Thursday, October 26, 2006

An Improvement Over Organic, Our Lettuce Rocks!

Many people ask my partner and I—“As long as you’ve spent all this money setting up a state of the art operation, why not go 100% organic?” It’s a fair question, to which we often reply—“We’re better than organic.”

“How so?” they ask, and you can hear the scepticism in their voice. “Because we use high-tech, soil-less growing techniques which allow us to give our lettuce plants the best possible nutrients in expertly measured solutions. Not using soil as a growing medium, eliminates possible contamination by soil-borne insects and diseases. We don’t use any pesticides in our greenhouse, and synthetic nutrients work better in a hydroponic situation.”

“What makes them work better?” ask the skeptics, still not 100% percent convinced. “Synthetics dissolve better in water, consequently they don’t clog up the pumps and pipe systems as often as organics do. The parts per million of organics is greater, and often they have to be pre-strained before they’re put into a nutrient solution.”

“Synthetics are more cost-effective than organics, and are just as pure. Our base fertilizer is two-thirds of the Advanced Nutrients 3-part, namely Micro, and Grow. They are expertly formulated for the major cycles of a plant’s life. We don’t use the Bloom part, since we don’t want our lettuce to go into the flowering stage and produce seeds.

We have a pre-mix tank, and we add the Micro (5-0-1) first and wait till it dissolves completely. The reason for this is that it is a concentrate and we don’t want its micronutrients to chemically interact with the major nutrients in Grow (2-1-6) prematurely.

As opposed to the equivalent products made by their competitors, Advanced Nutrients Micro and Grow contain only pharmaceutical grade substances. Micro contains Boron, Calcium, Cobalt, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Potassium, and Zinc in easily absorbed compound form as well as more chelates per micronutrient than any other manufacturer. Chelates help the micronutrients transfer to the plants better and faster.

Grow contains Ammonium, Magnesium, and Potassium compounds, including Phosphates, in order to give you the full spectrum of N-P-K necessary for healthy and robust growth. In addition, we add Sensi Cal Mg Mix, since lettuce requires additional Calcium and Barricade, to strengthen the internal structure of our lettuce, enabling our plants to ward off insects and pathogens, literally from the inside out.

Historically, aphids are the most bothersome pests for lettuce growers. We have introduced a beneficial insect called Colemani into our greenhouse, which lays its eggs in the bodies of the aphids. It also destroys aphid eggs, so it helps to keep any threatening aphid infestation to a minimum.

The content of our Nutrient Pond is filtered and recycled in order to make the whole operation even more cost-effective. We also add Mother Earth Blended Super Tea Grow to the mix at a certain stage, as well as B-52 for a vitamin boost. The Mother Earth product contains Alfalfa Extract, Canola Meal, Citric Acid, Crab Meal, Earthworm Castings, Fish Meal, Sea Kelp, and Shrimp Meal.

It was designed to give plants natural supplements, nutrients, and vitamins missing from chemical fertilizers. It noticeably improves the taste of our butterhead lettuce.

With regard to the vitamin supplement, we noticed that even though we were doing everything right, somehow our heads of lettuce weren’t as robust and high energy as they should have been. Coincidentally, I felt run down and lethargic so I went to the doctor and she prescribed a vitamin-B supplement.

A week after I started taking the supplement my demeanor improved, my energy level rose, and I started feeling better about myself. Then I flashed on the fact that our lettuce could use a boost of energy. I called Advanced Nutrients, and they suggested feeding our plants B-52.

The natural hormones and vitamins in this product had an immediate beneficial effect. Plant metabolism was raised, the energy level of the lettuce went up, and growth was accelerated. The phytohormones in B-52 are derived from seaweed extracts and humic acid and they help to make our lettuce not only grow faster, but also to become resistant to stress.

B-52 can be applied through the roots in the nutrient solution, but also as a foliar spray. The cytokinins in this product are derived from natural sources and they are augmented by nitrogen based “betaines.” These help cell membrane function and make the plant more adaptable to stress.

Cytokinins are instrumental in the retention of the green color in plants. For a lettuce grower this function is very important, since a bright green head of lettuce sells much faster than a drab, dark green one.

Since many of the beneficial ingredients in B-52 come from the seaweed extract, we started feeding our plants Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract, which has so many natural growth stimulants, vitamins, antibiotics, auxins, and gibberellins that it’s almost like a multi-vitamin plus supplement for our lettuce.

It’s got Vitamin C, two Vitamin A precursors, B1 and B12, as well as Vitamin E and Vitamin K. It also contains natural chelates that aid in the uptake of nutrients. Like B-52 it can be mixed in with our nutrient solution, or applied as a foliar spray.

Our hydroponic lettuce crop is the healthiest, most vigorous produce in the markets where it is sold. It is better than organic.

posted by silvio @ 10:04 AM   0 comments


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