Vegetable Gardening, Or Olericulture, is the art of growing the crops which are commonly known as vegetables. The term "vegetable" is usually applied to the edible parts of herbaceous plants. With some fruits, botanically so considered, as watermelon, muskmelon, tomato and eggplant, the parts used as food are commonly called vegetables. While fruits are extensively employed for dessert without cooking, heat must be applied to most vegetables before they become palatable; notable exceptions are tomato, celery, onion, lettuce and melons. Vegetables of great commercial importance are asparagus, bean, beet, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, horse-radish, parsnip, pea, pepper, sweet corn, sweet potato, radish, spinach, squash and turnip. The potato is also a vegetable, but it is generally regarded as a field crop, and it is often included in rotations with grass and cereals.
Market Gardening, In Its Broadest Sense, is the growing of vegetables for commercial purposes, but the generally, accepted meaning is that market gardening relates to the intensive culture of crops that may be planted close together, that mature quickly and that offer great financial possibilities for the area cultivated. The most popular crops in market gardening are beets, onions, celery, lettuce, radishes, carrots and other vegetables which are usually cultivated with wheel hoes. Market gardens are generally located near cities, which provide good local markets. Land so situated is usually of high value and it is necessary for the grower to secure maximum returns from every square foot of ground.
There is no sharp line of demarcation between market gardening and trucking or farm gardening. According to common usage trucking means the growing of vegetables on an extensive field scale. The operations may be near enough to market to transport the products by wagon, or removed hundreds of miles, in which case trains or boats are used in transportation. The land is seldom worth more than $300 an acre and usually much less. Such crops as cabbage, tomato, celery, sweet potato, sweet corn and other vegetables are grown and cultivated with horse implements. In some important trucking regions, as at Norfolk, Va., wheel hoe crops, including spinach and kale, are largely grown and shipped to market. Both market gardening and truck farming are often seen on the same farm. In some regions the farm gardening or trucking operations are restricted mainly to one or two crops; for example, the growing of late cabbage in western New York; tomatoes in Caroline county, Md.; celery and lettuce in Tioga county, Pa.; muskmelons at Rockyford, Col.; and sweet potatoes in certain sections of New Jersey.
Vegetable Forcing is a very important branch of vegetable gardening. Hundreds of acres under glass in the United States are devoted to the growing of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes and other vegetables. This is the most intensive type of vegetable gardening. It is often combined with market gardening, the glass being a great advantage in starting many early crops. Greenhouses, hotbeds and cold frames are employed for forcing purposes.
The production of vegetables in the home garden for the home table is often called kitchen gardening. On most farms the area devoted to this purpose is known as "the garden." Other parts of the premises may be manured sparingly or not at all, while this small area receives heavy annual applications. It is an Intensive type of gardening of greater importance than is generally appreciated.
In the production of vegetables for the home table the gardener should aim to secure (1) a variety of products, (2) the highest quality and (3) a supply as uniform and constant as possible at different seasons of the year.
In commercial gardening the following points must be considered: (1) Quality. Markets are becoming more discriminating every year. Consumers are urgent in their demands for quality, and it is important for growers to realize that prices and profits are largely dependent upon quality. This is especially true when vegetables are placed upon large city markets in competition with shipments from all parts of the country. The best quality is secured by the selection of proper varieties and the furnishing of ideal cultural conditions. Quick maturity is usually favorable to the best quality. This is especially true of the most succulent vegetables, as radish, turnip, beet, onion, lettuce, cabbage, celery and spinach. Vegetables of the finest edible quality are generally grown in moist, fertile soils, physically adapted to each class. (2) Yields. Large yields are essential to maximum profits. Some varieties of high quality are not good yielders. The grower is fortunate if quality and quantity can be secured in the same variety. There are many examples of quality being sacrificed for quantity by the selection of varieties of high yielding power. In producing vegetables for local markets that are not very discriminating this course may be justifiable, although it doubtless limits consumption. Whatever the variety, the commercial grower should endeavor to secure maximum yields at minimum outlay. The net returns from a given area of land should determine the extent to which methods can be intensified. If cheap land is available it may be more profitable and less difficult to follow extensive rather than intensive methods. (3) Earliness. The early production of crops is an important factor, first, because it generally enables the grower to sell at higher prices, and with reduced effort; second, it gives the gardener a lead on the market, always a great advantage in seasons of abundant crops; third, it makes possible the clearing of the land in time for succeeding cash crops or soil-improving crops. (4) Kind of market. It is important to have definite ideas concerning the disposition of a crop before it is started. Will it be sold on a general, open market in competition with the same vegetable from other sections, or will a special market be supplied? Market possibilities should always be studied before deciding upon crops and cropping plans.