20 Growing Vegetables Outdoors PURPOSE AND EXPECTED OUTCOMES This chapter discusses the general principles of designing, planting, and caring for a vegetable garden, as well as the cultivation of selected vegetables. After studying this chapter, the student should be able to 1. Describe the characteristics of a home garden. 2. Discuss the benefits of a home garden. 3. Design a vegetable garden. 4. List and describe the basic tools required by a gardener. 5. Discuss the choice of garden site and vegetable varieties to grow. 6. Describe how selected vegetables are cultivated. OVERVIEW Vegetables are grown on a small scale as well as a large commercial scale. Some vegetables are grown on commercial scale in greenhouses, as previously discussed in Chapter 13. However, most vegetable production occurs outdoors in the field. Small-scale vegetable production is an activity that may be undertaken year-round (except in extreme weather) by people in a wide variety of situations. It is applicable to rural as well as urban dwellers. The size of the project depends on what is available in terms of landand how much time and effort one is willing to devote to the activity. Urban dwellers may be limited to only a fraction of an acre, whereas rural dwellers may have more than an acre with which to work. The space available may have to be devoted to both ornamentals and vegetables, since people who enjoy gardening usually like to grow some flowers as well. Gardeners have a wide variety of crops from which to choose, including roots, cole crops, cucurbits, and solanaceous crops. There are crops for the cool season and others for the warm season. Small-scale vegetable farming can be undertaken as a hobby, where the primary purpose of the project is recreational while also providing fresh produce for the table. Larger-scale vegetable farming may be used to produce more than one needs 611
Backyard Gardening The growing of crops in the private area of the house. so that the surplus can be marketed for supplemental income. This kind of small-scale production, whether as a hobby or for commercial purposes, is commonly called home gardening or backyard gardening. When growing to sell, postharvest handling and marketing become very important considerations in planning a garden. In herb gardening, one has to decide whether to grow mainly for culinary use or also for ornamental purposes. Some herbs may be grown indoors in pots for ready access for culinary use. 20.1 NUTRITIONAL AND ECONOMIC VALUE OF VEGETABLES Vegetables vary widely in their nutritional value. Some are high in carbohydrates (e.g., dry bean, white and sweet potatoes), while others are high in protein and amino acids (e.g., legumes and brassicas). Others are rich in minerals (e.g., greens, brassicas, and root crops), and pro-vitamin A (e.g., carrots, peppers, and greens), vitamin C (e.g., brassicas, peppers, tomatoes, and greens), and dietary fiber (e.g., carrot). Because they are generally high in bulk but low in dry matter as a result of the high water content (often more than 90 percent), a person needs to consume large quantities of vegetables in order to obtain the FDA recommended daily requirement of the nutritional factors they supply. Vegetables are often called “high value crops” because they account for only about 1 percent of the crop land in the United States but almost 15 percent of the cash receipts from crop production. 20.2 ADAPTATION OF VEGETABLES As previously discussed in Chapter 4, plants may be classified according to temperature requirements as either cool season or warm season. This is an operational classification and hence the categories are only approximate. Cool-Season Vegetables Some cool-season vegetables are slightly freezing tolerant (e.g., spinach, cabbage, broccoli, radish, beet, turnip, rutabaga, and cauliflower), while others are damaged by temperatures near freezing (e.g., lettuce, celery, artichoke, endive, mustard, carrot, and chard). A few vegetables are frost tolerant (e.g., asparagus, garlic, kale, Brussels sprouts). Warm-Season Vegetables Warm-season vegetables are frost intolerant and include sweet corn, pepper, snap bean, squash, pumpkin, lima bean, cucumber, tomato, and muskmelon. Some warm-season species are long-season (e.g., watermelon, sweet potato, eggplant, and okra). 612 Chapter 20 Growing Vegetables Outdoors 20.3 REGIONALIZED PRODUCTION OF VEGETABLES Whereas backyard gardening can be undertaken by all homeowners who have suitable space for the activity, commercial vegetable production is largely a regionalized activity. Based on plant adaptation, production of vegetables is localized in the United States in the various USDA plant adaptation zones. In fact, because of seasonal variation within regions, various states in a production region can alternate in leading the production of one specific crop. That is, one state may lead in spring production of a crop, while another leads in fall production of the same crop. Further, vegetable production on the commercial scale is produced for two markets—fresh market and processing market. Different states or parts of the production state may lead in the production of one market type but not the other.