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GBZ Gardener Ralf Albers on the start of the cucumber harvest

"Sometimes, we had too few and at times almost too many mini cucumbers"

For the past seven years, the focus at the former Albers herb nursery, located in the heart of the Papenburg gardener's settlement, has been on cultivating and harvesting fruit vegetables. Following tomato cultivation, mini cucumbers were also introduced in 2019. Two years later, the former family business was completely demolished and rebuilt according to the most modern standards - with sustainability and water reclamation in mind. The investment has already paid off, particularly due to the Ukraine crisis and the associated cost increases, according to Albers. "As part of the new construction, we can now save about 30 percent on fertilizer and water."

Click here to view the photo series of the Gartenbauzentrale Papenburg eG

Ralf Albers inspects his tomatoes just before the harvest. His two brothers, Thomas and Heinz-Jürgen, also run a horticultural business and are members of the Gartenbauzentrale Papenburg.

Bumpy start to the cucumber harvest
The new cucumber season traditionally starts with the first planting in mid-February in the Papenburg greenhouse, with the fourth and final set usually harvested by the end of November. Albers: "We began harvesting the first set at the beginning of March. Overall, the cucumber yields so far are below average, mainly due to the weather and specifically the lack of light. In the first weeks of sales, we also had the problem that the cucumbers were harvested sporadically. That is, we had too little and sometimes almost too much produce. Accordingly, we hope for better weather conditions and more yield with the second set."

While the crop change from the first to the second set for mini cucumbers was completed in week 16, the first cherry tomatoes (Rivolo) of this season could also be harvested. "At the request of the trade, we planted a little more area with tomatoes compared to last year, which is why about 60 percent of our production now falls on tomato cultivation. Within the tomato category, cluster tomatoes, mainly the Cappricia variety, lead with about 50 percent, followed by mini-cluster and cherry tomatoes, each with about 25 percent," Albers quantifies the allocation of his 2.5-hectare production. "In general, we find that specialization is a must for us medium-sized vegetable gardeners today."

The cucumber greenhouse.

Decline in demand for cherry tomatoes
The peak of tomato production and marketing continues to focus on the summer months of June and July, Albers continues. Meanwhile, there are always new market and consumption trends at the product level, knows the experienced vegetable gardener. "2022 was a very weak year for cherry tomatoes in terms of demand, probably due to inflation and a reduction in purchasing power. We responded to this trend and slightly reduced our capacities for cherry tomatoes last year."

Both cultures, according to Albers, have their special characteristics in cultivation. "The growth process for tomatoes is generally more consistent, and the fruits grow somewhat more uniformly compared to cucumbers. That is, a cucumber must be harvested on time, while a tomato can usually be left hanging for a few more days to get a bit more color." Even after harvesting, both cultures are associated with different requirements. For mini cucumbers, the trade has been relying on cellulose nets since last year, while tomatoes are predominantly found in cardboard trays with flow packs. These packaging requirements cannot be influenced by the gardener, but must simply be accepted, Albers emphasizes.

At peak times, the horticultural business employs about 20 workers. Albers uses bumblebees for pollinating the tomato flowers.

For more information:
Albers Ralf Gartenbaubetrieb
Gärtnerstr. 10
26871 Papenburg - Aschendorf
T: +49 4961 97 15-0

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