We got privileged access to the U.K.’s biggest Sweet Thai Basil Nursery this February. This two-acre glasshouse is yet to be widely publicised so AutoPot were delighted to get the inside line on the hush-hush basil. “Why such favour for AutoPot?”, you may well cry. Well, we’re thrilled to announce that easy2Propagate and easy2grow systems will be there taking care of, respectively, 72,000 seedlings and 8400 plants at a time.
The aim is to produce up to 1,000 kg of basil per week, with capacity to increase production should demand dictate. Existing demand is beyond doubt with several significant clients in place to take the produce. Gary Taylor, the Nursery Manager, is keenly aware of cultural trends towards such herbs amongst consumers. An illustrious figure in the world of fresh produce, Gary has over forty years of experience, prominent appointments and garlands galore. If anyone is sensitive to a public brouhaha surrounding Sweet Thai Basil it is surely him.
Propagation consists of eighty, three-shelved Danish Trollies covering 150 sq metres. Each trolley shelf accommodates an easy2Propagate unit. Maths tells us that this is a total of 240 easy2Propagate units. Every easy2Propagate unit holds 3-4 seed trays consisting of around 300 cells in total. Once transplanted to the production areas the plants can look forward to a glorious existence care of the 4200 easy2grow modules there.
For up to nine months of the year the nursery expect to be growing. Gary is even looking into the potential to extend that period with innovative crop management. Depending on the weather in the early part of the year, they hope to start picking within 8-10 weeks from seed germination. Expert care from Gary and his team together with the responsiveness of the AutoPots means just one crop should be necessary each year. As a rule this crop is going to be grown as a “cut-and-come-again” crop, although plants may be swapped in and out as required if tiring.
Leaf production and close inter-nodal spacing between the leaves are all important and dictate that the feeding regime includes a high concentrate of Nitrogen. However, the exact (tippy-top secret) balance of NPK formula used to feed the plants is under constant review. That review is all dependent on the water supply. Whether you’re growing commercially or recreationally, checking your waters is an absolute must. In the case of a commercial nursery there’ll be complex systems in place in order to ensure the valuable crop is not endangered. At home it can be as simple as investing in some easy-to-use, accurate, last-a-lifetime water monitoring kit to give you a better understanding of where you’re going, or where you might be going wrong.
Growing in easy2Propagate units and easy2grow modules marks a departure from the rockwool-drip irrigation technique to which Gary has become accustomed. He is keenly anticipating the cost benefits of growing power-free with AutoPot. No water or fertiliser is ever wasted or re-circulated with an AutoPot. Again this promises to reduce cost but also negates the risks and added complexities of using water and fertiliser whose quality is diminished by recirculation.
Cultivating these quantities of these crops in this country is a completely new concept. Therefore, substrate choice has been arrived at on the basis of successes in applicable trials rather than established practice. Gary’s choice of BioBizz Light Mix is based on its highly productive qualities in such tests. In the interests of sustainability the nursery will look to source substrates that can be reused in future.
Sweet Thai Basil generally lends itself to high humidity levels and temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius. Therefore the greenhouse’s location has been an important consideration. Latitude obviously makes a huge difference when it comes to cultivating plants that, traditionally, hail from warmer climes. Even in a comparatively small territory such as the U.K. the benefits of growing tender crops like Basil in the south are clear. High light levels for a longer periods of time combined with much warmer temperatures in southern areas mean vast savings on lighting and heating. Locating thus, AutoPot producers of temperature sensitive crops can maintain their competitive advantages in water efficiency and power free growing.