Learn to be a Vegetable Farmer
A course for anyone who has a passion or need to learn a lot more about vegetable production.
- Work on a market Garden
- Grow vegetables hydroponically, organically or any other way
- Work in supplying services, materials or equipment to a vegetable farm
- Start a business or improve an existing business
Note that each module in the Certificate in Vegetable Growing and Production is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.
Vegetables Can be Grown in Most Places, all year round
As long as there is light, and you can avoid extreme cold or heat; you can grow at least some types of vegetables anywhere any time.
Sometimes you may need a greenhouse or other growing structure to protect a crop from extreme weather; but im most temperate or sub tropical climates, that may not even be needed if you choose appropriate crops for the season.
Careful planning and planting in autumn, for example; can have you harvesting vegetables through winter and right into early spring, before your spring crops are even planted.
In early autumn you will still be reaping the rewards of the last of the tomato crop, corn, zucchini, beans and so on – but if you want to make sure that you have at least some vegetables in winter and early spring, then now is the time to be ruthless. With the cooler days of autumn your energy levels are so much higher too - so pull up those withering tomato plants (hang them up in a shed so that the last of the tomatoes ripen) and be merciless with those mildew infected zucchinis – they are taking up space that can be used for your autumn plantings. Now is the time for my three r’s of gardening: remove, revive and re-sow.
- Remove old spent plants and make sure that you dispose of any that are diseased (like the aforementioned zucchini) in your green waste bin rather than the compost – you don’t want those fungal spores back in your beds next year.
- Revive your garden beds by forking in lots of good compost, some animal manures and an organic fertiliser such as pelletised chicken or blood and bone. However if you are growing root vegetables then you should use a bed that was well composted the season before and perhaps just add a few hands full of dolomite to sweeten the soil and then just sow your seeds; root vegetables will ‘fork’ in heavily manured soils.
- Re-sow with your favourite autumn vegetables.
What Do You Need to Learn?
There's always something more that you can learn about growing, harvesting, handling, processing and marketing each type of vegetable.
The best way to do each of these things will change from one location to the next, depending upon the growing method you choose to use, and the market which the produce will be ultimately used in.
Consider Spring Onions
Spring onions are a great autumn crop, they are easy to grow and will do well in any climate. They can be sown throughout all of autumn giving you a crop right through winter. In fact most varieties can be grown year round (unlike ‘normal’ onions) because spring onions are not sensitive to day length, making them an ideal autumn/winter crop.
How to Grow
- Grow in a full sun position.
- The soil does not need to be overly rich so they are a great crop to plant after a previously manured crop – just add some extra compost to the bed before sowing.
- Add dolomite to sweeten the soil (they like it slightly alkaline).
- Sow seed thinly in rows - then thin them to 1.5cm between plants and 15cm between rows.
- Keep the rows moist to ensure even germination.
- Spring onions do like a bit of moisture so make sure that you water them - even in cooler dry weather.
Black Aphids are common on spring onions – try spraying with an oil based spray: eg - a potassium based spray derived from vegetables oils.
How To Make Them Last
- Spring onions take from 8-12 weeks to reach maturity but you can start harvesting them young – and then leaves others to mature).
- Spring onions are best pulled as needed and eaten fresh rather than stored – if you sow every few weeks you should have a constant supply.
- Pull gently – if the soil is slightly compacted the spring onion will break off at ground level so you may need to use a dibber or small hand held fork to harvest – try not to disturb surrounding plants too much (I often use a table fork and find that works well without causing damage).
Which Cultivars to Grow:
‘Evergreen Bunching’, ‘Ishikura Winter Long’ (best in soils above 10°C), ‘Welsh’, ‘White Bunching’, ‘Straightleaf’.
- Sow a short row of spring onions every 2 or 3 weeks to ensure constant supply.
- If the weather gets very cold try sowing seed in trays in a small greenhouse or sheltered spot near the house and transplant once they are 2cm or so high.
- Spring onions do very well in pots.
- Spring onions make a great companion crop – try growing them in carrots or any other winter crop given enough space.