If you are a first time market gardener, or thinking about market gardening as a career, there are important ‘success secrets’ you must follow for your garden and your business to thrive.
Success Secret 1: Sell before you sow.
There is more to market gardening than just planting some seed in the ground. You have to market, plan and manage your garden as well. Notice that marketing comes first; you should know how, where and to whom you will sell your produce before you plant it.
In fact, the best marketing approach for a small market garden is the Community Supported Agriculture model. In this model, customers basically subscribe to your market garden, paying you in advance for a season’s worth of fresh vegetables. You deliver the vegetables weekly throughout the season, but get the money up front. This is important cash flow early in the season, to pay for seed and supplies.
Success Secret 2: Seed is cheap, buy lots.
Seed will be one of your lowest expenses, so don’t skimp om your seed order. Seed houses often run out of some varieties later in the season, so don’t wait to order, or expect you can find seeds when you need them. Order more than you think you will need up front. Most seeds keep for several years, so little will be wasted if you don’t use it all that same season.
Success Secret 3: Sow frequently.
As a market gardener, your income depends on selling vegetables weekly throughout the season. This means you have to harvest vegetables weekly throughout the season. Sow often, and sow a lot. Make more than one planting of everything, even the crops that produce all season e.g. indeterminate tomatoes, so you have a backup if something happens to the first planting. Crops like lettuce and other greens need to be sown weekly.
Success Secret 4: Stretch the season.
Your growing season will be a lot longer than your harvesting season. You will be starting plants weeks and months before your first harvest. Unless you are in a really beneficial climate, i.e. warm and sunny year-round, you will need a facility to start and grow your transplants. This might be a heated greenhouse or a plant-starting room with heat and artificial light.
You will need to learn to grow healthy transplants in these environment. Remember it can take 8-12 weeks for some seeds to grow into plants you can set out in your garden. If you lose a batch in the greenhouse, you better have another one coming along behind it, or you lose the season for that crop (remember Success Secret 3.)
Success Secret 5: Start now.
No matter what time of year it is, you can get started on your first market garden. You can read about market gardening, find seed catalogs, and start planning and laying out your first garden. You can contact friends, neighbors and co-workers to see if they might like to subscribe to your garden. You can start working on an advertising flyer to market your garden. Whatever the task, don’t wait to get started on your market gardening dream.