Fern specialist Westdijk gives a peek inside special greenhouse during Kom in de Kas

They may be originally from Boskopers, but Joris and Karel Westdijk's modesty is also perfectly suited for the Dutch province of Zeeland. "We are never in the spotlight that much, but this is a nice opportunity for that," Joris Westdijk indicates on Saturday afternoon during Kom in de Kas.

Joris Westdijk shows visitors around during Kom in de Kas.

In 1995, the brothers, Joris and Karel, settled in Dreischor on Schouwen-Duiveland. There they found a greenhouse to grow in. During Kom in de Kas, which the brothers participated in for the first time last weekend, visitors could take a look inside the special greenhouse.

Westdijk grows in a cold greenhouse.

Discovering ferns
Westdijk's nurseries specialise in ferns. This was not always the case. When the brothers, looking for growing space, moved into the greenhouse in Dreischor, they grew climbing plants. That cultivation had become the most important after two decades of growing and propagating a diverse assortment of ornamental shrubs. Gradually, however, the growers discovered that the foil greenhouse in the Zeeland countryside lent itself better to growing ferns. The climbing plants were abandoned.

When the greenhouse was converted from greenhouse vegetable cultivation to ferns, a system for growing tables was installed in the greenhouse.

The focus on ferns did not hurt the company. They now grow 50 species, all ferns, for outdoor use. Ferns like a humid climate, which the growers manage perfectly well under plastic. If they want air, windows open above the aisle, just like along the facades.

If the growers want to ventilate, they can do so via the aisle and the side walls.

Westdijk works with a cold greenhouse. The greenhouse has heaters, meaning that heating is possible, but it wasn't done this winter, Joris says. "It was far too expensive without a fixed gas contract." Heating is sometimes necessary to keep the plants frost-free. Not heating can damage the leaves of otherwise hardy plants. "We can also cut that away. So this winter, we opted for cutting instead of heating."

Depending on the type of fern and the time of year, propagation takes three to six months. The growers buy starting material, including from fellow grower Vitro Plus (where the growing process could be watched in Zierikzee, using Frisk and Fruktergard greenhouses). Once in Dreischor, the growers potted the young plants in different pot sizes.

Karel Westdijk demonstrates the potting process.

Greenhouse vegetables
When the greenhouse was commissioned in 1995, it was set up to grow cucumbers and tomatoes. However, the grower using the greenhouse went bankrupt. The Westdijk brothers converted the greenhouse and realized a system where ferns could be grown on tables. Because ferns are not grown very quickly, moving the tables through the greenhouse is not yet fully automated. However, a special cart, pushed by a tractor, does help employees move the tables.

The system for moving growing tables.

When the ferns are ready, they can go to the customer. The brothers' father still drives the truck for this. Westdijk delivers directly to customers or exporters. So you won't come across the ferns at the clock auction. "Eighty percent of our production goes to the UK," Joris points out. "The Netherlands is not really a gardening country."

During Kom in de Kas, by the way, you wouldn't have been able to tell. The interested visitors combined a visit to the greenhouses of cucumber grower Stouten and Van Duijn's aubergine growers, among others, with a visit to Westdijk's nurseries. There, they were able to walk through the entire greenhouse, told by Karel how the potting works, among other things, and afterwards were given a fern to take home. "Pick a nice shady spot, then they will do beautifully."

For more information:
Westdijk's kwekerijen 
Kapteinsweg 3A
Dreischor, 4315 PN

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