The climate on California’s Central Coast is perfect for growing orchids, provided you are able to protect them against the fierce radiation all year round. Cal Coast Orchids sells top-quality Phalaenopsis throughout the entire state and beyond.
Good fortune plays a major role in Bas van Eijk’s life, combined with his ability to grasp it when it comes along.
This Dutchman inherited his family’s green thumb; his relatives have been growers or farmers for many generations. He studied the orchid growing profession at various places in the Netherlands. After completing his studies, he was drawn to adventure. He first blew new life into an ailing Phalaenopsis nursery in New Zealand. After that he went to California. And who knows where his journey would have taken him next had he not met Alison Glasco.
Fairly soon after they were married they started up a nursery together. Chance also played a major role here. “In 2018, I saw a square white spot near Los Osos on Google Maps. It was the only glass greenhouse in a huge area. It turned out to be a great opportunity for us to return to the Central Coast and start up our own nursery,” he says.
“IN THE WINTER WE START OFF WITH 30% SHADING. AT THE END OF FEBRUARY WE APPLY A THICKER LAYER ON TOP OF THIS. IF NECESSARY, WE CAN ADD ANOTHER LAYER IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER” Bas van Eijk of Cal Coast Orchids
As it turned out, the greenhouse had been vacant for ten years and to contact the owner he had to leave a letter on the owner’s doorstep. Today, it is a modern 5,000 m2 nursery equipped with a high pressure misting system, energy-saving screens and a climate control computer that perfectly regulates the greenhouse climate and irrigation.
“The sun always shines in California, and so there always is a lot of light. But because of the cool ocean breeze we never have any extreme heat at our location. At eight miles from the coast we have the perfect orchid growing climate here. In the autumn it can become rather hot at times, but we have our misting system for this purpose. You only need to do something about the fierce radiation,” he says.
Chance once again played a role. He had ordered a screen from Germany, but delivery was delayed. “We were at our wits’ end. The orchids had already been planted in the greenhouse and threatened to become burned. This is when we got the idea of applying a temporary ReduSol coating.”
The temporary coating has since become a year-round event at Cal Coast Orchids. ReduSol has proven to be a very good means of damping and diffusing the sunlight. The fixed screen is an extra safety tool in this regard and also has a 70% heat retention capacity. “In the winter we start off with 30% shading. At the end of February we apply a thicker layer on top of this. If necessary, we can add another layer in the middle of summer,” says Van Eijk.
The summer coating is removed around 1 October and immediately after this a 30% ReduSol layer is reapplied. Due to the limited precipitation in California, the coating only partly wears off. But that is not a problem, another coating is reapplied at the end of February, because the sun’s intensity then increases considerably.
REGULATING LIGHT LEVELS
Cal Coast Orchids purchases half-grown plants from a Dutch grower in Salinas and then grows them for another 20 weeks until they bloom. The plants arrive twice a month and will have spent 60 weeks in propagation. After this, the crop must continue to grow in a cooler environment, because the plants require a period of cold to start blooming. The second phase up to the plant’s blooming is somewhat warmer to promote greater stem length. The grower uses the same coating strategy in both sections.
“Each section has a PAR sensor. This sensor measures the light level and a computer uses this data to calculate the daily light integral. When the plants have had enough light the screen is closed. This way they receive the exact amount of light they need for their development.”
Cal Coast Orchids sells its orchids year round throughout California. They target the higher quality segment. They have since acquired a second 2.5 hectare greenhouse. This greenhouse was designed for orchid cultivation and was coated before the plants arrived. “Coating is an added safety measure. Should the screen fail to operate for some reason, you are still assured that the plants will remain intact. And if it suddenly becomes very hot, we are able to maintain an excellent greenhouse climate,” he concludes.