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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Learn all about organic vegetable production

Commercial Organic Vegetable Growing Course - the demand for organically grown vegetables is currently a major growth area in commercial horticulture.

  • Learn all aspects of organic vegetable production.
  • Gain important knowledge in this growing industry.
  • Improve your job prospects.
  • Study in your own time at your own pace.
  • Study with our tutors who are experts in the field.









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Work in the Commercial Organic Vegetable Production Business



Why grow vegetables organically?

  • Work with the environment - organic vegetables are healthier to grow
  • Healthier for the consumer - naturally gown, no nasty chemicals so they are healthier to eat and they encourage a sustainable environment
  • Organically grown vegetables can command higher prices than those produced by regular intensive crop production.
  • Explore the possibilities for an exciting, environmentally friendly and financially rewarding way of earning a living. 

The course comprises 12 lessons as follows:
  1. Introduction
  2. Cultivation and Planting
  3. Soils and Nutrition
  4. Soil Management
  5. Review of Major Vegetable Varieties
  6. Pests and Disease
  7. Seed
  8. Greenhouse Growing
  9. Lesser Grown Varieties and Herbs
  10. Irrigation
  11. Mulching
  12. Harvesting and Marketing

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.

On successful completion of the course you should be able to do the following:
  • Discuss general horticulture and plant taxonomy principles.
  • Describe a range of cultivation and planting techniques.
  • Explain soil properties, and their relationship to organic plant production.
  • Diagnose basic soil nutrient deficiencies.
  • Discus major and minor commercial vegetable varieties.
  • Describe a variety of pest and disease management principles.
  • Explain the use of seed in commercial organic agriculture, including storage, viability, germination, genetic purity, and hybridisation.
  • Discuss the principles of greenhouse growing.
  • Describe a variety of irrigation methods suitable for organic vegetable production.
  • Explain organic weed control methods.
  • Explain issues relating to harvesting and marketing of vegetables.

What the Course Covers
You will learn a wide variety of things, through a combination of reading, interacting with tutors, undertaking research and practical tasks, and watching videos. Here are just some of the things you will be doing:

  • Compile reference lists of vegetable varieties, industry contacts, organic fertilisers and pest control products, etc.
  • Evaluate the merits and deficiencies of agricultural equipment and products.
  • Build a no-dig garden and monitor its progress.
  • Classify soils.
  • Evaluate the role of soil organisms.
  • Identify nutrient deficiencies such as nitrogen deficiency.
  • Build composts.
  • Evaluate seed sources and plant varieties.
  • Perform sowing and germination trials.
  • Evaluate the merits and deficiencies of greenhouse growing.
  • Evaluate the principles of irrigation.
  • Perform mulching trials.
  • Evaluate pricing, packaging and presentation of retail vegetables.
Working as an Organic Vegetable Grower
It is amazing how little land you might need to start out as a commercial organic vegetable grower. 
A "small farm" can often be started up in a backyard or on a half acre block of land leased near your home. Small operations like this may not be big enough to make a fortune; but they can be
  • a viable starting point (you can move and expand later), or
  • a great small business to supplement your existing income.
When you start, you may sell produce at a local weekend market, even sharing a stand with someone else; or you might find some local retailers to supply.
Crops are most often grown by cultivating soil and forming it into long mounded rows (row cropping), then planting seed or seedlings on the raised rows. The long "ditches" between each mound are then used to access the plants. Sometimes vegetables are planted over a broad acreage (broad-acre crops), without mounds. Some growers may grow vegetables in a greenhouse, in order to get crops earlier or later in the season, when you can sell them for a higher price.
Certain market garden crops are more suited to broad-acre growing, where soil preparation may be less involved, and large machinery (often specially designed) can be used to plant, cultivate and harvest crops on a large scale. Techniques and equipment have been developed to grow potatoes, tomatoes, peas and carrots, along with some other market garden crops this way. The people who work in this large scale form of production will need to understand and operate expensive equipment. They may be growing tens or hundreds of acres of the same crop at the same time (often under contract to supply produce to a processor).
Smaller scale market growers may grow crops that are not needed or suited to growing on a large scale. Niche and gourmet crops may require less space, but offer a higher return per acre. Working such crops on a small scale might not be viable with big expensive machinery; but for a "start up" small size organic farm, such crops may offer a niche opportunity.
A market gardener needs to plant seed and/or plants, fertilise and water the growing plants, inspect the crops progress and respond to any health or other problems that arise (e.g. weeding, pest control, protection from extreme dry, cold, wet, etc.). They need to identify the right time to harvest, then harvest the plant and treat it properly after harvest (e.g. storing at the right temperature). The job can also involve delivering the plant to market, and perhaps selling it.
Where Do They Work?
Market gardeners who provide vegetables to a processing plant will need to be growing produce in a location where delivery to the processor is easy. This means transport facilities need to be close to the farm, and ideally the farm should be in the same locality or region as the factory.
Market gardeners who supply fresh produce to market will do best if they can grow close to where the end user lives. The cost of land in urban areas usually prohibits the farm being in an urban area (unless it is very intensive and productive farming), but often they will be located on the fringes of urban centres.
Certain products though, may not be able to be grown where they are needed - due to climatic conditions or because the grower wants a greater sense of control over the growing environment. In these cases, a vegetable might be grown in a greenhouse, or to produce an “out of season crop”. It may be more expensive to get to the user, but it may attract a much higher selling price.
Organic growers may need seasonal workers to help harvest a crop, or do other jobs at a particular time of year; but might not employ permanent staff. Small operation often enlist family members or local youth; while larger farms may need to employ permanent labour.
Large scale farms, or technologically advanced farming (e.g. organic hydroponics, aquaponics, greenhouse production, controlled environment mushroom production), can be lucrative business opportunities. There are market gardeners who have become very wealthy; and for the “smart farmer” opportunities exist, but those opportunities are more likely to be as a self-employed farmer than working for someone else.
Some market gardeners will grow into the job, because it was their family business; others may study and gain a job with a larger, established enterpise.
What Is Needed to Grow Organic Vegetables?
To grow organic vegetables or other market garden produce you need:
  • Broad foundation knowledge of organic plant culture including soil, nutrition and water management, weed control, pest and disease management, etc.
  • Knowledge of the specific requirements for growing different species or cultivars you choose to grow.
  • Capacity to select cultivars that are productive and appropriate for the growing season.
  • Skill to operate machinery and equipment, and apply safe and productive work practices.
  • An understanding of harvest and post-harvest handling practices.
  • If you are to be self-employed you need business and marketing skills.


Why Choose this Course?

  • Learn the processes required to tap into the commercial organic vegetable market.
  • An extensive course which provides a wealth of knowledge and practical skills.
  • We show you how you can market your produce.
  • Organic vegetables - environmentally sound crop this is a method of crop production with a future.





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Meet some of our academics

Maggi BrownMaggi 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 across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Landscaper, Environmentalist. Holds a Diploma in Horticulture, degree in geography, permaculture certificate and various other qualifications. Between 1985 and 94, Diana was a task leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Since 2001 she has been chairperson of the Friends of Mellor Park (with Stockport MDC). From 2005 she has worked exclusively in horticulture as proprietor of her own garden design and consultancy business in and around Derbyshire; and at the same time as part time manager of a small garden centre. Diana has been an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable tutor with ACS since 2008.
Yvonne Sharpe (Horticulturist)Started gardening in 1966, studied a series of horticulture qualifications throughout the 1980's and 90's, culminating in an RHS Master of Horticulture. Between 89 and 1994, she worked teaching in horticultural therapy. Founded the West Herts Garden Association in 1990 and exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show in 1991. In 1994, Yvonne joined the staff at Oaklands College, and between 1996 and 2000 was coordinator for all Amenity Horticulture courses at that college. Since leaving Oakland she has been active as a horticultural consultant, retail garden centre proprietor and sessional lecturer (across many colleges in southern England). In 2000, she also completed a Diploma in Management.

Check out our eBooks

Starting a Garden or Landscape BusinessExpert advice on how to get started in your own garden or landscape business! Packed with valuable business advice, horticultural and landscaping knowledge, and practical ideas - this book is a must have for garden lovers. It is great for anyone thinking about (or already involved in), a horticultural, landscaping or garden business. This updated re-print is only available as an ebook.
Starting a Nursery or Herb FarmIt's often amazing how much can be produced, and the profit that can be made from a few hundred square meters of land. To work efficiently and profitably, a nursery or herb farm must be both well organised and properly managed. As with any business, it is essential to be confident enough to make firm decisions as and when needed. This e-book is your ticket to a fragrant future.
HerbsLearn to identify and grow dozens of commonly grown herbs. Explore how to use them. Herbs have a rich history dating back centuries. Used by monks, apothecaries and ‘witches’ in the past, herbs are undergoing a revival in interest. They are easy to grow, scented, culinary and medicinal plants. In a formal herb garden or peppered throughout the garden, herbs rarely fail! Find out how they are used as medicines, for cooking, perfumes and more.
Fruit, Vegetables and HerbsThe Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs ebook is ideal for students, professionals and home gardening enthusiasts alike. Fruit, Vegetable and Herbs provides an overview in techniques to produce food in the garden. Topics covered within this course include 1/ Food from the garden, 2/ Deciding what to grow, 3/ Successful growing, 4/ Fruits, 4-1/ Deciduous fruit trees, 4-2/ Citrus fruits, 4-3/ Tropical fruits, 4-4/ Berries, 4-5/ Nuts, 4-6/ Vine crops, 4-7/ Using produce, 5/ Vegetables, 6/ Mushrooms, 7/ Special growing techniques