Commercial Vegetable Production

Grow vegetables commercially: Start a market garden or work on a vegetable farm. This online or distance course covers all aspects of vegetable growing from propagation through to soil management and marketing.

Course CodeBHT222
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Training for Market Gardeners and their Staff

Learn about growing crops of vegetables in productive way with these steps.
Learning the importance of soils, cultural practices and pest and disease management is a great way to get optimum crop production.

 Become more productive - Become more profitable

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Vegetable Growing
    • Making the farm Pay
    • Understanding economic principles - supply and demand, scale of economy, etc.
    • Planning for the farm
    • Production planning
    • Financial planning and management
    • Land care and land management
    • Marketing
    • Personal welfare
    • Risk management - spreading risk, quality management, contingency planning, liquidity
    • Creating a sustainable farm enterprise
    • Planning for sustainability
    • Planning for drought
    • Crop selection
    • Monocultures
    • Alternating crops, broad acre or row crops
    • Growing Brassicas -Cabbage, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Pak Choi, Broccoli, Radish, Turnip
    • Growing Legumes -Beans, Broad Beans, Peas
    • Growing Lettuce, Onions, Potatoes
  2. Cultural Practices for Vegetables
    • Explain general cultural practices used for vegetable production.
    • Crop rotation
    • Soils
    • Plant foods
    • Cover Crops
    • Legumes and inoculation
    • Growing various cover crops -Barley, Buckwheat, Canola, Lucerne, Field pea, Lupins, Oats, Sorgham, Clover, etc.
    • Ways of using a cover crop
    • Cultivation techniques
    • Compost
    • Crop Scheduling
    • Planting Vegetables -seed, hybrid seed, storing seed, sowing seed
    • Understanding Soils
    • Dealing with Soil Problems
    • Plant nutrition and feeding
  3. Pest, Disease & Weed Control
    • Weed control -hand weeding, mechanical, chemical and biological weed control methods
    • Integrated Pest Management
    • Non chemical pest control
    • Understanding Pesticide labels
    • Understanding the law in relation to agricultural chemicals
    • Plant Pathology introduction
    • Understanding Fungi
    • Understanding insects, virus and other pathogens
    • Insect control -quarantine, clean far5ming, chemicals, biological controls
    • Review of common diseases
    • Review common pests
    • Review common environmental problems
    • Review common weeds
  4. Hydroponic and Greenhouse Growing
    • Introduction to hydroponics
    • Types of systems
    • Nutrient solutions
    • NFT and other systems for vegetable production
    • Growing in a greenhouse (in the ground or hydroponics)
    • Components of a Greenhouse System
    • Types of Greenhouses and common greenhouse designs (venlo, mansard, wide span, multi span, poly tunnel, Sawtooth, Retractable roof, etc)
    • Shade houses, Cold Frames
    • Environmental Control -heating, ventilation, lighting, etc
    • Controlling moisture (misting, fog, etc)
    • Review of various vegetables - Cucurbits (Cucumber, Melon, Pumpkin, Watermelon, Zucchini)
  5. Growing Selected Vegetable Varieties
    • Determine specific cultural practices for selected vegetable varieties.
    • Tropical Vegetables - Sweet Potato and Taro
    • Less common vegetables - Globe Artichoke, Jerusalem Artichoke, Asparagus, Chicory, Endive, Garlic, Leek, Okra, Rhubarb
    • Other Crops -Beetroot (Red Beet), Capsicum, Carrot, Celery, Sweet Corn, Eggplant, Parsnip, Spinach
  6. Irrigation
    • Water and Irrigation
    • Infiltration
    • Internal Drainage
    • Flood, Sprinkler and Trickle irrigation
    • The objective of irrigation
    • Transpiration and Wilting Point
    • When to irrigate Timing irrigations
    • Detecting water deficiency or excess
    • Understanding soil moisture
    • Pumps, sprinklers and other equipment
    • Water hammer
    • Improving Drainage
    • Managing erosion
  7. Harvest & Post-Harvest
    • Introduction to harvesting
    • Post harvest treatment of vegetables
    • Cooling harvested produce
    • Harvesting tips
    • Storing vegetables
  8. Marketing Vegetables
    • Introduction
    • Standards for cost efficiency, quality and quantity
    • Options for Marketing Produce
    • Market Research
    • How to sell successfully

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Select appropriate vegetable varieties for different situations.
  • Explain general cultural practices used for vegetable production.
  • Explain the management of potential problems, including pests, diseases, weeds, and environmental disorders, in vegetable production.
  • Explain alternative cultural techniques, including greenhouse and hydroponic production, for vegetables.
  • Determine specific cultural practices for selected vegetable varieties.
  • Determine the harvesting, and post-harvest treatment of different vegetables.
  • Develop marketing strategies for different vegetables.

What You Will Do

  • Compile a resource file of sources of information regarding vegetable varieties.
  • Describe the classification of different vegetables into major groups.
  • Prepare a collection of plant reviews of different vegetable varieties.
  • Determine three appropriate cultivars from each different species of vegetables to be grown on a specified site.
  • Prepare a planting schedule of vegetable varieties, to be planted over a twelve month period, in your locality.
  • Differentiate between soil management practices for different vegetable varieties.
  • Explain the establishment of vegetables by seed.
  • Explain how to establish three different vegetables from seedlings.
  • Prepare a table or chart showing the planting distances, and planting depth of seed for different vegetable varieties.
  • Describe the application of pruning techniques to the production of specified vegetables.
  • Prepare a crop schedule (ie. production timetable) for a specified vegetable crop.
  • Prepare a pressed weed collection of different weeds.
  • Differentiate between different specific techniques for weed control in vegetable crops, including different chemical and different non-chemical methods.
  • Determine pest and disease problems common to different specified types of vegetables.
  • Identify appropriate control methods for the pest and disease problems you determined (above).
  • Develop pest and disease control programs, for the lifespans of different vegetables.
  • Determine the environmental disorders occurring with vegetable crops inspected by you.
  • Explain the methods that can be used to prevent and/or overcome different environmental disorders affecting vegetables.
  • Determine the potential benefits of greenhouse vegetable production in a specified locality.
  • Differentiate between the characteristics of different types of greenhouses.
  • Compare vegetable growing applications for different environmental control mechanisms used in greenhouses, including:
  • Different types of heaters
    • Shading
    • Lighting
    • Different types of coolers
    • Vents
    • Fans
  • Describe how a specified commercial vegetable crop might be grown in a greenhouse visited by you.
  • Compare vegetable growing applications for the major types of hydroponic systems
    • Open and closed systems
    • Aggregate
    • Water
    • Aeroponic culture
  • Determine reasons for choosing to grow vegetables in hydroponics rather than in the open ground.
  • Explain how a specified vegetable can be grown in an hydroponic system.
  • Determine two commercially viable varieties suited to growing in a specified locality, from each of the following different types of vegetables:
    • Brassicas
    • Cucurbits
    • Tomatoes
    • Lettuce
    • Onions
    • Potatoes
    • Legumes
  • Determine specific cultural requirements for growing each of the vegetable varieties selected (above) on a specified site.
  • Describe the culture of less commonly grown vegetables chosen by you.
  • Produce a log book, recording all work undertaken to grow a crop of different vegetable varieties, suited to your locality.
  • Describe different harvesting methods, including both manual and mechanical techniques, used in vegetable production, for specified vegetables.
  • Identify the appropriate stage of growth at which different types of vegetables should be harvested.
  • Evaluate commonly used harvesting techniques of vegetables.
  • Evaluate commonly used post-harvest treatments of vegetables.
  • Determine post-harvest treatments to slow the deterioration of different specified vegetables.
  • Develop guidelines for post harvest handling, during storage, transportation and marketing, of a specified vegetable variety.
  • Analyse vegetable marketing systems in your locality.
  • Explain the importance of produce standards to marketing in different vegetable marketing systems.
  • Explain the impact of quarantine regulations on transport of different types of vegetables, in your locality.
  • Explain an appropriate procedure for packaging a specified vegetable for long distance transport.
  • Develop marketing strategies for different specified vegetables.

Getting Started with Vegetable Growing

Most vegetables have similar requirements, that is, a reasonable amount of sunlight, fertile and well-drained soil, protection from wind and adequate water during the growing season.

The time of planting is important, because different vegetables have specific tolerances for temperatures. Warm-season vegetables grow best at temperatures over 20˚C, and are generally frost susceptible. Vegetables in this group include tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants (aubergines), potatoes, sweet corn (maize) and vine crops.

Cool-season vegetables grow best at temperatures between 10˚C and 20˚C, and generally tolerate frosts. This group includes broccoli, cauliflowers, onions, spinach, turnips, peas, brussel sprouts and broad beans.

A third group grows best at temperatures between 15˚C and 25˚C. This group includes lettuce, cabbage, silver beet, carrot, parsnips, celery, radish and leeks.

Techniques for growing vegetables and edible plants
There are many different ways of growing vegetables and other edible plants outdoors:
  • Row crops – the traditional method of growing vegetables and other edible plants, both in the backyard and in commercial market gardens. Easy to manage, allowing easy access for planting, fertilising, watering and harvesting.
  • Permaculture garden – a system of sustainable production, based on ecological principles; incorporates other natural gardening and farming systems such as organic gardening, no-dig gardens, companion planting and biological pest control.
  • Containers – suitable for a range of smaller-growing vegetables; ideal for gardeners with limited mobility, and gardens with poor soil or restricted space.
  • No-dig garden – building a slow-working compost heap straight onto the surface of the soil as a "raised garden bed", and planting direct into the pile. Ideal for gardens with poor quality soil.
  • Organic – using non-chemical methods to grow vegetables; growers use natural products to control insect pests, diseases and weeds, and to enrich the soil. Practices such as mulching, composting, companion planting, green manuring and biological control are widely used by organic growers. An increasingly popular growing system for both commercial and backyard growers.
  • Hydroponic – soil-less gardening, using formulated nutrient solutions to water and feed plants. Roots are supported and protected by a sterile medium in an enclosed environment, such as a pipe or bag.

Some of the culinary herbs such as parsley, basil and coriander require similar conditions to vegetables and therefore can be included in the vegetable garden. Perennial herbs such as chives, winter savoury, and thyme are useful as borders to edge the vegetable beds. Woody shrub herbs such as rosemary, sage and lavender also make attractive enclosing hedges.

The size of the vegetable plot depends primarily on space and other resources available, and what your commercial goals are.

Consider the following:
What do you want to grow?
What you grow will depend a great deal on your own preferences, as well as environmental factors (e.g. soil, climate), however, when deciding what to grow consider the following:
Some vegetables produce prolifically in a short time (e.g. radish), while others will be slow to mature (e.g. artichoke). Others can occupy a space for a very long time (e.g. asparagus - up to 20 years).

Use most of your plot for high yield vegetable varieties if you want to harvest large quantities of produce. Alternatively, you could opt to plant gourmet varieties that are more expensive to buy but give a lower yield.

Some vegetables and herbs lose flavour and nutritional value if stored for even short periods so are best eaten fresh, for example, tomatoes, lettuce, beans, cauliflowers, basil, coriander and parsley. These vegetables are therefore worth growing yourself.

What quantities of vegetables and herbs can you consume and store?
When deciding what and how much to grow, consider the following points: Do you want to produce all of your own vegetable needs, or will you also buy some? Do you eat a lot of vegetables or not? Do you have sufficient space and suitable conditions (i.e. refrigerators, freezers and preserving facilities) to store your produce? Can you trade or barter your produce with others?

How much time do you have?
Remember that once you have prepared and planted your garden, you need to have the time to do all the necessary tasks at the right time, such as fertilising, weeding, watering, pest and disease control, harvesting, processing and storage. Pests need to be monitored and controlled before they ruin a crop, and quality produce means harvesting at the right time. A small well-managed vegetable plot will often give bigger and better yields then a large, poorly maintained one.

Planning the cropping program
Plan for a continuous harvest, as this avoids the feast and famine situation so often experienced by novice gardeners. 
  1. Stagger the plantings. Most vegetables can be planted over a three to four month period and achieve relatively even yields for each planting. Try planting small quantities of each crop at two-week intervals. This is easiest for varieties grown directly from seed, as the seed can be stored until needed. This way you can also grow two or three seedlings at a time (of cabbage for example). When using seedlings you may need to plant a full punnet (tray) at each planting of 6 8 week intervals.
  2. When selecting seeds look for early, mid and late season varieties of each vegetable or fruit. This will stagger harvest times over the entire season.
  3. Some vegetables can only be grown at specific times of the year. Others can be grown over extended periods, or even throughout the year - grow these when the other crops are not available.

What can this course do for you?

This course will help you to improve your productivity, set up your own crop farm, or to get work on a crop farm. It covers all the fundamentals you need to progress in this industry.

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Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.
Maggi Brown

Maggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture
John Mason

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.
Robert James

B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
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