Market gardening is an intense form of vegetable and cut-flower production in which crops are grown continuously. It occurs outdoors and under cover in greenhouses.
Until the 1990s a New Zealand market garden was typically a small-scale, family-owned business operating on a few hectares of land. But, increasingly, crops to be sold fresh and processed are being grown on a larger scale by big national or international companies.
Suitable sites for market gardens are located throughout New Zealand. Fertile soils with good physical structure on flat or gently sloping land are needed for outdoor vegetable cultivation. About 5% of New Zealand’s soils (1,120,000 hectares) fit this description, but in 2007 only 55,360 hectares of land grew vegetable crops.
Vegetable production is a multi-million-dollar business in New Zealand, worth NZ$1,456 million in 2007. Domestic production accounted for about 60% of the value of the industry. Export of fresh and processed vegetables earned $566 million in 2007 and comprised a fifth of New Zealand’s horticultural exports.
More than 50 different vegetables are grown commercially in New Zealand. Potatoes, onions and squash are the main crops. In 2007, 1,450 growers raised crops for fresh vegetable markets and 750 growers supplied the processed vegetable sector.
Flowers and ornamental plants
New Zealand has a small flower export industry worth about $70 million in 2007. The export industry of bulbs and cut flowers developed in the 1970s. Few growers are involved in export, about 20 were responsible for 95% of flower exports in 2007. In contrast, 400 full-time flower growers and another 800 part-time growers supplied the domestic cut-flower trade, estimated to be worth $60 million in sales in 2007.
Vegetable seed exports were worth $38 million in 2007. Vegetable seed cropping is centred on the Canterbury region on some 3,000 hectares of land. New Zealand growers act as multiplying agents for northern hemisphere companies, raising seed crops during the northern hemisphere autumn and winter seasons, and then air freighting the harvest back to northern companies in time for spring sowing.