the sun to dry. When dry, the cane will have tightened up and then, you can either varnish it or treat it with furniture polish.