Horticulture South Africa
There is so much information on vegetable farming on the internet, but most sites focus on selling certain products, be it seed, chemicals, equipment or fertilizers. So my intention is to provide experienced information without selling a product or being affiliated to a product.
The basic principles that commercial vegetable growers require applies to small scale farmers and home growers. The plant’s requirements in terms of sunlight, temperature, day length, water uptake, fertilizers and harvesting stays the same.
My main focus on this site is conventional vegetable farming, this includes some commercial herbs as well. If you want to learn more about commercial hydroponic farming please visit my other site by clicking here. I will include some information on growing vegetables under protection such as greenhouse tunnels and shade cloth, however, we will keep the focus growing in the ground.
The main crops under discussion are (in no particular order):
Tomatoes – probably the most popular crop to grow as there is good demand, relatively easy to grow and there is lots of information available.
Potatoes – Most likely the most grown crop of all vegetables and is a top provider of food.
Green beans – A great crop to grow. There are many varieties and options and can be combined with potatoes.
Cabbages – A big crop in some places in Europe and southern Africa.
Pumpkins – So many types to choose from. Not very well known in Europe but very popular in southern Africa. Some pumpkins can be stored for a long time without any deterioration in quality.
Peppers – Similar to tomatoes but not an essential crop to human nutrition. Mostly used in salads and as garnish.
Spinach – A very important crop in Africa. Easy to grow, weekly harvests and good tasting.
Lettuce – Again not an essential crop for human nutrition but used extensively. I think most of the lettuce dished up in plates are thrown away. What a pity.
Onions – If it was not for the long growing season this crop would feature more. At least some long day varieties can be stored for quite a while.
Carrots – Quality of the carrot depends on the type of soil. So in a sense it can me difficult to grow. If you don’t mind crooked carrots you can grow it in any soil.
Some minor crops that have a big following are:
Herbs – So many different types that you can write books about these plants. Herbs are very specialized and there is limited information on how to grow these crops commercially.
Leeks – A soup vegetable
Baby marrows – A lovely crop to grow but in my opinion low in nutrition. It’s a lot like English cucumbers, lots of water and very little nutritional value.
Some indigenous African crops – I think these are really important for human nutrition so I will try and provide more information on these crops although they are not large commercial crops.
Weeds are a problem in open vegetable production. Unlike hydroponics, where plants are not grown in soil, open field vegetables have to compete with weeds growing with them. This not only influences nutrition but also available sunlight reaching all their leaves. Other aspects that are very difficult to measure is allelopathic substances released by weeds which gives them their competitive edge.
I will touch on quality of vegetable crops as this is a very relative and subjective subject. I have often found that ugly looking tomatoes tastes fantastic compared to ‘super model’ looking ones bred for the upper class. Ok I am being sarcastic, but there is a trend towards weird looking fruit, but that is a fade.
Marketing of your crop. This is the most important aspect of the business. I think most growers that start of can grow their crops very well. But very few can market their products in such a way that the business in total is successful in the long run. Marketing is a complex process and I love that part of the business, especially the digital marketing component.
Management of the farm. This is really a neglected aspect of the business. I am not just talking about management of people or equipment, but especially the environment around the farm. So many people focus just on the area where the crop is growing, not realizing that the area around it, especially next to roads, buildings and fields have a significant influence on crop performance. Not just that, it also has an impact on bottom line, because more weeds around the farm means more chemicals spent on pesticides and fungicides.