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Ruben Houweling with Houweling’s Tomatoes

“About 80 percent of our propagation material goes out to the industry”

Located in Delta, BC, Houweling’s grows tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers from seed to harvest. “We like to maintain as much control as we can from the selection of seeds all the way to harvest,” says Ruben Houweling as he gives a tour of the company’s 20-acre propagation area. “About 80 percent of the seedlings that are grown in the nursery go out to the industry and the remainder 15-20 percent is used to grow our own tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers,” added Houweling, who is the General Manager of the Delta, BC location.

Mike Guenther and Ruben Houweling in front of cucumber seedlings.

Start from seed
During the months of November, December and January, the nursery is typically filled with material for local BC growers. Throughout the remainder of the year, seedlings make their way over to growers in Texas, Arizona and California with the highest amount going down south in July and August. Spring and fall are the slowest times of the year in the nursery and the slow months are used for the semi-annual cleanup, which includes power washing the entire facility. “In order to keep diseases out and deliver the highest quality seedlings possible, we start from seed and don’t bring in any living plants,” said Houweling. With each customer-grower, Houweling’s discusses the expectations and date of delivery as seedlings are grown and delivered as a custom batch for each single grower.

Cucumber seedlings that will be shipped out to customers in about six days.

Grafting process
About two weeks after seeding, the grafting process takes place. “This is the most complicated and delicate part of the propagation process,” says Mike Guenther, Propagation Manager. Good rootstock is taken from plant A and the fruit characteristics of plant B are added. “With the good rootstock, we give the plant a strong start and the upper variety (scion) is chosen for its fruit characteristics.” After grafting, the plants move into the recovery area where they stay for about six days. “Some varieties are more sensitive than others, so we build in a percentage for failure,” Guenther mentioned. “On average, the success rate is 95 to 98 percent.” The complete process from seeding until seedling takes about five to seven weeks, depending on the variety.

Video of the company's propagation process

New herb program
In addition to tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, Houweling’s recently launched a herb program. “We are responding to the increased consumer interest of using fresh herbs in dishes,” said Houweling. “We’ve done research and have launched a program that is different from what is currently available in the market place.” Houweling’s herb products do not contain a sleeve, but a rustic, water-proof wrap that allows the customer to smell the product better. Because the wrap has excellent moisture retention, there is no need to water the plants. In ideal conditions, they can go 18 days without water. At the moment, Costco sells them in pairs, but they are only locally available. The plants grow in coconut fibre, a compostable product.

Selection of herbs from Houweling's new program with basil plants in the background.

Basil plant in coconut fibre

For more information:
Ruben Houweling
Houweling’s Tomatoes
Tel: (+1) 604-946-0844

Publication date: 5/23/2018



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