The most important factor to consider in the selection of a location for a general line of trucking or market gardening is the opportunity to dispose of the produce in a satisfactory manner. The large cities, as New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, consume enormous quantities of vegetables. It is a satisfaction to operate near such large centers of population, knowing that sale may be found for an almost unlimited supply of produce. The prospective gardener should realize, however, that competition is the keenest in these cities and that prices are often very low. It is also true that such markets offer special inducements for the growing of strictly high-grade vegetables. Prices are the most uniform and demands are the most constant in cities ranging in population from 25,000 to 300,000. The smaller cities are not so subject to the ruinous market gluts that occur in the large cities.
It is highly desirable to be near a good market. The grower is thus enabled to keep in close touch with the market and his patrons, and to deliver several loads in a day, at minimum expense and with the least effort. Moreover, the vegetables are perfectly fresh when they arrive, thus increasing the possibility of getting the best prices. When products from different sources are offered at the same time, local growers always have the advantage over shippers.
Many towns and small cities in all parts of the country furnish important outlets for vegetables. The smaller markets are not so discriminating and yet high quality is appreciated and helps to secure remunerative prices.
Summer resort regions require large quantities of fresh vegetables and the prices in such sections are nearly always satisfactory.
Soil is second in importance to market. A gardener is more likely to succeed with a poor soil and a good market than with a good soil and poor market. Favorable soil conditions, though, are exceedingly important and should be carefully considered in selecting a location. The sandy loams, with porous subsoils insuring thorough drainage, are undoubtedly the most valuable for a general line of cropping. Proper physical composition is of greater importance than the chemical character, for it is a simple matter to apply the required amounts of plant food, while it is expensive, if not impracticable, to make radical changes in the physical properties. Practically all good agricultural soils will, with proper treatment, produce fair crops of most classes of vegetables.
Immense areas are planted in truck crops in various parts of the South because of favorable climatic conditions. The earlier season makes it possible to produce vegetables and place them on northern markets before local supplies arrive in large quantities. Yields southward are not usually larger, although it may be possible to remove more crops from the same area in a season. Long and warm seasons are also favorable to soil improvement. In many parts of the South it is easily possible to harvest two or even three cash crops in ample time to start a soil improvement crop. Cowpeas can often be worked into the rotation at midsummer, while such a course would be impossible in northern sections. These climatic advantages have made the South famous for its extensive trucking enterprises.
The cooler sections of the North also have their advantages. Insect and fungous pests are less troublesome than in the South. There is not so much leaching of soluble plant foods from the soil during the winter and the cooler weather is favorable to the culture of certain crops, as potato, cabbage, celery, pea and onion.
Large bodies of water often make climatic conditions favorable for vegetable gardening. The success of cauliflower on Long Island is largely attributable to cool breezes from the sea. The winter season at Norfolk is shortened and made milder by the Gulf Stream. In lake districts there is much less damage from frosts in late spring and early fall than in similar latitudes where water influence is lacking. A Canadian tomato grower who plants near Lake Ontario has ripe tomatoes as soon as expert growers at high altitudes in Pennsylvania.
A cheap and abundant supply of pure water should be carefully considered before deciding upon a location. An immense quantity of water is needed to meet the needs of frame and greenhouse crops, to clean the vegetables for market and to supply the stock that may be kept. The value of irrigation in all sections is becoming more fully realized every year. Many gardeners have installed the most approved systems and are therefore making competition more severe for those who do not enjoy these advantages.
Good air drainage is important during frosty nights. Gentle slopes secure such drainage and are also likely to have good soil drainage. Steep hills should be avoided, because they increase the cost of production and harvesting and are subject to erosion and are usually not retentive of soil moisture. It is almost impossible to grow good crops of onions, celery, beets and many other small vegetables upon steep hillsides. Level lands or gentle slopes are nearly always used by gardeners who follow intensive methods.
Southern or southeastern exposures are preferred for all types of vegetable gardening. The fuel bill is lighter in greenhouse work and the outdoor crops are earlier. A sunny slope dries off and warms up earlier in the spring and makes planting possible sooner than on ground sloping to the north. Winds are not so severe on southern slopes. This point is well worth considering, for there will be less breakage of sash, crops will not be whipped and injured so much by the wind and less soil moisture will be lost by evaporation. In addition to these advantages it is more pleasant to live and to work on southern slopes.