Commercial Organic Vegetable Growing

Course CodeVHT241
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to Grow Vegetablesm Organically and Sustainably

  • Staff Training for Organic Farms
  • Prepare for establishing an Organic Business
  • Broaden your understanding of both vegetable growing and organic practices

This is a unique study program, offering guidence from highly qualified and experienced horticultural experts. Some courses focus heavily on assessment, others are rigid in the services they offer-this course is all about learning (rather than just passing exams), and developing your capacity to grow vegetables for the situation you find yourself in. It is relatively flexible in many ways and offers you the opportunity to focus more heavily on that which is more important to your needs.

Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Organic Growing and it's definitions
    • Influential people in the organic movement
    • Different ways to grow -permaculture, biodynamics, etc.
    • Organic certification
    • Transition to organic production
    • Management Plan
    • Industry awareness
    • Resources and Networking
    • Understanding Plant Names
  2. Cultivation and Planting
    • Cultivation methods
    • Crop rotation
    • Green manures
    • No dig growing
    • Planting
    • Sowing vegetable seed outside
    • Germinating indoors
    • Transplanting seedlings
    • Crowns, offsets, tubers
    • Crop scheduling
    • Tillage, Ripping, Harrowing, Dis ploughing, etc
    • Tractors
  3. Soils and Nutrition
    • Physical soil properties -profile, texture, etc
    • Chemical properties -pH, cation exchange capacity, buffering etc.
    • Soil water, air, temperature
    • Humus and Organic matter
    • Nutrient elements
    • Organic Fertilizers
    • Animal manure
    • Liquid feeds in an organic system
    • Rock dusts
    • Diagnosing nutritional problems
  4. Soil Management
    • Importance of soil
    • Cultivation techniques
    • Cover crops
    • Green manures
    • Nitrogen fixation
    • Rhizobium bacteria
    • Mycorrhizae
    • Composting
    • Hot heaps vs cold
  5. Review of Major Vegetable Varieties
    • Getting the best from an organic vegetable plot
    • Vegetable Directory -Beans, Beetroot, Broccoli, Sprouts, Cabbacge, Capsicum, Carrot, Cauliflower, Corn, Celery, Eggplant. Lettuce, Onion, Pak Choi, Parsnip, Pea, Potato, Pumpkin, Marrow, Squash, Radish, Spinich Turnip
    • Transplanting Guide
  6. Pests and Disease
    • Integrated Pest Management
    • Allowable Inputs
    • Understanding Pest and Disease
    • Understanding Other Plant Problems
    • Lifecycles
    • Review of common problems
    • Companion Planting
  7. Seed
    • Organic seed
    • Seed production -preventing cross pollination
    • Choosing seed plants for vegetable crops
    • Collecting seeds
    • Cleaning and storing seed
    • Seed germination
  8. Greenhouse Growing
    • Types of greenhouses
    • Framing and covering materials
    • What greenhouse is appropriate
    • Siting a greenhouse
    • Benching
    • Greenhouse hygiene
    • Problems with greenhouses
    • Other structures -cold frames, shade houses
    • Environmental controls
    • Heating, Cooling
    • Controlling light
    • Growing media
    • Fertigation in organic systems
    • Carbon dioxide enrichment
    • Irrigation Methods
    • Crops Directory -Tomatoes, Cucumber, Melons, Zucchini
  9. Lesser Grown Varieties and Herbs
    • Growing herbs
    • Review of many culinary herbs-Alliums, Corriander, Mints, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Pasley, Savory, Thyme, etc.
    • Review of lesser grown vegetables -Amaranth, Artichoke, Asparagus, Cassava, Chicory, Dandelion, Garlic, Endive, Ginger, Horseradish, Chicory, Mint, Leek, Okra, Pigface, Rhubarb, Sweet Potato, Warrigul Greens, Taro, Yams, etc
  10. Irrigation
    • Irrigation objectives and feasibility
    • Soil and water
    • Understanding classes of soil moisture
    • Soil and transpiration
    • Field capacity
    • Permenant Wilting point
    • Tensiometers
    • When to irrigate
    • Scheduling irrigation
    • When to irrigate
    • Cyclic watering
    • Pulse watering
    • Plant root depth
    • Irrigation type -flood, sprinkler, ytickle etc.
    • Portable, permenant or travelling sprinklers
    • Sprinklet spacings
  11. Mulching and Weeds
    • Understanding mulch
    • Types of mulch materials
    • Rules for using mulch
    • Living mulch
    • Weed Management
    • Preventing weeds
  12. Harvesting and Marketing
    • Harvesting techniques
    • PostHarvest quality considerations
    • Harvesting hints
    • Post harvest treatment of vegetables -field processing
    • Cooling
    • Quality standards
    • Monitoring and reviewing
    • Marketing
    • Business capabilities
    • Market research
    • Target marketing
    • Understanging economics

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.


  • 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 You Will Do

  • 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

What's the Difference?

Organic growing focuses on developing the biological activity and health of the soil, which in turn supports healthy plants. Organic growers produce crops without the aid of artificial chemicals.

Organic production emphasises use of natural processes and products to control insect pests, diseases and weeds, and to manage soil fertility. Thus practices such as mulching, composting, crop rotation, cultivation of green manure crops, and biological control are widely used by organic growers.

While organic growing is frequently defined by the non-use of chemicals, the effective use of methods such as these to create and benefit from active biological systems is really what organic growing is all about. Good organic management is about redesigning the system, rather than simply substituting ‘organic’ inputs for ‘chemical’ ones.

There are a wide range of approaches to organic growing and not all approaches have commercial potential. Commercial organic agriculture is increasingly regulated and undergoing rapid development. Growers need to keep abreast of issues in the industry, and to maintain a balance between the organic integrity and the financial viability of the operation.

How To Grow Asparagus?
Asparagus is a deep rooted herbaceous perennial to around 2m tall, and fine feathery-like foliage, that is grown for the very tasty new shoots (or spears) that emerge from a crown like growth beneath the soil in early spring. The foliage may turn attractive shades in autumn before dying back.
Asparagus prefers full sun, and grows best in temperate areas. Is has been known to grow successfully in the subtropics, provided soil is kept moist and not waterlogged..
A well-drained, but moist, very fertile soil is necessary for good crops. If drainage is not the best, plant in raised beds. Prepare the soil by digging a trench 30-35 cm deep, spreading rotted manure to 15 cm deep in the bottom, then covering the manure with a thin layer of soil. This will leave an open trench about 15cm deep and 25cm across, which crowns can be planted into. Cover the crowns with about 7cm of soil and continue to back fill the trench as spears grow. Once established, the same plants continue to produce for many years. 
Weed control and regular feeding is important to keep the plants healthy and producing. After the harvest is finished each year, it is valuable to grow a cover crop of legumes (e.g. soybeans). In areas with cool winters the crowns can be mulched to provide some protection against cool temperatures. The foliage should be left to act as additional mulch. In early spring each year ridging should be carried out (ie soil is dug from between the rows of asparagus and thrown up on top of where the plants are growing). This provides a drainage channel in between the rows and increases the depth of soil above the plant (NB: The spears become stronger and thicker by emerging through a greater depth of soil). This also helps to keep the crowns covered crowns as they tend to grow upwards in the soil.
Sow seed late winter, plant crowns mid to late winter in temperate areas.
Crowns can be divided and planted about 45 - 50cm apart in rows, with at least 1.2m between rows.
Pest and disease problems:
Snails and cutworms are common problems. Sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis (e.g. Dipel) will help control cutworms. Poultry (e.g. Chickens, guinea fowl and ducks) released into an asparagus patch occasionally will clean up pests.
Do not harvest any spears from the first season of seedlings. If growing two-year-old crowns or seedlings are two years of age, only harvest 30-50% of the spears at most. In the third year you may harvest up to 80%. Cut below soil level to a depth of around 15cm to harvest.
Asparagus are high yielding plants. Spears can be readily frozen or cooked (boiled) and eaten fresh.
10-15 plants will supply the average family.


  • Use it as staff training for organic farms
  • Prepare for establishing an Organic Business
  • Broaden your understanding of both vegetable growing and organic practices
  • Produce sustainable produce that protects people and the environment

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