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Feb092012

The De Luz Farms & Nursery advantage.

Since 2003, De Luz Farms & Nursery has been growing Certified Organic transplants (plug trays) for farmers throughout Southern California. We take pride in our transplants, with quality and reliability our main goals.Greenhouse at De Luz Farms & NurseryGreenhouse tour by Inland Empire CSA members. Photo credit: Karima Salmi. Click to enlarge. Growing healthy plants is both an art and a science. It also depends on having the proper resources, and working in concert with nature. Every successful farmer knows this.

In the past, vegetable transplants were either grown in greenhouses using flats or ground beds, or in outdoor ground beds (in the southern United States). Recently, growers have made the transition to greenhouse grown transplants using various types of containers: Primarily plug trays. With this system, each transplant grows in an individual cell so there is less competition among plants and greater uniformity. Plug transplants establish better in the field because roots are not damaged in pulling.

Should you decide to do what the professional growers do and use transplant plugs for your growing needs, following are some of the many reasons why you can buy them from us with confidence:

Our plug trays:  Trays effect plant growth. We use plastic transplant trays instead of styrofoam, as the styrofoam insulates the root media, delaying seedling growth, and they promote algae and harbor disease. We use black plastic trays as they absorb more heat and produce faster growth than light-colored trays.

Our growing media:
The growing media we use is an OMRI Listed™ soilless mix made up of a combination of peat, vermiculite and horticultural perlite. Our media choice contains a coarser textured (long fibered) peat which provides better drainage and aeration (and therefore better root development).

Our seeds: We obtain the finest Organic seed available! Experience has proven that there is no advantage to compromising on seed quality. For certain popular varieties, we order seed as much as a year in advance to ensure a consistent supply. All of our seeds are stored under optimum conditions to maintain viability.

Germination refers to the percent germination of a lot of seeds under ideal conditions, while seed vigor refers to speed and uniformity of emergence, especially under less than ideal conditions. We use seeds that have been enhanced for the uniformity of the seed, and the percent of germination and vigor.

• Our turbo seeder: Our Blackmore Turbo/Needle Seeder sets the standard for reciprocating model seeders. It is accurate (seeds are deposited in the exact center of the tray cells), flexible (sows a wide variety of seeds), reliable, durable and fast (53,414 seeds per hour).Our Blackmore turbo seeder in action.Our turbo seeder in action. Photo credit: Don Cook. Click to enlarge.The Blackmore Company has been serving the horticulture industry since 1966 and is the leader in seed sowing equipment and seed sowing technology. The name Blackmore is synonymous with excellence in seed sowing, customer service, and leadership in plug production technology and techniques.

• Our seed covering: All our vegetable species are covered after seeding.

The trays are filled with pre-moistened growing media, then the media is compressed or "dibbled" to make a uniform surface for the seed. Our experience has shown that if seeded too shallow, certain crops will tend to push up out of the cell.

The seeded trays are then covered with a medium-grade vermiculite. We use Vermiculite because it applies evenly, allows good aeration, does not support algae growth and does not allow root growth between cells.

• Our germination tables: Once the plug trays are ready for watering, they are placed on our germination tables. These tables are heated in order to raise the temperature of the soil less mix and start the germination process as soon as possible.Inland Empire CSA member inspecting one of our tables. Photo credit: Karima Salmi. Click to enlarge.They are constructed of wood frames covered with a wire mesh, and are elevated off the ground to prevent root growth through the bottom. They are also level to prevent water from running into low spots. Tempered (warm) water is used when watering our transplants during the early growth-stages.

Our greenhouse: In our state of the art Greenhouse, the humidity and temperature are computer controlled and can be maintained automatically. Our environmental control systems are computerized in order to provide around the clock operation. Our Qcom "Growers Choice" controller gives us the power to automate our fans and foggers, while varying the temperature and humidity according to our plants' specific needs.

During the growing-on stage (after emergence and before hardening off), the conditions such as temperature, ventilation, light, watering and fertility are all carefully controlled to ensure the quality of all of our transplants.

• Our quality controls: We use the DIFerent Method (DIF) as a method of managing greenhouse temperatures and plant height. The "DIF" is arrived at by subtracting the nighttime from the daytime temperature. A higher day temperature gives a positive "DIF" and promotes growth while a lower day temperature gives a negative "DIF" which retards growth.

High temperatures during the first three to four hours after sunrise can cause considerable "stretching" (increased height) in vegetable transplants. We reduce this stretching by keeping the greenhouse temperature cooler during the morning hours compared to the nighttime temperature (a negative DIF).

Height control is important because elongated transplants are more susceptible to stresses after field planting. Excessive stem elongation is caused by the following factors: Too much heat, over-fertilizing, overwatering and/or low light conditions.

Outredgeous lettuce plug transplants.Outredgeous lettuce plug transplants. Photo credit: Karima Salmi. Click to enlarge.Our plug trays are placed tightly against one another, to prevent "Pillowing". Pillowing is uneven growth that results from differences in air circulation and watering between cells within the plug trays. Usually, the outside cells are drier and growth is reduced compared to the plants located in the centre of trays. The problem can become exaggerated when larger plants begin to shade the growing media while the shorter plants are still letting in more sun and allowing more evaporation. As a result, individual plug trays become dome-shaped or "pillowed".

• Our watering program: We vary the amount and frequency of watering depending on cell type, growing media, greenhouse ventilation and weather conditions. We water thoroughly, and moisten the entire plug, which promoted root growth to the bottom of the plug. (If the plug is not watered thoroughly, root growth will be confined to the top of the plug.) We also allow the plug to dry down before watering, but we do not let the plant wilt severely, as this will damage roots.

Photo credit: Karima Salmi. Click to enlarge.Our plug transplants are watered thoroughly in the morning, and are not watered late in the afternoon. (If the plants remain wet overnight, disease problems increase.) We use a combination of a watering wand, and overhead watering misters. The misters are controlled by timers that are set in strict accordance with the needs of the plants, and the conditions within the Greenhouse.

This is the perfect combination.The wand allows us to water the plants thoroughly, and the misters prevent the top of our growing media from drying out.

• Our fertility program: The fertility program that we use in raising vegetable transplants assures the quality of the finished transplant and its ability to become established in the field. All our transplants will have adequate nutrient reserves to ensure rapid establishment under a wide variety of field conditions.

Prior to the growing season, we obtain a detailed water analysis. Our greenhouse fertilizer program is then adjusted according to the pH, bicarbonate level and nutrient content of our water supply.

We use a custom-blended Organic Fertilizer from (TOP) True Organic Products, Inc., the largest manufacturer of Organic fertilizer on the West Coast. They are the largest because they are the best. They are OMRI Listed™ and WSDA approved.

Our growing media has its own ecosystem that depends on minerals and microbes for maximum health. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, TOP Organic fertilizer provides our plants with everything they need to grow to their full potential. The result? Vibrant, colorful, and healthy plants. The proven benefits of fish meal combined with a strong carbon source (from molasses).

Our custom-blended TOP Organic fertilizer is carefully adjusted for the percentage of nitrogen (N), phosphate (P2O5), and potash (K2O); and in the micro nutrient content. It is dissolved in water and applied using a custom designed "wand" that ensures even distribution.

Our disease control program: Common plant diseases such as Root Rot, Leaf Spot, Blights, and Mildew are practically non-existent in our Greenhouse. This is mostly due to sanitation and by managing the greenhouse environment in order to suppress disease development:

  • Weeds are controlled inside and outside our Greenhouse as they may harbor disease.
  • If trays are reused that are washed and dipped in a Virkon Disinfectant.
  • Proper ventilation is used to prevent most damping-off diseases.
  • We do not water our plug plants in the evening, as the foliage should be dry overnight to reduce the development of foliar fungal disease.
  • We maintain a slow, steady growth rate for all transplants, as healthy planets are less susceptible to many types of disease.
  • We use OMRI Listed™ soilless media to grow our transplant plugs in, as it is sterile and will have less disease proplems than using even the best quality soils.

Our pest control program: We absolutely, positively do not use any pesticides for our bio controls. Our goal is to protect your customers and the environment, as well as our crops. Instead, we use a "brigade" of predatory insects: Aphelinus Abdominalis, Aphidius Colemani, and Encarsia Formosa (Parasitic Wasps).

When it comes to pest control, we don't use "beauty queens", such as Lady Bugs (they are not effective), instead we use a military-like "Air Force" of Parasitic Wasps.

These are imported from a company in the Netherlands, called Koppert Biological Systems. They are our partner in our unique integrated pest management program.

Common pests, such as Aphids, Beetles, Butterflies and Moths, Leaf Miners, Mealybugs, Sciarid Flies, Spider Mites, Thrips and Whiteflies don't stand a chance against our "Air Force" of predatory insects.

The De Luz Farms & Nursery Advantage: Our plug transplants can be used by both Organic and Conventional growers. We guarantee that at least 90% of the cells in each plug transplant tray will contain viable plugs, and we can grow to order practically any variety of plant.Greens grown from our transplants at Moonrise Farms. Photo credit: Don Cook. Click to enlarge.Vibrant, colorful and healthy Organic plant starts: Everything that you need to grow thriving plants and a thriving business!

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